Role playing things not selves

Well, yesterday was completely different on the role playing (RP) server.

For the first time ever I responded to one of those “Join our cool guild, we have a tabard” posts in Trade Chat. This guild was called, “Midnite Opera” and I couldn’t resist. I figured joining a guild would be the best way to actually start talking to people a little bit.

Indeed, the GM was very kind, and even came to Darnassus to gift me a coveted Netherweve bag! (The need for space to store the things you pick up along the way is one of the tough things about low levels – you are always running out of room until you get enough bags.) We chatted for quite a while, he and I.

The chat started out as quasi-role playing, but I wasn’t sure how far to take it (and it’s new to me, so a bit awkward). I managed to say effectively ambiguous things that wouldn’t break the RP, but weren’t exactly RPing per se. He was busy recruiting, and so a handful of new people were in Guild chat, as well. He and I whispered back and forth for a good hour or more. Guild chat was pretty lively, but not in RP format. That bit was the same as PvP Guild chat, effectively.

It was fun, and although I can’t really say from just a few hours on there, it seemed to me that these folks were a bit more chatty than those on PvP servers. I imagine that people interested in RP are going to be more interested in conversation for conversation’s sake – can’t really RP without communicating.

I did have one or two exchanges with random people who were role playing – one “human” was new to the city, asking about “work” in the area, and complimenting “my” city. Actually, I did have something to answer to that, as someone had been posting “now hiring” for a tavern in Stormwind that was billed as “has lots of role playing” and “have a drink on us!”

That bit of RP kind of reminded me of The Sims Online (TSO). That game sort of mixed RP with regular chat. People would advertise their house’s services and fun as such (rather than as, say, a place to advance your character), and would treat the house as a place to welcome visitors, be the host, etc. I hadn’t actually thought of the engagement with that metaphor as “role playing” before.

In our piece on the importance of the visual context (see this blog’s About for the link), we talk about how the house affects norms in the game. People felt the need – and expected others – to be polite in a framework of home hosting and visiting. In a way, the house encouraged a kind of role play without actually being a strong (or hardcore) role playing space. Instead, they took up the metaphors of the space with consistency (“welcome to my home,” “please have something to eat”) but didn’t necessarily adopt a different persona.

So it seems the key difference here is role playing the SPACE versus role playing the SELF. In a funny way, we in non-RP WoW always role place the space, if you think of treating the mobs, items, and dungeons as having metaphorical meaning as “role playing.” In the same way the house had meaning as a house in TSO, with associated language, norms, and values, the monsters and activities have meaning as monsters, gear, etc.

The core difference is that in TSO, the house as a space had a lot of influence on norms in our view, while in WoW the spaces have little I believe, even if the items do drive everything else.

Magritte's seemingly contradictory painting - which, of course, isn't contradictory at all.

Magritte's seemingly contradictory painting - which, of course, isn't contradictory at all.

So is it role playing to say, “I love my beautiful hat”? It’s not really a hat. We could treat it as simply a digital object made of pixels, but we don’t. We like it as a hat. The fact that it is digital doesn’t negate its meaning as a hat. Even if it’s not a hat.
Ceci n’est pas un chapeau.

This notion of “role playing” is a little looser than WoW players would use. There’s no doubt that the PvP server folks I play with would never call what they do “role playing.” But in a sense, embracing the meaning created by the visual representations in their own right, as things with value and meaning, is fundamentally ignoring their “real” form as 0’s and 1’s scooting through my computer’s processor. We ignore the fact they’re digital, and treat them the way their form asks us to. So yes, I covet that weapon or those shoulders because of their function as weapons and armor. I don’t break the metaphor by hacking the 0’s and 1’s as digital information I can manipulate. Some do just that, of course, but they’re not really playing WoW in that case. They’re cheating, and are not welcome.

So in this sense we role play the items in WoW (and the mobs/bosses). We embrace the meaning they represent because that’s what makes the game fun. Break it, and you lose the fun. The point of the game is lost. And on a role play server, some people also role play the self. We’ll see how that part goes as I participate more.

On a side note, I rolled a warrior for this little RP test run. They’re fun, but I’m wishing I had my heals and rez and casts. I’m just a magic girl at heart. Maybe I should have rolled that priest after all…

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