Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Roleplaying The Old Republic

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 7 Feb 2012 16:00
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I came to a realization the other night. I was sitting drinking my way to an early grave as usual and half-listening to a conversation someone across the table was having about their Dungeons & Dragons campaign and what their characters had been up to lately. And this was the realization I happened upon, gentle reader: that it is impossible to give a shit about someone else's pen and paper role playing character. Seriously. Try it.

Well, presumably you'd give a shit if you were playing in the same campaign, are the individual in question's psychologist, or are keen enough on fucking them that you're willing to absorb whatever twaddle comes out of their mouth. But this cannot be communicated to role players enough: please do not start talking about your character because no-one outside of the above small and very exclusive list gives a shit. It's not because you're surrounded by very rude people or because your alter ego is particularly uninteresting. It is just literally impossible to care.

In the same way that it's impossible to care when someone tells you about a dream they had, or about this idea they've got for a novel that they're totally going to start writing any day now. Because at this point we're talking about stuff that doesn't exist and holds significance only within your no doubt impressive imagination. Draw me a picture of your character and ask me to criticize your artistic ability. Recreate your dream on the Star Trek Holodeck with hippos and cod liver oil. Then I will have the ability to care. Until then, it's all just stuff you made up in your brain. I can do that too. Oh, your dark elf ranger successfully pierced all seven eyeballs of Yushg, guardian of Emperor Buaristein's Tomb, did he? How interesting. Hey, did you know that Horace the pig has stolen the silver buckles from the cuban heeled boots of the anti-life equation? I just made that up in my head. Do you see how this works?

No, when what you're describing is limited only by what the human mind can conjure and put into sputteringly eager words, then nothing you say has any weight, because whatever you say, I can then retort "Why weren't you all doing it wearing black tie on a magic carpet?" or something, and suddenly your version doesn't seem as interesting. But I'll tell you what is interesting to talk about - role playing in role playing video games.

Because in a video game the role playing is a directed experience within a fixed world that large numbers of other people can also access, and which cannot be modified by the DM getting bored and declaring that rocks fall from the ceiling and kill all the goblins you've used up half an hour trying to kill. When I'm playing an RPG like Skyrim or Old Republic, I relish talking to other people playing the games at the same time, learning how their character's turning out and what quests they've been doing that I skipped. This is something I've referred to before as "water cooler gaming" and it's always a good thing for a game to emphasize if it wants to leave a mark on the surface of our collective culture.

I guess what I find appealing in it is that I learn about the road not travelled, and the potential people my character might have become if I'd taken a different path here and a different path there. It makes me somehow more attached to my character as I begin to grasp how many things make them so uniquely and singularly mine, even if it's just what kind of moustache they're wearing. And that doesn't apply when one talks about pen and paper role playing avatars because the potential is literally infinite, and therefore impossible to get one's head around.

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