[MUD-Dev] SOC: Re: Characters as Avatars

Jaycen Rigger jaycen.rigger at sbcglobal.net
Fri Apr 22 05:22:30 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

<EdNote: This aopears to be an off-list thread which was then
crossed back to MUD-Dev.>

Eric <eric at enkanica.com> wrote:

>> From what I think I know: 'Characters as avatars' refers to how
>> people relate to the world.  Is the character on the screen an
>> extension of who the player is (my skill at quake makes me a bad
>> player, consequently, my avatar is bad, too) or is it a fictional
>> creation that has no connection beyond the strings that you pull
>> upon (e.g., a puppet that is really good at quake).

> Another way of thinking about it: by in large, people just don’t
> roleplay elves. Instead, they roleplay themselves acting in the
> particular context of the v-world that they find themselves.  I
> can give you the example of someone in my pen and paper group.

> This person created a character whose general backstory
> demonstrates a personality of gutsy heroism and adventurism.  But
> they play the character as themselves in the context in which
> their character appears.  So when their character is in a crowd,
> they tend to be shy, not bold or audacious.  In online games, it
> is the same sort of thing at work.

> Many designers think that players will bear in mind the scope of
> the toon that they plan, so that if you are (say) a dark elf
> walking through the shire, then you’ll likely kill someone.  But
> what happens is that the player doesn’t.  They go about their
> business, using the toon as an extension of themselves instead of
> a puppet.  But the dominant concept is the person creates a
> character as an avatar, as a puppet that they will interact
> faithfully with what the cultural or designer’s perspective
> intentions are for that character.  Again, if they play as a
> wizard, we sort of expect them to act intelligent and not like an
> ass.

> Only the best of actors and roleplayers are able to separate
> themselves and use the avatar for what it is, but when they do,
> few people respond to it in kind.  Instead, they’re blacklisted or
> put on /ignore for that rpgspeak.

> That's how I interpret and experience 'characters as avatars'.

Okay, that's kind of what I thought that meant.
So, we're really talking about 3 seperate issues: is permanent death
an acceptable game mechanic?, is your character an extension of
yourself or a role-play tool?, and how do you deal with high level
As for perma-death, my approach is to have as much to keep the high
level characters entertained as the low and mid level characters.  I
do provide for perma-death situations, but only in certain
circumstances.  For instance, when we're done, there will be 4
uber-dungeons (beyond all the others) that each have a lich as the
"boss".  The lich tries once every X seconds to perma-kill a
character nearby.  Liches don't wander around, but anyone stupid or
brave enough to go into their lair has the chance for permanent
To extend that idea, I'm placing a demi-liche that will kill your
character, but won't perma-kill him.  Your ghost is prevented from
leaving the lair of the demi-lich until the demi-lich that killed
you is destroyed, and a cleric casts "Remove Curse" on your ghost.
Only then can you be resurrected.  Almost as bad as permanent
In the context of my gaming group, I think that we always understood
our characters to be "what we're supposed to be roleplaying" but at
another level understand that our characters often end up being an
extension of our own personalities.
Some of the guys in my pen and paper group always play themselves,
even though each new character "is a real departure from what I
usually play" (hah).  The rest of us recognize that our first
characters were basically super-extensions of our own egos, and have
gradually tried to expand our role-playing abilities into new and
different territories.
Stretching yourself mentally and emotionally (playing a character in
a game is deffinately an investment in both) is hard to do for
anyone and I think most of us understand that change comes slowly
and in small increments, if at all.
I've never played on a pay-for-play server before, so I've never
seen what you're talking about to a great extent.  I think most of
the more mature players, especially those with a pen-and-paper
background, think of their characters in the same way as we do; this
kind of duality between "an alternate persona" and an extension of
the player's own personality.
My best experience was a place where most of the players were
mid-20s with some 30- and 40-somethings mixed in with a few
teenagers.  Most of the players had prior experience with pen and
paper gaming (experience that is lacking in many younger players and
SO shows itself in their behaviour, attitude and general approach to
the game) so they were used to a more relaxed role-play atmosphere.
When players would walk up to us and start talking in a way that was
out of context, we acted as though they were trying to cast a dark
spell on us, or as though they were insane.  They either got
frustrated and went away, or they got the hint and started to behave
more like us.  With any minimal amount of effort, we would then be
more patient with them and try to encourage that behaviour.  I think
that's absolutely the best approach.
Anyway, it's just strange.  I'm glad I'm not in the game of "they're
paying for it, so we have to eat shit".  It's my world and I'll run
it any way I like.  If people don't like it, they can take a hike:-)
There's a lot to be said for that philosophy.
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