I’m a very shy person, both online and off so while I’ve always wanted to give role-playing a go, when it comes down to it I just don’t have the balls. Despite this I have ventured to various RP realms in the past and I’m always overwhelmed by how pleasant and kind the people are (on Wymrest Accord just after creating my character a dapper fellow offered to make me bags and gear before seeing me out into the world; on Scarlet Crusade my guild participated in the annual Gnome Run for Breast Cancer Awareness). Yet these people are consistently put down for being “nerds” or “weirdoes” and I can’t help but wonder why.
When I was in junior high I became obsessed, and boy do I mean OBSESSED, with Harry Potter. At every chance I got I was on the official HP site checking out new pictures, trying to care for my baby mandrakes (trying is the keyword there…) and discussing the books with other fans on the forums. As time went on I discovered a fun little thing called role-playing. While I wasn’t allowed to spend as much time on the internet as most of the people I knew, I made friends with several other role-players and we would get together as often as we could to carry on with another adventure on the forums. We came up with a reason as to why I was so frequently missing which allowed them to continue in my absence. I had a blast and vowed that, once I was an adult living on my own, I would do this all the time. But then real life and Twilight happened and the boards became flooded with vampire/werewolf love stories. /Barf. Slowly the message boards were taken over by a crowd of Twihards and many of the original HP fans quit. When you go back now the forums are nearly dead leaving only fond memories.
One memory is of asking my parents if I could get online on a particular day at a specific time. They were suspicious. “Why?” they asked. I explained that my group of friends had coordinated a Yule Ball for everyone to take part in a few days before Christmas. Immediately their little red alarm sirens went off and I don’t necessarily blame them. I was a freshman in high school at this point and the media was constantly urging parents to closely monitor what their kids were doing online and with whom. After all, everyone knows that on the internet you’re a 50 year old pedophile until proven otherwise.
I was told that I could go to this “Yule Ball” if I went to a real dance at school with real people first. This was to be the first time I would experience the odd separation that many tend to make between people you meet on the internet and people you meet at school or work. How does the method of interaction lessen the “realness” of the other individual?
I was bummed. There was no way in hell I was going to some stupid dance at school where I’d be surrounded by people I didn’t care for and have to listen to crappy music and be forced to wear a dress and, and, and…
I mean, come on guys! I’m saving you money by not going!
In the end I was not forced to go to the “real” dance and was allowed to “go” to the ball as it was nearing its end. Several of my friends had already left, but I was able to sit and chat with a couple of them.
Sadly, it was the last time I role-played with them. With one thing or another always going on I found it even harder than usual to make it to the forums. Since we were all likely near the same age they started having the same problems as well. People like to say that relationships formed over the internet aren’t real, or that people should be discouraged from interacting with those people in ways other than (in our case) the message boards. But I was sad to see them go and sadder still that there was absolutely no way to ever find those wonderful people again.
Fast forward to three years ago when I started playing World of Warcraft. I immediately fell in love with the world, the story, and the characters. It was the first time that I could create a character from scratch and decide who she was. I gave her a backstory, preferences, and goals. I knew she had been a member of the Silverwing Sentinels in the past and had since quit with the intent of leaving those she knew behind in order to see more of the world. She became something of a loner with only her wolf for a companion. She spent most nights sleeping out under the stars (to hell with inns, rested XP or not). She spent a lot of time enjoying the wilderness and had little interest in being a hero, or doing dungeons or raids.
Those were the basics and they played a part in determining how I played and continue to play her. You’ll never see her in skimpy armor; it’s just too damn impractical. Around town she’ll sometimes where a nice gown, but often times just a pair of leather breeches, boots, and a sturdy top. She’s not entirely against showing some skin however as she has a ceremonial set that is currently being worked on.
My other two characters were similarly influenced. My druid is a young, rebellious spirit who in combat (balance) requires little agility so she wears mostly robes. Around town she’ll dress far more loosely, allowing for easy transformations between characters. My priest started out a young idealist, but has since seen how terrible and cruel the world is. She goes back and forth between various styles as she tries to figure out who she is.
All of this and yet I’m not a role-player, though I often get asked if I am just by how I dress and interact with the world. The reason why is fairly simple: I don’t want to deal with the negativity that so many RPers have to put up with. Anymore it seems like not even RP servers are safe as they are full of players who are either there to grief the role-players, or who view them as just another server. The griefing of these players is tremendous, simply because the “real” gamers find them to be so pathetic. People intentionally go into these worlds solely to troll RPers and break character.
So why is it that “real” gamers hold such a dislike for role-players? Beats me. I’ve always said that role-playing is almost like improv but written and improv is incredibly good for life. It encourages you to be quick on your feet, to be a team player, and to be creative. It also teaches you that failing isn’t always as awful as we’re told because sometimes the most epic fails are the most entertaining!
One night while wandering through Stormwind I was walking rather than running. I had nowhere in particular to go as I was just chatting with friends and waiting for something to happen. Another player started following me, awkwardly stopping and starting, stopping and starting, as he tried to walk as slowly as I was. He then whispered me:
“Are you working?”
“What?” Don’t say it, don’t say it…
“Are you a prostitute?”
Erotic Role-play. Is this the reason that gamers look down on role-players, because they think all of them are taking part in ERP? Since when does the stereotypical male gamer not want as much boob as possible? Where would the idea even come from? The server Moonguard?
If you’re not familiar with the reputation of Moonguard it is known by many as the cesspool of WoW**. The inns at Goldshire and Silvermoon City are frequently host to dozens of players looking for and participating in ERP, or in this case something more akin to straight up cybersex. But is this truly the fault of the role-players who “live” there? I don’t think so. Judging by the numerous videos you can find on YouTube about Moonguard, and the sheer number of level 1 characters in the zone, it seems that most of the people taking part in this activity are probably not role-players at all, and most definitely not native to Moonguard. Rather this server has become something of the WoW Circus; instead of this “freak show” coming to you, you go to it where you then take part in and perpetuate the stereotype. At this point it’s nothing short of a never ending cycle, unless Blizzard steps it up with their moderation.
Sex is part of life. You’ll hear me time and again expressing this view because it comes up frequently in video games. But as with all things there are ways to approach the subject and there are ways not to. I have absolutely nothing against sex in video games, movies, books, art, etc so long as it contributes to the story in a meaningful way*. There is absolutely no reason that sex should be forbidden from role-playing, but it should be kept private or at least tactful. You can easily role-play as a prostitute without forcing it on others. Most true role-players “fade to black” when actual sex scenes occur. I once got into an argument with someone on the forums regarding whether or not prostitution is an appropriate occupation for someone to role-play. He was very adamant that it is not because we’re all “heroes” going out into the world and being all macho and crap. This, I argued, was precisely why prostitution would make sense. Am I saying it is something I would choose for my characters? No, but in a world full of people spending months and years from home, often not bothering to have families because of this, you can’t expect me to believe that they all go their entire lives without having sex. Because that’s bullshit. Where are brothels in real life often found? Near military bases.
Not everyone chooses to play as the heroic savior of the world. Not everyone chooses to role-play as a good or even admirable character. That’s the whole beauty of role-playing! You create a character and take on their role.
It’s just strange to me that in massively multiplayer online role-playing games people are discouraged from role-play. It’s as though gamers see creativity as a bad thing. They want the game to be creatively designed for them and then just go through the motions of killing shit and getting loot. /Yawn. I dunno, role playing, even if it’s only a part-time activity, sounds a lot more engaging than that. Before video games you had Dungeons and Dragons the game upon which most MMORPGs were built. It was a game that consisted entirely of role-play, that was the whole point! But now it’s belittled as an activity only for nerds because somehow creatively interacting with others is more nerdy than spending 10-15 hours a week mashing buttons to kill imaginary creatures in the hopes of getting imaginary loot which has absolutely no bearing on your life outside of the game and will one day cease to exist entirely.
*This goes for subjects other than sex as well. Violence is a big one. Gratuitous violence is…well…gratuitous. Killing hundreds if not thousands of nameless, faceless people/aliens/monsters in games is just as stupid and damaging as poor portrayals of sex. While both sex and violence are parts of life it’s the approach and reasoning behind said actions that determine whether they are appropriate or not.
**It was brought to my attention that this paragraph looks as though I hold these thoughts for erotic role play. That is not the case. I do not think ERP is bad, in fact in the next paragraph I advocate for it. However, ERP and the server Moonguard are both commonly viewed with disdain by the majority of the Warcraft community. That said, I do believe that public ERP is wrong and of course taking part in said activity with minors is entirely inappropriate.