Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roleplaying - Empathy and Viewpoint


When you're roleplaying, you're assuming a role and acting it out.  Those of us who are Thespians identify with this right away.  We're playing a part, and our character may or may not be similar to the person sitting at the keyboard.  But these typists must identify with the character, or we won't be believable characters.  My own character has aspects to her that are straight out of my Real Life.  But there are many things about her that are purely fantasy.  Some are my own, some are the fantasies of others that I cater to.

So what about empathy?  Empathy is doing just that.  It's understanding your own avatar and how it will react to given situations -- which may or may not be how you would react if it was you in a Real Life situation.  It also means identifying with other people you are role-playing with.  If you can't "click" somehow, then roleplaying a scene is going to be difficult if not just impossible.

Here's an example of a role-play session that totally failed to get off the ground for me.  As you should probably know by now, Kittin is neko.  Neko is the Japanese word for cat.  In Second Life, and in Cosplay, nekos have become sort of half-human/half-cat creatures who live in derelict urban areas.  Whether we're post apocalyptic or just futuristic evolutions of the feral cat, I'm never quite sure.  The Cat from Red Dwarf would fit this category.  Myself, I'm a product of genetic engineering out of the basement of Gina Corporation in Dark Alley.  Never mind the fact my avatar is older than the Dark Alley sim, that's just messy details.  ;)  So, given that, this is how this session started:

(This isn't the exact text, I'm paraphrasing from what I remember)

Anonymous: Last month you were issued a traffic citation for a moving violation.  Rather than pay the fine, you elected to receive corporal punishment.
Kittin: Um...?  Excuse me?  I don't understand.  I think there must be some mistake.  I don't drive.
Anonymous: There is no mistake.  You were supposed to report to my office ten minutes ago.
Kittin: No, really.  I think there's some mistake.  I'm a cat.  I don't drive.

And that was it...  It died there.  Either this other RP'er didn't know how to address this and clearly hadn't read my profile before starting or the RP wasn't going in a direction they wanted. Either way, something didn't "click" if you see what I mean.

What should have happened?  I don't know.  I can think of several possibilities.  He -- I assume it was a he, this was with the Sin Tracker messaging system, so I've no idea who it was -- could have continued to insist I show up at some landmark.  Or, he could have teleported directly to me and kidnapped me and I would wake up in an interrogation cell or something.  There are lots of ways this could have gone.


There's something about this scene that irks me.  Can you see what it is?  I walk into a crowded room and it's mostly silent.  There are avatars standing near each other, looking off in odd directions and no one except one couple is saying anything in local chat:

Boy:  *smiles at u*
Girl smiles back and waves hello to you, feeling her heart race at the sight of you.
Boy: *hugs u*
Girl wraps my arms around his neck, turning her face up to kiss you warmly, "missed you."

Aiigh!!!  Ok, I can't even type any more of that!

Let me back up.  I'm a snob.  I freely admit it.  I love the English language.  I've nothing against other languages; if I could speak another, I would love it, too.  And I know this comes from my personal dream of being a published author someday.

So what is it that's irritating me about the above?  Is it the fact that 'u' is a letter, not a pronoun?  Is it that Boy hasn't learned how to emote?  Is it that Girl doesn't know a sentence begins with a capital letter, even in dialog?  Those all bug me, yes, but it's not what makes me face-palm.

Two things drive me nuts more than anything else.  First, the use of 'you'.  There are other people here! Which 'you' are they talking about?  Every reader of these sentences should identify with being addressed as 'you' because that's what makes it an intimate conversation.  But it isn't 'me' either of them are talking to -- they're talking to each other.  In group context, they should be saying him/her and maybe interjecting their names in there once in awhile for clarification.

The second thing that's driving me absolutely batty in this is the sudden omniscients of knowing what her heart is doing?  How am I supposed to know that?  I don't have a finger on her pulse, I don't have a tricorder from Star Trek, and I'm not in her head.

When you're role-playing, you're writing.  You're participating in the telling of a story. And while it's good to know what's going on inside your character's head, don't just blurt it out.  It's the old rule of "Show, don't tell!"  How can she demonstrate that her heart rate increased at the sight of him?  One thing she could do is a sharp intake of breath, her hand to her cheek which flushes with pink.  Get some empathy in there!  What does it really feel like?  Now express that in description.

It's hard.  I'll be the first to admit that.  It takes practice and I don't presume to be an expert and flawless with it.  But I'm aware of it.  It reads better.  It's more enjoyable for the reader.  At the same time, you have to balance it with how long it takes you to write that sentence.  No one wants to wait twenty minutes while you compose.  The more you try, however, the better you'll read and the more fun you'll be to play with.  And I hope you'll enjoy it more as well.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Roleplaying - Some Basics

“Opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one.”
-P. T. Barnum.   

I wanted to write a couple of blog entries on roleplaying.  And these articles are my opinion.  Everyone has their opinions on the right and wrong ways to do it.  So, what makes me an expert?  I’ve been roleplaying for as long as I can remember.  Starting with Dungeons & Dragons in my pre-teens, MUDs in their heyday in the 90’s, various MMOs (Everquest, Anarchy Online, Neverwinter Nights), and Second Life.  I’ve seen most styles in my 25 years or so on the ‘Net.

What’s Your Type?

There are a few different types of roleplayers out there.  For the most part, I’ve only seen three major categories.


We’ve all run into them.  The Mmmm’ers.  The masters of monosyllabic communication.  If you’re lucky, you might get a “oh baby u so good”.   I don’t know if they’re so busy with their other hand that typing is just too difficult for them, or what’s going on.  I like to think I was never this bad, but I may have been.  It’s my hope that they just don’t know and want to learn.  Sadly, many don’t seem to improve over time.


What on earth is a para-RP’er?  Let’s break it down.  We know what RP is.  But what’s the definition of para?
 The noun PARA has 5 senses:
1. (obstetrics) the number of liveborn children a woman has delivered
2. 100 para equal 1 dinar in Yugoslavia
3. a soldier in the paratroops
4. an estuary in northern Brazil into which the Tocantins River flows
5. port city in northern Brazil in the Amazon delta; main port and commercial center for the Amazon River basin

I doubt they mean #1.  #2 is highly unlikely.  #3, hmm...maybe.  Not #4 and certainly not #5.

Digging a little deeper, I found:
As an English prefix, para-,  may have any of these senses; it is also productive in the naming of occupational roles considered ancillary or subsidiary to roles requiring more training, or of a higher status, on such models as paramedical,  and paraprofessional:, paralegal; paralibrarian; parapolice

Does a para-rp’er have more training than the rest of us?  No, that’s not it either.  What it means in this case is paragraph.  These folks like a lot of text in their RP.  They are a bit of an elitist group and I personally feel they go too far with this theme.  Rather than typing something like:

Kittin waves. “Hello!  How are you?”

a para-RP’er is more likely to type:

Kittin takes a sip from the cup of tea she had sitting on the table beside her.  Her eyes move from the book and spy you.  With a smile, she quickly puts down the cup and marks her place in the book with a finger, folding it and standing up.  She smiles and offers a hug.  “Hello!  How are you?”

While the second example is far more interesting to read and adds life to a scene, if the typist is a hunt’n’pecker, you may wait 5 minutes to see it.  And since they start everything with an emote, you don’t always get that “Kittin is typing...” message.  

TIP:  If you’re using Firestorm, turn on the option to use : as your emote character.  It has the advantages of being shorter to type (just ‘:’ instead of ‘/me’) and it will show the “Kittin is typing...” message.  Firestorm also lets you do chat bubbles when typing, but not have to show the final message in the bubble.  That way you can see people typing, but your screen doesn’t get cluttered with chat bubbles everywhere.

Everyone Else

So that leaves the rest of us.  I place myself in this category.  I like to borrow a little from the Mmm’ers when appropriate.  I also like to spend the time the para-RP’ers do.  Mostly, I try to keep a balance between the two so that the dialog keeps going.  A typical stream of text from me looks something like this:

Kittin looks up from her book and sees you.
Kittin: Hello!  How are you?
Kittin marks her place and puts her book down, standing and offering you a hug.

I’ve found this style to be more interactive.  The drawbacks are you sometimes step on another’s toes if you dont’ strictly follow the exchange of you say something / they say something.  Overall, I think it’s worth it because no one likes to think they’re being ignored.

In my next article, I’m going to talk about Empathy and Viewpoint.