Blessed with Elune's Grace
One theme we've seen in the previous examples is that role-players look down upon character personas or qualities that are absolutes or flawless. It then comes as no surprise that another area this is often seen is in descriptions of physical attractiveness.
One style that I've noticed is a player wanting to be a 'bombshell' or just 'drop-dead gorgeous' -- if I had a nickel for every description I've read of someone being 'as beautiful as the light of Elune' or having skin as 'pure as the white snows of Winterspring,' I'd be a rich man. It's almost a running joke between me and my friends to see how many descriptions we can spot like this in a single session. My personal record is a dozen. [WoW, M, 24]
Every female character is devastatingly beautiful and probably has purple eyes. [EQ2, F, 37]
I think the main source of frustration with these tropes is that they render the extraordinary as conventional. It gets tiring to live in a world where everyone's family was slaughtered, where everyone is tragically beautiful, and everyone you meet is either an ultra-hero or an ultra-villain. Thus, ironically, it is the ordinary (i.e., lepers or bakers with interesting personalities) that oftentimes sticks out as the extraordinary in role-playing. After all, being a princess is special only when everyone else is not a princess.
- Introduction to the Role-Playing Series
- The Demographics of Role-Playing
- The Protocols of Role-Playing
The tragic character archetype, wicked witch, and others seem to be prevalently overused by Hollywood writers and game developers as well. I think people simply aren't very creative. Maybe we should all watch Princess Bride and be done with it.
I'd say that this is pretty much right on the mark. But fortunately, there is still a small part of the MMO community that gets it and is happy to become extraordinary by RPing outside the archtypes. Nothing is more beautiful than the average looking Joe making rational choices in an irrational virtual world.
I suppose that this sentiment is fostered by the fact that my heroes are firemen and soldiers, not unattainable icons of cultural hubris and that my heroines aren't supermodels or in constant distress, but tend to be smart, corageous and above all, human. I don't think I'm completely alone in this deviance from the accepted societal aspirational iconography. I don't even think it's much of a generational thing. I just think that there is a segment of modern society that isn't suckered by the images of greatness that the modern media tries to feed us, and that this particular segment has a very powerful imagination and an even more powerful drive to use it.
It all started with Call of Cthulhu and D&D almost 15 years ago. I have also played EQ, M:tG, NWN, Guild Wars, and many more. Over the years I have been forced to the conclusion that sword-and-sorcery games are overwhelmingly creatively bankrupt.
How can we expect nuance within a paradigm that can be boiled down to pretty=white=good vs ugly=black=bad? Many people I've met who still worship at the "high fantasy" altar actually crave the "standards and stereotypes" aspect.
Some games (and gamers) are more dogmatic than others, but I have experienced this as a recurring problem. Don't want to play a stereotype? Prepare to be killed, taken advantage of, called a noob, or even asked to play something else.
When you buy a new sword-and-sorcery game, you know exactly what you are getting. A simplified black-vs-white worldview in which martial action is the only real answer in the vast majority of situations, and material wealth and martial status are your only tangible reward. This doesn't leave much room for originality or independent thought.
When I tried to move away from the nature of these games as an adult, I found that it was tough to get anyone already involved in "high fantasy" entertainment to adopt a more mature style of gameplay. As a result, I have phased out fantasy RPGs from my life.
Once in awhile I get the bug, but soon realize new graphics or no monthly fees (GW) do not equal actual change. It's still just pretty people beating up ugly people.
Fantasy was an adolescent stepping-stone on my way to more mature and nuanced concepts which are unfortunately not as popular. I've spent a lot of time reading philosophy, critical history and mythology. I would be lying if I didn't admit that strong initial interest in fantasy games didn't send me down that path. They just didn't take me very far.
You can run with the fantasy wolf-pack, or you can strike out on your own for richer territory.
If it sounds like I'm being too critical, remember that I cannot criticize these things without saving a large portion of criticism for myself.
To Cosmic Drifter:
I read your comment and agree with much of it. "High fantasy" does indeed take on black and white tones but I believe that there is a reason for that. Lack of creativity can and does play a role in this certainly but what you have overlooked is that the world we live in is gray. Black and white are rare choices in our daily lives and I think that gamers like to escape the trials of true reality for the trials of a "simpler" existence. One where white does equal pretty and good. For many people I believe that to be a welcome respit from the gray reality we are forced to deal with every day.
With that said I would also like to suggest trying your hand at some of the other RPG's that are not online games. I run a gothic horror game that is chock full or moral dilemmas. Black and white choices are few but "grayness" abounds. If this is what you are looking for I can gaurantee you it is out there, you just need to find the right group of people and have at it.
Safe journeys all!
Cosmic should play a hordie in WoW. Tauren Druid or the like.
Finally the ugly people are good, and those acursed pretty night elves *shivers* are evil!
Yeah I was part of the anti-clique in high school... I enjoy having my ugly avatar beat up on the pretty ones.
To Cosmic Drifter,
While I would agree with a lot of your comments regarding how difficult it is to play 'outside the high fantasy box', I do find it a little bit insulting that you infer high fantasy is not mature or nuanced.
It entirely depends on the quality of the people who you (generic you not you in particular) RP with and the way in which you present the alternative methods.
I've very succesfully PRed an alternative to the usual high fantasy black and white role in both EverQuest and also in Dark Age of Camelot. It's with the same group of people that I also LARP with and have pen and paper RPed with.
So, although fantasy can be adolescent, and is usually the springing board in childhood for further exploration of role play genres, it is not an 'immature' concept of its own volition.
PS I am very much in agreement with Stourm over the Gothic RPing, an adapted version of Vampire is my choice on poison in that genre.
I am somewhat embarrassed to report I've been guilty of using the tragic storyline...more than once. It wasn't because of lack of creativity, though; I simply wanted to create a character with some depth to him.
I didn't realize how overused tragedy was until I joined a RP guild in Final Fantasy XI, and found out my story was unsettlingly similar to those of about 12 other players.
Admittedly, a tragic past is probably the easiest way to create a character with multiple dimensions. Had I known it was so widely used, I would've put forth more effort in creating a character. Still, when you have to work within the limitations of a world with constantly shifting dimensions that are beyond your control, sometimes your options are limited, and you have to seek out something that you know won't eventually become in conflict with the game world.
One of the main causes of the overly-used devices, I think, is the archetype in which these games are made. For example, within the archetype of the adventurer beginning their quest, parents are a nulled influence. With the basic concept being to find your own way as a young adult, at an age where parents (in the real world) have expended their main purpose, having them still exist is an unnecessary addition to a character. Writing them off in some way or another is typical.
I think people can be very creative. They just need experience in using their creativity to find and make something truly original.
Just my thoughts.
Tragedy is fine, what's bad is tunnel vision RPing.
Lots of people will have tragic pasts in the kinds of worlds these MMOs are set in, and it's also a great motivation to become a detached adventurer. However, even if your parents were killed by orcs, how many people would run around ten years later telling everyone about it and spending all of their days in brooding unhappiness?
It's when all of your RP centers around this one defining tragedy that it becomes stale. It's just like people who can morph into animals and that's it, people who are vampires and that's it, or people who are naively bubbily and that's it.
Strangely enough, the off-color characters have become more mundane to me. It's easy to come up with a black-and-white pretty-boy moral highground character for instance, but it's hard to RP them well. Whereas everyone and their mother can and does roll the offbeat good bad guys or mercenaries or willing slaves, which at least generates some interesting discussion even if you're not so great at making a character compelling.
I always mention in these discussions that one of the best RPers I ever knew role played a coldly hate-mongering yet realistic and nuanced Dark Elf in Everquest 2. Unfortunately the rest of the game world is mostly populated with either the stereotypical Dark Elves that haven't put more thought into their character than the description of the race from the character gen, or the pathologically different Dark Elves (but wait, he's really a good guy! but wait, he's really a vampire! etc).
I have succeeded to play the ultra-evil role very good i think...
Tradgedy is fine, angst is not.
I've been mostly playing CoH for the last couple of years and I'd have to say that the level of angst RPing in that game was enormous. It doesn't help that a lot of anime fans play.
Difference between angst and tradgedy... with tradgedy there's an end to it.
As for the "playing the best there is thing", well, try running an localvault NwN server and see the delights people will come up with to be more powerful than a 40th level Epic D&D character!
I lost count of the number of half-demon/half-angel/half-serpent/half-elf/half-human types wandering around the server.
On the subject of characters who aren't run of the mill, ordinary joes, it has to be said it comes with the territory. Roleplaying tends, in most cases, to be about being something other than yourself, and since most people see themselves as pretty darn mundane, they strive not to be. Some of my characters (mainly CoH) have wound up pretty epic in scope, to be fair. I think the balance in these situations isn't the epicness, but how you interact with the mundane. Your character may be demi-godlike, but what's their favourite flavour of icecream? What do they think of that local sports team? How do you carry on a normal social life when people throw fire at you and everyone standing near you on a regular basis?
Even the grand in scope can be real people.
True, but a lot of people we have both played with have gone way over the top with this. In a world where superheroes walk the streets, why is it that some of them have to be even more uber than the others?
Put it another way, back in Neverwinter, almost everyone was a 40th level whatever, and yet many of them just had to have 'powers' beyond that. usually, beyond anything available in a D&D setting. And then there was the one guy who created the local Priestess of Sune, a 6th level cleric. Who do you think wa the better roleplayer?
Personally I'd be inclined to believe that a good character has little aspects of all of these in; it's just when one dominates that the character ends up in the "Oh god, he's starting to speak again." category.
We all like to have a 'hook' for a character to be based on, and the number of 'hooks' or 'faces' tend to show the depth of the character. Even the greatest hero could be scared of snakes, or the mightiest villain might have a white cat he dotes on.
I was hoping to learn more about what RPers actually do from this study. I've played some pen-and-paper games, but I just don't understand how those mechanics can carry over to MMORPGs. To clarify: in a traditional RPG, it's important to build your character in a way that fits with that character, and isn't necessarily optimized, but in an MMORPG there doesn't seem to be any advantage to not being as twinked out as possible. Also, MMORPGs have very little non-combat content, which makes up a lot of pen-and-paper time. My main question is, do RPers just sit around and chat in character, or do they go out and fight, or what?
My question probably seems pretty noobish, but I've never really seen anyone doing it, so I'm curious as to what actually goes on most of the time.
If you want to find out what goes on with Online RP, why don't you just go and see for yourself in a few online RPGs? :).
There's combat MMOs, but also non-combat. A lot of them have free trials.
Seed is one non-combat MMO, with a very high percentage of RP, higher than in all other MMOs I've played.
Very interesting point about most RPers not wanting to add virtual parents into the equation. I think I'm going to go do something like that now...
People have already said this, but what really makes a character is the way they react in common, everday situations, not the way they pzwn hordes of orcs. A character who's made up of a desire for vengance, insane fighting skills, and heroic looks gets old very quickly; on the other hand someone people can relate to is more interesting. Of course, some would say that the whole point of RPing to to make a character who's completely out of the ordinary, and, therefore, can't really be related to that well. A blend of the two is probably the optimal situation.
I would say that almost everyone I have met in-character has either (1) some major loss of wife/family/kids (2) some form of insanity caused by said loss or (3) general distrust/aloofness. I've frankly grown sick of the super tragic storylines and martyrdom some people thrust upon their characters. My character, while having some sorrows (as is normal in any life), does her best to remain loving, optimistic and idealistic. She also still has parents lurking around and visits them when she can. I've always felt that it's more of a challenge to play an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances who tries to live a 'normal' life than play a 'hero' with a tragic past who is always the victim.
There's no ads on this site; why is this article split into seven parts? I'd say this site isn't completely innocent of the pretentiousness.
Is it me or is Bob complaining that this site has no ads?
More importantly, the curtailment of pretentiousness has never been declared in the sovereign domain of The Daedalus Project. If the sovereign wishes for an article to have seven pages, the article shall have seven pages - not one page more, not one page less. Generous gifts of Noggenfogger or Thunderbrew are recommended for those who seek favor with the sovereign. But please do not seek audience with the sovereign on Sundays. On Sundays, the sovereign hunts Murlocs on his private hunting grounds outside Menethil while sipping blue lemonade.
having played everquest 5 -6 years its taken alot of my time but im on disabilty and have nothing but time on my hands .
all these sites are saying the same thing they said about "OH MY god" dungeons and dragons just packaged
with psy add ons
give us a break please they just games
Look at the worlds that most of these games exist in. They're bloodthirsty, the cities are constantly under siege, people are dying left and right, and if your character has advanced significantly it's generally on the back of hundreds of animals and lesser sentient beings.
I'd say if a character can go out a couple days a week, kill 1000 of the orcish and undead hordes, and come home loving, optimistic, and idealistic, they've probably got some sort of pathological abnormality.
I think the biggest failure in MMO RP isn't the tragic backgrounds people create, it's the neglect of the psychoses their typical gameplay would introduce to most characters.
The anonymous poster above this has a point.
The tragic or vengeful storyline is the only one that really fits into role playing these days. Most rpgs are actually created from tragedy or their world is overrun by evil. City Of Heroes has the alien invasion and war backstory, but every mmorpg has the evil run amok gameplay.
I don't know how they could really change this since fighting is the basis of almost every game. The only games that don't really involve fighting are just contests to be the best at something, like lining up 4 identical pills in Dr. Mario so they take out a virus. They are usually endless as well.
If the tragedy backstory is overplayed so be it. It gives our characters reason to fight. If the aliens in City Of Heroes just wanted to move in next door I don't think it would be a very good game.
I made a warrior on World of Warcraft. His mom and dad were farmers and have sinced passed away (not tragic just natural) of old age. My character in his teens joined the army to travel (his dad always told him to get away from the farm life and live life to its fullest, which he took to heart and is now doing) and also to protect his parents farm when he was not out fighting. He sadly doesnt have a wife or kids yet but they're bound to happen sooner or later. He makes mistakes he drinks and has fun, he's brave and stands up to even the most fierce of things but still gets scared (its what you do about your fears that make you brave or a coward), he has choices to make that range from who to let die in combat to what kind of coffee he should buy. In all he's your average soldier. He's a bit older now, and still visits his parents grave in Elwyn forest every now and then. However it took me a few RP expiriments (many which were tragic) and watching everyone else to decide not to do a dramaticly tragic and horrid past to this guy.
Making parents disappear has nothing to do with being rebel teens or less relying on them in our society. Simply in MMORPG you have only three solutions to include parents in the background of your character :
- They are dead, left, lost or whatever meaning you won't ever see them again. The reason may be what'll make the difference between cliché and creativity (when cliché is not used as parody, for fun).
- They are alive and your character hasn't broken links with them (like in our society). They aren't visible, but they live when your character speak of them. Quite embarrassing if someone wants to ask the daughter's hand... and frustrating for the player that will constantly goes back and forth from an immersive world with toons and actions to his/her own imagination, free and wild, with the constant search of limits between what's possible and what's not.
- They are alive and you can even see them ingame. While I've never seen someone asking other players to roleplay their parents, it sometimes happens players agree to have a child played by someone else. Quite rare to find someone to play the child and of course the parents have to define their own parents so the problem is still there.And now a funnier solution is to use NPCs. Poor NPCs that were never asked their opinions are now parents of a PC. Imagine the situation when two players chose the same mother and a different father. "Oh women!"
The easiest way to deal with the problem is to make them disappear. Now you're not forced to think of a terrible apocalyptic death. And even in a world where slaughters are a daily hobby, it's a cliché to use the poor parents slaughtered by an ennemy leading the son to avenge them either through pure goodness if the ennemy was an evil lord of destruction or his posse, or through pure evil if the ennemy was an awfully cold enforcer of strict laws.
One thing that really bugs me in pretty much every MMORPG is warrior backgrounds.
- Good warriors: sufferd tragedy, causing them to take up the sword in a quest to right wrongs.
- Evil warriors: Psicotic, blood (PK) thirsty, murdered one or more people, got exiled.
- Anyone but almost always neutrals: Ex-soldiers.
As for parents, many people in real life have limited contact with their parents. You don't need a special RP reason to break ties with your family: you just needed to move on with your life.
Finally, I will try to address the "when" of RP. People (in my experience) tend to concentrate they're RP at other players, ignoring the realities of NPC's. For many, the game is sort of divided into two parts: the PC interacion part, which takes place in towns and mostly in taverns, and the leveling part, in which people go off into the wilderness and gain ranks and equipment (questing often belongs into this category).
Players will take up a completely different style of play according to what they are doing. Many a time I have seen some good character saying things like "Violence is not the awnser!" only to go off and slaughter a village of giants repeatedly to gain another level. In a way, this is not truly the fault of the players, but of the way MMORPG's tend to be coded: there really is no feasable alternative method of gaining experience, and you are often too busy fighting the monsters to have much oppertunity for RP.
If you want an epic story with involed charaters; write a fantasy book. You still have to have fun with the game itself. And that tends to involve slaying monsters and casting spells.
Someday they might just make a game based in a peacful world where you don't have to fight. But it'd be boring.
To have your charaters devolep as they really would is absurd.
The whole vilage burning down thing has been done to death, then undeath, then death again. I'm glad some people realize the importance of being unique.
I agree with the opinions that some things are just too over done but there are always the nuggets of RPing that make you smile. In EQ2 on the Antonia server...the number of "vampire" rpers made me slightly ill. It's ok if its a good one but the hundreth time that you run into a vampy slave of so and so it gets old. The RPers that I am impressed with are the ones that maintain continuity throught MMOs like a background of an EQ2 character that originated from EQ1. Seems complicated. My role playing tends to evolve as things happen in game that ends up affecting the character. Like being killed horribly over and over again by bears...I found myself more willing to decimate the bear population on that character because of that.