|Why Can't We All Just Play Together?|
I enjoy watching movies. It's one of my favorite past-times … next to playing games, of course. After watching Gladiator for the umpteenth time, it suddenly hit me that there's an occasional correlation between watching a movie and role-playing. You sit down and watch a movie, admiring the plot as it unfolds. Sometimes you may talk back to the actors, yet they never respond. Then the movie ends, and maybe you're affected by what you've seen. Maybe not. But, damn it, who wouldn't like to be up there on that silver screen.
If you're an actor, or know an actor, then you know that fame really comes from film. And you also know how much of a bitch it is to get your SAG card. You have to know so-and-so and do this and that to get the producer to give you the widget to get the wongfrag so that you can actually, maybe, get your card. Getting into the biz means cutting through the BS and impressing what you may consider to be a lot of elitist snot-nosed cliques. And that's how it can be with role-playing in MMORPGs.
I Wanna Be In Pictures!
Occasionally I receive e-mail from readers at UO Stratics: Lake Superior, where I work as both a reporter and a news manager. Nice e-mails, no death threats (yet), from eager players who would like to participate in the Lake Superior community. Here's an (edited) e-mail I recently received:
I recently read about [the event/organization] posted on the site, and would like to know more about it. Where can I find info, and how can I help out?
I always enjoy receiving these e-mails. Partly because it lets me know that I'm doing my job, but mostly because it tells me that there are tons of players out there who want to get involved with the community and would like to know how they can do so. I won't pretend to know the reasons why. Perhaps they enjoy playing with others. Perhaps they like taking control of situations, or, have situations take control and shape them. Perhaps they are bored, and want to do something different. Or, perhaps they want to be a star, and everybody knows their name (Norm!). Whatever the reason, they simply want to be involved. And that's a good thing.
But, like a lot of things in life, and a lot of things regarding MMORPGs, there's a problem. The problem isn't with how or why you've developed your character, the problem is with some within the role-playing communities.
Now, before you throw your hands in the air and start cussing at me all dewd-like, let me point out the word "some." This isn't the case in every game, on every server, or in every organization. The truth is, however, no matter how much you, or even myself, may not like it, we can be pretty snot-nosed, cliquey and elitist at times, usually when we shouldn't be. We can fail to include playing styles that don't conform to our standards. We can turn a cold shoulder, or distrust newcomers and the new scenarios or story lines they are developing or enacting. If they're not from our neighborhood, and wear funny clothes, then they're not welcome. And that's a bad thing.
As community leaders, it's imperative that we open ourselves, our organizations, and our communities to new people and new ideas. Ignorance and prejudice should not have a role or any influence in our communities out-of-character. It leads to segregation and stagnation, which slowly kills off the very things we work hard to nourish and perpetuates that elite stereotype we tend to have and truly hate.
Role-playing or community newbies should not become non-entities simply because we do not know who they are. They should be embraced, and taught the ins and outs of role-playing for the community you serve.
Do you ignore an organization that role-plays murderers, or thieves, simply because you don't care for that style of play? Should they be chastised publicly because you do not have the same individual or organizational mores?
Not too long ago, I came across two posts on a popular role-playing institution's message board, both of which struck a cord with the members of the community. In one post, a new member of the community wrote about her frustrations and dissatisfactions with her attempts to become part of said community. She wrote the following:
I am a relatively new player to [the community]. I've been semi-actively trying to get involved with groups on [the server], and have had only a small amount of success.
Something I have observed about the role-playing [sic] community is this ... It isn't really a community, but a collective of cliques. Groups where there is plenty happening, internally, to some degree or another. The problem with this is simple -- while the groups are active, they are not active with one another.
I have tried, under many different guises, to expand my horizons beyond what they currently are. I am finding it infinitely harder to do so on Lake Superior than I have ever on any other shard. The most common problem I've run into is basically ... being ignored. Or being unwelcomed [sic]. But being ignored is the biggest. Most groups seem so self-involved that they overlook what could be a pleasant change of pace, or a nice addition to their groups and/or the community over all.
Bells and whistles, my friends. Bells and whistles.
The second post of interest concerns a player-killing role-playing organization who was attempting to become part of the role-playing community on that server:
Let me explain our purpose. We are a group of people who roleplay [sic] brigands who have broken off of Lord British's rule to go live in dungeons. We view the dungeons as our homes and request anyone wishing to hunt there purchases a permit from us. We will viciously defend our homes against those who would invade them.
I do not see how the [organization] believes we do not truly RP. I am very respectable in all instances of combat and verbal interaction. We do not trash talk and we do not rezz kill. My members are all expected to RP in the presence of non-UBD members. We spare REGULAR horses, llamas, and ostards as a gesture of good will towards our opponents.
While these cases are distinct, they both have something in common: problems becoming part of the role-playing community. In the first case, the player was new to the shard; in the second, the organization had a play-style which differed from what can be considered acceptable to the community in question.
There's something very wrong within your community if players have difficulty breaking in or being accepted simply for being new or playing differently than you. Each MMOG is filled with differing play-styles. New blood comes into the game daily. To limit yourselves to what is tried and true, and especially to limit yourselves to what you know and accept is prejudicial. Simple as that!
The Final Scene
Community leaders are our teachers, our guides, and our parents for an enriched playing-style that can take us much further than hack-and-slash. New blood brings new ideas, even if it's simple, or maybe even silly. It fills ever-depleting resources with new stock, and most probably teaches us things we may have forgotten, things we tend to ignore and things that we may have never known. Embrace the new, and you will enrich your organization and your community ten-fold. Ignore it, and you will stifle yourself and kill off the very thing you love.
Originally published on GameSpy 8/19/01