OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Roleplayers: We’re definitely not antisocial subterranean morlocks


There’s a stereotype that roleplayers are antisocial and a bit… weird. This portrayal states that roleplayers have no friends in the real world, and go online to live out a fantasy life with people they meet online. This stereotype is actually prolonged by roleplayers too, but I’ll talk about this later.

Thing is, this is total nonsense. Roleplayers aren’t antisocial. I even heard one of us went outside once, and some of us have real friends that are… would you believe it… Human.

Last week I caused a bit of a ruckus on the RPG-D forum by suggesting that roleplayers were antisocial, and got a huge backlash against me of people scrabbling over themselves to prove that that are normal Human beings. One even admitted that he’d climbed a mountain!

Thing is, I deserved this backlash because I’d written the article like an arsehole. I put a juicy little fib in the very first paragraph that I knew would be controversial and whip people into such a frenzy that they couldn’t wait to post and prove me wrong.

The topic I was hinting towards though, was that there are separate communities of roleplayers who are so far apart that they barely know each other exists. I’ve been told before that “the roleplaying community is dying” and that people are moving to MMORPG games instead of playing the text-based games that we know and love. Sometimes it even seems that this is the case, but it’s just not true. There are more roleplayers than ever, and I’d put money on our numbers actually increasing over time.

So where are these roleplayers?

More people use the Internet than ever before. 13 years ago when I first started roleplaying there were 300 million people online, 5 years later that number more than doubled, and now in 2013 there’s an estimated over 2500 million people using the internet. But what do all those millions do on the Internet? Do they just sit about constantly refreshing their gmail? Are they mindlessly clicking ‘like’ on everything on Facebook? Are they scrolling through an endless Twitter stream? Are they just watching videos of cats over and over and over?

Well, yes, probably all these things, but people need variety, and people need community. I remember at school we did about the basic necessities of life, food, water, shelter, clothing etc, and one that’s just as important is community. People like being with other people. It keeps us sane.

That’s why you see busy bars of people huddled together. People like to be with people. And that’s the same online, people seek out communities of the same interest.

In the old days people grouped together on IRC or newsgroups, then we had play-by-email games. Now there’s an explosion of places to roleplay, and people do it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a million types of forum platforms.

Often though, these roleplayers aren’t aware of the other communities because it’s so different to how they play. In the thread on RPG-D, some of the users made this very clear, especially Ruffian who said this:

Oh, you mean like play-by-email or other kinds of RPing?

Yeah you’re right, I have no idea how to navigate those things and because of that I largely ignore them. Actually I totally forgot they existed. Whoops. How’s that for irony

User Chloecelot summed this up by equating each type of roleplaying to a kingdom.

Each ‘kingdom’ has their shining castle where the majority congregate: Forum RPers seem to use RPG-D for that purpose with Caution 2.0 and what have you as sub towers to the castle, if you will. Most people live near or around their castle and never leave really it for no other reason that they are comfortable there. They know whats potting, they enjoy the company, the story, etc. They are really social in that circle, like we are being now. For the majority of a single kingdom however, they don’t give two hoots what’s happening over the border; why should they, doesn’t affect them.

But maybe this division of the roleplaying community is perfectly natural? Society loves to split itself into isolated groups, we do it with sport, and historically we’ve done it with tribes. So maybe it’s completely normal to stick to your own community. I personally don’t like it, and think all roleplayers should get along. But that’s just me. I dream of a peaceful utopia where we can all get along 🙂

Roleplayers are just normal cool people

So yeah, we’re not weird. We’re not a strange sub-class of society living in dark basements straining our eyes on a flickering computer screen. The roleplayers on the RPG-D thread were quick to rally against me proving that they’d climbed mountains, had friends and active social lives away from their computers. Brilliant!

Roleplaying is more social than most other hobbies

So it boils down to this, roleplaying is actually the most social hobby that I know. It introduces you to people all over the world, and you don’t just have to talk to them, you have to actively work together.

Bonemeal said this:

Role-playing is a hobby that requires communication. It takes two to tango, and the majority of us play in communities that have a member count that number in the hundreds. If that isn’t social behaviour, then I don’t know what is =P

Very very good point! And Foglegs brought up a great point about one of the supposed activities I mentioned being something that “cool” people do:

Climbing a mountain sounds significantly more antisocial than roleplaying. As does hangliding. At least with roleplaying I’m interacting with people, with those other things I’m just marvelling at the splendor of nature. Which is cool and all but there’s little to no chance of me and nature becoming best buds and going out clubbing afterwards.

It’s true, roleplayers build up great relationships with others in their game, as we have to have a close relationship to make sure our stories make sense.

Are roleplayers ashamed of roleplaying?

I actually think that the original stereotype that roleplayers are antisocial comes from a few bizarre activities by a small number. It’s the people who use a fake name of handle instead of their real name, as if they’re somehow scared of their real name being known. A bit like in Harry Potter, nobody said Voldemort because even saying his name gives him power, do these individuals feel that allowing their fellow roleplayers to know their true identity mean they’re suddenly powerless?

As we know, roleplayers are cool people, so is it the act of roleplaying itself that makes people ashamed of it? I really hope not because we’re doing something amazing, crafting a cool ongoing story is something I absolutely love, and something that writers of TV soaps, dramas and sitcoms do all the time. Those people aren’t ashamed of their jobs, so why should we be ashamed of our hobbies?

I think it’s this weird shrouding of the truth that makes roleplaying seem a little sinister, even though of course it’s not.

Some roleplayers aren’t helping the case

Is it then that many people don’t trust the people they meet online? I wonder about the people who I only know as a username, and wonder why they’ve chosen to introduce themselves to me as “wibblybibble69” instead of simply“George Francis from Scunthorpe” (that’s a fictional name, if you are really called George and live in Scunthorpe, I’m not picking on you). I assume it’s so he can preserve his anonymity, just in case he wants to say something honest to me without fear of me driving to his house and duelling it out in person. Don’t worry I won’t do that. I don’t like Scunthorpe. Also I’m not a lunatic.

In the modern age of Facebook we’re encouraged to use our real name, but I’ve seen many people use fake names even here, and I think that’s what gives roleplayers a bad name, and not the act of roleplaying itself.

Roleplaying is a cool social hobby. Roleplayers are cool people. I just think we should trust each other a little bit more, and then our hobby really can be seen as cool.