This is a topic I have kicked around for awhile, and been uncertain of when exactly I wanted to use it. I have a rather conflicted relationship with role-playing. Essentially every person that plays a video game to at least some extent pretends to be someone else while they are playing it. Even if it is just changing your own world view just enough to accept that you can shoot laser beams out of your eyes… or jump in mid air. Role-playing however takes this simple “being someone else” a whole lot further. The average role-player generates a whole series of motivations and outlooks for their character fleshing them out into a real virtual personality.
I find this whole process extremely interesting, and I have always gotten along extremely well with serious role-players. I think this starts back when I found the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Manual in a locker at the end of school one year. From that point onwards pen and paper games colored my destiny. The thing is… or me they were always a game, not really a way of looking at the world. While some of my friends geeked out on figuring out a series of complex motivations for their character… I just wanted to grab a sword and slaughter endless goblins in search for big treasure and even bigger weapons.
While I love the theory of role-playing, and I will always gravitate towards a role-playing community… or a role-playing server… I am not actually a role-player. The above image is a collage of my characters from multiple games. You will notice a distinct pattern among them because in essence they are all exactly the same character. Belghast is essentailly the “super me”, an idealized version of myself and the way I wish I actually looked. While I do rock a moustache and goatee I have always wished my hair was black instead of the odd mishmash of brown, blond, with little bits of red especially in my beard.
Additionally I have always wished I had the type of head shape to support a pony-tail and make it look natural. However when I have tried it in the past, it hangs off my head like a top-knot so I only end up looking like a very fat samurai. It is in online games that I can fix the flaws in my own appearance and great this idealized version of myself. The games that allow me to create this appearance are ultimately games I really enjoy playing, however the ones that do not really support it.. ultimately are not as enjoyable for me and fall by the wayside. Namely I am looking at the Asian-styled games with their pretty boy appearances.
The thing is… there is no actual “character” of Belghast. Just like I use online games to revise my own appearance, to a lesser extent I revise my character and pump them into each of these avatars. While I keep all the good traits, like empathy and compassion… I get rid of my more conflicted and cerebral nature so that I can essentially become a man of action and not so much a man of constant indecision. The funny thing is… over the years of playing this character it has made the real person behind it more confident, less likely to mire down in over evaluation and more likely to take actions and risks. I feel like being a leader in online games has in turn made me more of a leader in real life, or at least have more confidence to lead.
Shoot First, Ask Questions Never
While so many of my life long friends are serious role-players, there is so much about their nature that I just do not understand. This has come to light lately while we are playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn. In this game you are actually penalized for rolling multiple characters, since one character can literally do everything in the game. However as they approach the game… each of their internalized characters has a specific thing they do, and sensibilities. So for them it is extremely jarring to see their mage archetype wielding a sword as a gladiator. For me… it just keeps me from having to create three clones of myself like I did in The Secret World.
The end result is that many of them are splitting their focus between different characters, or in the case of a few of them creating a melee character and a caster character to keep from destroying their mental picture of what each character should be. So much of me just doesn’t understand why it matters. I respect the fact that it does matter to them, but since I always play the same character regardless of what game or class I am playing… it all feels so esoteric to me.
The concept of role-playing inside of a game is also mostly lost on me. In every RP focused game there has been some spot where players gather together to talk amongst themselves in character. While I think it is extremely cool that people do this… I have never really understood it. Character dialog has always been the part of pen and paper role-playing that I was least interested in. I am that guy in ever campaign that always wants to blow the informants head off and search the corpse for clues… rather than try and ferret the information out of them with dialog. As a result I am the character with the highest body count, and the most well armed.
By a similar fashion.. I just can’t understand standing around in Stormwind talking about dragons that you have killed… when I could be out in the world killing new ones. I get fidgety when I go too long without combat in and MMO. I have developed this notorious reputation for always being in combat at exactly the wrong time. If the party pauses even for a moment… I am off pulling something else… and as a tank I have a long line of really amazing healers that enable these bad decisions. But nothing about this personal make-up is conducive to sitting around a hub and having long drawn out conversations “in-character”.
So as I said at the beginning of this post… I have deeply conflicted feelings about role-playing in general. On one hand, I will always gravitate towards a Role-playing server, simply because I feel that role-players as a whole are far more community minded. As a result a RP server will have all of the social structure I am used to… crafters guilds, event planners, friendly, helpful and mostly mature gamers that will in turn make my gaming experience more enjoyable. So as a result I support role-playing in whatever form it takes. If someone talks to me in character, I try my damnedest to respond back in character to not break the narrative.
However there will never be a time at which I actually seek out role-playing. If I know a guild or a raid stays in character constant, I will actively shy away from it. One of my really great friends had an amazing RP guild in WoW… but I did a dungeon run with them once… and after seeing that they chose to run dungeons in character… it was not a thing I ever repeated. It feels very foreign to me, and gets in the way of my constantly causing mayhem style of play. The thing is… I thought it was super cool that they had a group of individuals that wanted to do that, so while I was along for the ride I tried my damnedest not to break their run.
So I love Role-players, I love that people exist that can create such vivid make believe worlds that they can sustain similarly vibrant characters. I however am not one of them, but I don’t have to be a dancer to admire the beauty of ballet, and in a similar fashion I do not have to be an RPer to admire the fact that they exist. So as a result I will always be a supporter of the practice, even if I am not a participator. I hope games continue to support role-playing as a community rule-set, and I will continue to rabidly report all those horrible non-character names out there. I feel that games that support multiple play-styles and points of view to be the best, so here is hoping that games in the future will not forget that.