Who wouldn’t want to live the life of a video game character? Being a part of your favourite games universe can be a unique and exciting experience.
Role play is something that many are either completely indifferent about or think is just too silly to try. Because of this, playing a game and living in the skin of an alter ego is still something that is often thought of as too nerdy, even in today’s, much more accepting, “nerd culture”.
20 years ago, video games alone were still considered a niche thing, with only the most dedicated people willing to put lots of hours into gaming. However, as games have grown more popular, so too has the acceptance of people spending days in front of their screens. Despite this, when I mention to friends about role playing there is still a stigma surrounding it that turns people away. Like Dungeons and Dragons, while more widely played now, there is a certain amount of dedication to pretending you are a fictional character. The thing I wonder is that if role play will ever be as welcome as video games in general have become.
To be clear, I am talking about playing a video game and putting yourself in the scenarios of your character, and then acting as if those events are actually affecting you. Instead of relying on the roll of a dice, you rely on social interactions to shape your character and build a background. One of the most impressive role players I have ever encountered had actually made a mute persona who managed to do pretty much all of their character development through acting out character gestures, and through another role player who acted as their guardian. That character enraptured/captivated everyone playing, as there was a huge amount of mystery that everyone wanted to figure out.
There is definitely no lack of role playing games out there, besides the table top classics. Video games such as Garry’s Mod, WoW, Space station 13, and even Arma III have huge communities, some more serious than others, but each dedicated to keeping the somewhat underground genre from falling to the underworld completely.
So what is the actual appeal? Well despite rules and etiquette, the amount of freedom to create stories is amazing. It can be tricky sometimes, due to the need for good spelling and grammar, and the urge to chuck a smiley in every so often can be tough to ignore, but when you and some other like-minded people manage to create scenarios in which your characters connect, it is a truly rewarding experience.
Much like Dungeons and Dragons, there are people required to help the story move along. Like a game master, a good admin and server leader is certainly required. In my experience, having some sort of plot taking place in the game world really helps create natural role play scenarios. In one of my most exciting gaming experiences, I was playing on a serious role play server on Garry’s Mod that was set in the Resident Evil world. There were (AI) zombies in the game that caused a threat and forced our characters to have to work together to survive, and with huge events that would take place on occasion, there was no lack of excitement, even when the majority of the game play took place in small chat boxes.
It takes a degree of emotional attachment to really find the fun in role play. It is too easy these days for people to act up, and attempt to ruin other’s enjoyment. Living in a world full of trolls, while sometimes funny, can also completely destroy the essential immersion that you must dedicate yourself to, to gain the most out of role playing. Once you can shrug off the distasteful ideals associated with role play, and just put yourself in your characters shoes, there is a lot of depth to the amount of fun you can find.
For people wishing to try it out, but not take it too seriously, games like Arma III’s Altis Life and GMod may be a good place to start. The communities are usually very welcoming and anyone who says they are new will be accepted with open arms. Once you have gotten the gist of the idea of role play, you may feel like taking it a bit more seriously, in which case I suggest you know a bit about the universe you choose to role play in. While many will continue to be helpful, some serious role players prefer to break immersion as little as possible, and asking questions about lore may end up annoying the more hardcore players.
While it may still be considered “lame”, once you have tried it, I think many will see the fun that can be had in role playing. Whether you are planning a rebellion in Half Life 2’s City 17 during the Combines oppressive rule, serving drinks on a Space Station, trying to hold off a team of enemy survivors in an apocalyptic wasteland, or just simply living in a city with other role players, there is a huge variety of situations that you can find yourself in. The key lies in allowing yourself to just let go, and throw yourself in the deep end. Before I had tried role play, I would have never expected myself to enjoy it to the degree I did, but feeling attached to a character trying to survive the zombie onslaught of Resident Evil’s canon can really have a strange effect on the way you look at the genre. Ignore the stigma, and you will be surprised at how enthralled you can become in your gaming sessions.