[MUD-Dev] Roleplaying in Muds

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 23 12:46:13 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

On Saturday, July 22, 2000, J C Lawrence wrote:

> A more simple problem is that there seems to be no single or even
> generally agreed upon definition for "roleplay".

[snip some]

> So what actually ___IS___ roleplaying at a definitional level?  What
> are its boundaries(when does story telling for instance cease to be
> RP, and when does simple in-game GoP play begine to be or cease to
> be RP?  

Well, I've posted my own definition before, but here it is again:

Roleplaying is playing your character as if he/she were a real person
existing in a real world.  To do this, you must decide what the
character is like (i.e., his/her personality).  With that in mind, you
try to make the decisions that your character would make, based on
what he/she knows about the situation.

GoP play can be roleplaying, *if* the goals are the *character's*
goals.  Roleplaying is a way of thinking about your character and the
game, so terminology can be important.  For example, "I want to be the
highest level fighter on the mud" and "I want to be the best fighter
in the world" may be essentially the same goal in "game terms", but
the first is stated in a non-roleplaying way, while the second is
stated in a roleplaying way.

Something to be aware of is the split between "game reality" and "game
system".  For example, in some single-player games, long-distance
travel is glossed over -- it happens "off screen".  However, the
*characters* shouldn't be aware of this -- it's part of the game
system, not part of the game reality.  Thus, someone playing in
character might complain about how long a journey took, even though to
the player it only took a fraction of a second.

> Arguably your average Quake player, playing Quake is actually a
> pretty good roleplayer given the venue (eternal combat, effective
> identity immortality, honour thru sustained frag rate -- all very
> Valhalla-like, just minus the feasting).  No?  Why not?

I see two possible problems here:

1 - This may be confusing game system with game reality.  I don't play
Quake and haven't looked it over, so I don't know for sure.  Does the
Quake manual say that you're locked in a Valhalla-like reality?  Or
does it say that you're an adventurer who has travelled to this place,
and we're just skipping the dull stuff and getting you straight to the
action?  Or does it say nothing about the setting?

2 - Given the above definitions, and the fact that roleplaying is more
a matter of how you think about your character than what you do with
your character, it should be obvious that most Quake players probably
aren't roleplaying -- they haven't thought about questions like
"What's my character like?  What would he/she do here?"  They're
simply playing the game.

That leads to an interesting point, though; you can't tell whether
someone else is *really* roleplaying or not except by asking them.
Someone who goes straight for the treasure, kills on sight, and never
speaks to anyone *could* be roleplaying a greedy, vicious, taciturn
character.  Someone who speaks in flowery phrases and participates in
plenty of in-game conversations may be consciously trying to gain
influence in the game by making friends with other players through
their characters.

What matters to most people who are concerned about roleplaying, then,
is not whether or not people are *actually* roleplaying, but whether
they *appear* to be roleplaying.  Therefore, if you want to appeal to
roleplayers, you can create a game that encourages people to act in
ways that roleplayers think indicates roleplaying.  Unless they stop
to ask others in an out-of-game context *why* they're playing their
character that way, they'll never know the difference.  (And even
then they might not, if the others lie!)

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
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