RoleCraft: The Rule of Roleplay


A couple of weeks ago, a fellow roleplayer seemingly had a terrible roleplaying experience, and publicly called the entire roleplaying community out on it. The article is vehemently anti-roleplay and roleplayer, and designates roleplayers as “cult-like”, “elitist jerks”, “some of the nastiest, dirtiest players you’ll find in an MMO”, “incredibly cliquish”, and “probably full of much, much more vitriol than you are”.

A good deal of the article also talked about certain rules of roleplay, and the varying levels of roleplayers who inhabit MMORPGs. While no actual evidence is given, nor any specific RP session mentioned, I feel that much was hinted at one or both of these items being a cause of the contention expressed by the author.

I have said many times here that RoleCraft is not written to tell anyone how to roleplay. It exists to provide a resource of tips and advice on how I think roleplayers may better their roleplaying. None of what is here is meant to be taken as gospel, written in stone, or what must be done in regards to roleplaying. It is written with a quote from Bruce Lee in mind: “I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

However, after reading such an angry article by a fellow roleplayer, I am today going to break my rule of saying their are really no rules to roleplaying. If I had to vote on one cardinal rule for roleplaying, I would vote for the Law of Player-Character Separation.

Law of Player-Character Separation: You are you. Your character is your character. Be extremely careful of mixing the two.

Don’t go to bed angry at your spouse. Never mix business with pleasure. Dinner first, dessert afterwards. Do your homework, and then you can go play. Much of life is built around such sound divisive advice, so why not carry that into MMORPGs? When you sit down at your computer to play a game, isn’t the prevailing reason to have fun? If you subscribe to the notion that gaming is a form of escapism, then it stands to reason that’s exactly why we game.

However, say you’ve had a rough day, as often happens, and you log in to your favorite MMORPG and channel all your personal feelings through your character. Are you roleplaying? Does having your character express your personal emotions (positive or negative) really exemplify your character’s own unique personality? Moreover, ask yourself, are you having fun, or did you just come in game to ruin others’ fun?

Yes, indeed, one point of fact that helps roleplaying to be as involved as it can be is due to a roleplayer’s ability to portray emotions through their characters. However, that doesn’t mean it is always a good thing to portray your current emotions through your character. Rarely have I thought my character is experiencing an event in their life where I think they would have the same emotions as I do at that moment. Otherwise, I keep player-character separation in mind and in play.

I submit that the author of the aforementioned article was in contact with a roleplayer or roleplayers who may have had a momentary lapse of reason and let their player-character separation slip. Of course, I may be wrong. Personally, I have absolutely never seen a roleplayer who fit the descriptions used in the article, and I’ve been roleplaying in a wide variety of gaming genres since 1980. Not even in World of Warcraft, where I have found the vast majority of anti-roleplayer hatred, have I encountered a fellow roleplayer indicative of the type described by the author. In fact, only in The Lord of the Rings Online have I so far discovered better roleplaying.

As many of the comments stated in reply to the article, whatever event it was that gave the author such a bad taste, it was probably ill fitting to take it out on all roleplayers. Pointing it out to any who acted in uncivil roleplaying manner is quite fine, I say, provided it’s also done under the principle of player-character separation.

I believe that if the author of the article, and those roleplayers she may have came into rough contact with, attended more closely to player-character separation, then there would have been no reason or desire to write such an antagonistic article. Keeping real life distinctly apart from game life is the one “rule” I follow above all, and it’s never let me down yet.

What tips do you have for keeping player-character separation? Do you think I’m being biased, or naive? Comment below, tweet them to @RoleCraft, and/or join the RoleCraft Facebook Group to post there. Until next time, role on!

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