Who Are You?

Who Are You?
World of Warcraft Killed My Inner Actor

Nova Barlow | 11 Sep 2007 12:23
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And so automation is a must. But no amount of coding in the world can compensate for the tried and true DM across the table who knows you and your potato chip preference. Everyone gets the same brand of chips online, and players have become spectators in a grand opera house rather than becoming center stage actors.

The amount of roleplaying in any game depends largely on the demographic for which it aims at the outset; the younger or wider the demographic, the less roleplaying actually occurs. Even in recent years, fewer games emphasize the "RP" in MMORPG - most drop it all together, favoring the all-encompassing term "MMOG." This may have started as a subtle choice in marketing to make things accessible to the gaming community at large, but what it really meant was developers gave up on the little touches that made these games feel like tabletop roleplaying.

My friends and I ended that reminiscing conversation on a bittersweet note: "I miss roleplaying." But no one felt compelled to bring some back into our online lives. We moved on to talk of instances, the latest gear we'd gotten, character progression and real life.

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I'm just me when I do these things, and so are my friends. We're not roleplaying, we're just roll playing - we min/max our gear and show off our latest acquisitions from quests we freely admit we barely read (who's got time?). My immersion is no longer dependent upon some imaginary goal or journey - not when there's so many tangible goals laid out neatly for me. My progression is predetermined; I can even push a button and get recommended gear upgrades at whim. It's not personal, it's just business. I still have fun, though, because I've changed my expectations of what fun means in online gaming - roleplaying doesn't even make the list.

The answer to anyone still wandering from game to game and server to server looking for some "good roleplaying" is to just stop looking for it in online games. Roleplaying is dead. Do you want to know the best solution for a disillusioned roleplayer? It's simple. Power down the game, go join an acting class, find a group of friends and play a tabletop game, or finally boot up that word processor and get started on that overdue novel. This way, you can truly enjoy games for the simple things they are: entertaining ways to pass the time.

Nova Barlow is the Research Manager for The Escapist, and a regular contributor to WarCry, and a former roleplayer.

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