« SLU | Main | Middle Where? »

Sep 24, 2004



I have a different take on Roleplaying altogether. I have no objection to people "roleplaying as themselves" in an MMORPG. To me, proper roleplaying in an MMORPG is to play the role of yourself inside the game.

My thesis would be: Personality changes have nothing to do with how others perceive your roleplaying ability in an MMORPG. Your degree of immersion has everything to do with perceived roleplaying ability.

Immersion means you describe things in terms of in game phenonom. You react to in game events as if you were in the game. There is no need to adopt an entirely new persona - it would be sufficient if you merely placed your normal persona inside the world.

This grants the other players proper immersion without any great demand of thespian talent. I would say it gives *better* immersion than what often is called "roleplaying".

1) Refer to yourself in the first person. It is not "my toon did..." but "I did...".
2) Build the characters history. Telling stories should be stories of your in game actions (spoken in the first person), not RW action. By build, I do not mean invent. But rather, as you live in game, track your history. People whine these games have no sense of history. But history has always been primarily in the mind, not on paper! If I refer to the great skull cap crash, those who were around back then know what I'm talking about.
3) Don't refer to alts. Pretend that they are seperate people. (This leads into real roleplay as their individual histories diverge, but doesn't have to) This also has the fun effect of creating the Find-The-Alt meta-game.
4) Resist the temptation to bring in RL to talk about stuff. Talk about the *game*. (Note that saying: "You hear they are going to nerf the magic missile spell?" *is* in-game talk, IMHO. This is something denziens of the world will know about. You are talking about the phsyics of your world, after all. Likewise, there is nothing wrong about discussing weapons referring to exact damage abilities. This is no more wrong than referring to cars by their exact 0-60 acceleration times.)

Immersion must be achieved before it is meaningful to talk about acting. This is why I hate roleplaying servers: they place acting first. They claim there are only certain "valid" names. This is contrary to the *fact* that denziens of the world would wish to be known by another name. 500 Raistlin's should no more destroy your immersion than 500 Bruce's would destroy your immersion in the Real World.

And, IMHO, Immersion makes Roleplay irrelevant. I can't tell if you are Roleplaying a generous person or really are a generous person. Not knowing you in RL, and never planning on meeting you, does it even matter which is the case? So, I'd be just as happy if everyone acted like themselves, but properly immersed in the world; than if everyone acted like someone else, but properly immersed in the world.

- Brask Mumei


It seems that many declare social/gaming worlds as entirely separate entities from reality or physical space. I am blind to that separation and propose that a person’s perceived ability in physical space carries over into virtual space regardless of what the cards say. And while humans fail (+8hrs a day) consistently to fully convey their authentic personality for their own reasons, users also fail to convey who they truly are for other reasons in virtual space. For one, it could reveal their perceived ability and two, it could ruin this fantasy they have of being someone else in a virtual space which has become increasingly valuable to them as a contrast from their real life job at McDonalds. Sometimes it is not so stressful being someone else.

People do eventually breakdown into their basic personalities. Of course when one looks at themself objectively there tends to be some dissonance as a result of failure in self perception. Just as an individual who goes on a reality show struggles to follow the drives of someone he/she wants to be seen as, users will also breakdown and carry over their physical space behavior and their real person shines through.

Let’s not forget that these worlds have a boat load of evolution to undergo. I am assuming that real life interaction will increasingly affect gaming interaction and the two will tango. Of course worlds like Second Life will have to allow real life content to interact with users. I suppose a good question would be:

If we introduce real world content into virtual environments or MMORPGs, will players increase their rate of interaction and as a result increase the complexity of the world?


Will we see companies writing MMORPGs in order to accomplish real world goals based on real life drives and personality?

I still think we’ll see a Human Resource Stock Exchange based on MMORPGs, game theory and a personal rating system.


I haven't posted here before, but I am a regular reader. This topic is of particular interest to me though so I thought I’d comment.

I’ve been involved in role-play games since the late 70s. Besides a good game of chess or dominating the world via Civilization, they are my favorite pastime. MMORPGs have had an immediate and lasting attraction for me. I don’t have the time for them that I used to, but I’ve played several of them: Meridian, UO, EQ, AC, DAOC, but the ones that I spent the most time in were UO and EQ.

For the most part, I tend to role play myself in the context of the setting. Overtime, my characters tend to grow little quirks and eventually personalities of their own (e.g. My Halfling druid that generally dislikes elves and has been known to hunt them for sport. Really, he just has a general dislike for tall races and pointy ears. In real life, I’m fairly tall, so this is a definite quirk of the character.)

Any role-playing at all in most MMOGs is pretty unusual, and those who do indulge in it seem to form a loose confederation. It’s all a game to me, and I don’t take it very seriously – I’ll play with RP’ers as readily as non-RP’ers although I’ll still play in my own way. There are those however who are absolutely pathological about it.

My observation is that RP’ing carries with it a certain amount of stress, especially at the sometimes fuzzy line where roles, RP’ed or real-life, conflict or merge. I am not a psychologist, but there seems to be a division of mentality between the hard RP’er and the Non-RP’er that runs through the casual RP’er (such as myself). The more entrenched one is on one side or the other – the more the other side bothers them, and the harder it is for them to tell where the lines actually are.

A good ‘for instance’ is the story of a cleric on the server on which I used to play. She was a very hard-core RP’er and played as a very good and righteous cleric. Part of her clerics ethics that she would only heal or resurrect ‘good’ characters (she wouldn’t group with them either as I recall) with the primary indication of good being the character’s race and/or class. Under no circumstances would she resurrect a Dark Elf, Troll, etc, or characters of a good race, but an evil class, such as Necromancer or Shadowknight.

It seemed innocent enough, but there was a real storm of controversy when on a raid, she wouldn’t resurrect some characters. The Power Guilds of the time insisted she was a menace to the game, should be banned, etc, etc. The RP-friendly crowd defended her by pointing out that she wasn’t the only cleric around, and that everyone knew who she was and how she played before they asked her to join a raid. It made for good reading on the various message boards, but of course, never amounted to much – Both sides insisted, and probably still do, that THEY were playing the game the way it was intended.



What about when the person roleplaying plays a personality that is TRULY their own as opposed to the one they use in everyday life? A person who is meek on the outside might very well be a maddening psychopath on the inside could they not?

Their "true" personality could be one of malicous intent, cursing, and a bad attitude all around but they put on a show of their own to fit into normal society while not in game.

Brings about some interesting ideas doesn't it? :)

(pardon the spelling)


> for the majority of your socialization you want to be who you are in real life without the psychological stress of constantly trying to be somebody you aren't.

I think this is questionable because it blurs a useful distinction: there's a difference between motivation and action. More specifically, we are defined more by who we are than by what we do -- the internals matter more than the externals.

In a virtual world, we can create characters whose skills are radically different than those we personally possess. (How many of us can throw fireballs IRL?) But despite having "impossible" abilities, we still decide when, where, and how our characters will use those abilities based on our own RL internal motivations (including our innate responses to social pressures).

So where's the psychological stress? When we express ourselves in a virtual world through our avatars, and our avatars behave as we would if we had those abilities, where's the dissonance?

When discussing personality, I've found it's useful to point out that what a person *does* is mostly a matter of habit and is amenable to change, but what a person *wants* is generally innate... and trying to change innate motivations is nearly always an exercise in futility that just frustrates you and the person you're trying to change.

If you're a Person of Action who constantly taps your toes when sitting down, I might ask you to stop tapping and let off your energy some other (less distracting) way. Toe-tapping is a habit, and as such it can be changed. It's not who you are, it's just something you do; losing it or exchanging it for some other behavior doesn't diminish or alter who you are as a person.

But if I ask you to stop being so focused on constantly going/doing, and be more interested in, say, relationships or thinking, you might be able to bend that way for a little bit. But it will be stressful, and you will soon be feeling as though I have criticized who you are as a person, and you will rapidly go right back to being the action-oriented person you are by nature.

If this is accurate, then there's no real stress in your roleplaying a character who uses "impossible" abilities in a virtual world, as long as you use those abilities in ways that are consonant with your own personal motivations.

It's when your character expresses a personality type with innate motivations other than or opposed to your own that stress happens. A good person can play an evil person; a thoughtful person can play a Hulk; a dynamic person can play a meditating hermit...

... but not for long.


Addendum 1: This question gets a little more complicated if you ask, "What if you got supernormal abilities in RL? If you were suddenly given vast power, would you change?" This is the question behind many political stories and virtually all superhero stories.

Addendum 2: For another way to look at how RL players choose how to use the powers of their characters (which is roleplaying), consider the "Bartle types." How long do you think a Killer could play as a Socializer, or an Explorer as a Killer? Acting against innate motivations is stressful, whether directly in RL or indirectly through an avatar.


Several of the people I interviewed on role-play in MUDs described the relationship between the character and the self so that the self was the larger category, and the character a part of or a potential within the person. This means that it would be possible for a nice man to act out the persona of an evil woman, as there might be a potential and an understanding of evil as well as of femininity within the man. It would however be impossible for the same person to act out a persona which was more intelligent than he was. If he was mediocre, no amount of earning intelligence stats would make the roleplay more than mediocre. The character can not surpass the player, but can express different parts of the player's potential, parts the player does not express in other contexts.

In all types of role-playing games I have played and studied good role-play is defined by the setting of the game. To pretend to be a modern psycopath may be grand play if the setting is 2004, an asylum. But if the setting is a quasi-medieval fantasy world it may be better role-play to play yourself as you would have been if you had lived your life in that context. The agreement was that the quality of role-play depended on to which extent the players managed to utilise the game story, rules and structures, as well as the social connections between the characters.

Sometimes the role-play and the real life clashed. At such times the players had to negotiate their positions. A group of players who always played from the same computer lab solved the problem of spying at each others screens in real life by choosing to be in the same clan. That way the "good" characters could avoid Out Of Character (OOC) spying on other clans, which would otherwise happen. For the rogues and assassins this same problem was solved by underhanded dealings with the clan ruling that particular computer laboratory - they would sell the information In Character that the other players would otherwise get Out Of Character.

This shows that real life limitations will intrude on the role-play (time-zones was another concern for the clans), and the players had different strategies to incorporate their real life limitations with their game life strategies.

The players I spent a lot of time with were avid role-players, online as well as offline, but they also studied game systems. The really good players incorporated the potential in the system with their role-play, and would act as if the game rules were more or less natural laws. Emoted fights would follow the rules of the game, and a good player would lose rather than pretend to have a power or an ability the character did not have. This shows that good role-play for this group was a moral code as well as an aesthetic one.


pls send some small role plays in the us accent which r simple and small


too long

The comments to this entry are closed.