Gordon of We Fly Spitfires has done me the honor of writing a guest post about a subject I am pretty close to. On a side note my American spellchecker nearly had a heart attack when I loaded this baby into it. Not because anything was spelled wrong, but just because of the difference in spelling between European English and American English. Gotta love that :)Without further rambling on my part, enjoy this wonderful post:
Taking Roleplaying Out Of The Game
Roleplaying is a funny old thing. Traditionally it was a group of geeks crammed round a table at night, acting and embodying the roles of their fantasy genre based characters, abiding by a pen and paper rulebook and battling against the wits of their human Games Master. It was part acting, part socialising and part gaming all rolled into one. And then along came the computer and the Internet and ruined everything.
RGP video games were designed to satisfy the itch of roleplay by creating more immersive universes that players could access at any time of the day without needing an entourage of fellow roleplayers. We marvelled at the technology and adored games like Baulder’s Gate II as they gave us a whole new RPG experience. After a few years, the next logical step in the evolutionary chain came in the form of the MMORPG and it seemed like the ultimate opportunity for roleplay. It combined all of the convenience of gaming at home with all the immersion that a computer game can provide plus the ability to socialise with thousands of other players online all bundled up neatly into one package.
It’s now been over a decade since the first MMORPG and the sad news is that all meaning behind it is starting to fade. Yes, they are amazing fun and a fantastic joy to play but they aren’t roleplaying games in the sense that first inspired their inception. They have become ruleplaying games. Players don’t play roles, they are instead just focused on being the best and min/maxing their statistics. You no long play "Utgard The Mighty Warrior who has a phobia of cats", you play "Bill, level 80 Warrior with a cookie-cutter Fury spec and a Gearscore of 4,000".
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. As players roleplay less inside the games, we’re starting to see a rise of roleplaying outside it. More and more gamers are writing fan lore about their favourite MMO or stories about their characters. They broadcast their fan fiction from blogs and forums and ignite the imagination inside us all with brilliant stories and tales of adventure. Even Everquest 2, which still severely lacks roleplaying in game, recognises this fact and provides the facility for players to write their own in-game books.
Yes, the days of "Hail, noble knight" and "Oogbah da biggest and cleverest Ogre" are long gone and maybe that’s the result of the rise of voice chat or the mainstream popularity that MMOs are gaining but, whatever the case, at least we’re seeing a new outlet for roleplaying and that’s a wonderful thing. Roleplaying isn’t dead, it’s just moved to other formats to deal with the evolution of the RPG genre. Take comfort in that, good sir, for at least the flames of roleplay are still fanning somewhere.