Written By: Nobody
Since this is my first time writing anything for what is essentially a group of complete strangers, I feel like it might be a good idea to introduce myself and my intentions. I'm Nobody. I'd be better known to people as Corathus or Trilkin. I'm 31 and have been RPing since twelve-year-old me found a channel on EFNet where he thought it'd be brilliant to play a character from Final Fantasy 4. (Rubicante is still the best, by the way.) It was terrible. I don't know of too many people who could look at their prepubescent self and say 'man, the ideas I had then were amazing.' What I did have them, though, is a somehow distinct lack of self-consciousness that I slowly developed over time by realizing there were expectations and rules.
And there ARE rules.
So, being that this is my 'entry' to convince Floyd to give me my own spot, the logical thing to do is to piss off as many people as possible with broad generalizations. That's what blogs are for, right? Type up your opinion and say 'this is the truth as I see it, so deal with it, nerds.' In this case, though, I intend on doing things slightly different: I encourage conversation. All of my posts, whether officially part of some blog on this site or just posted as a seemingly idle musing, are there to be responded to. This is going to be the same way. With every post, I intend on presenting a 'problem' - even if it's a problem in the vaguest of terms - and I encourage the community to actually discuss it. My opinions are exactly that: opinions.
Now that introductions are out of the way, the 'problem' of this post is roleplaying subcultures. First, let's define what roleplay actually is from a technical standpoint and then what we define as 'roleplay' when we're talking about RP communities and the type of stuff we do on this site. Roleplay, strictly speaking, is simply putting yourself in a foreign situation or acting in a role different from your normal self. Simply put: putting yourself into another person's shoes. That other person could well be a near carbon copy of you, but there's something distinct from them that does not make them you. By this definition, we can probably safely say that there's no 'wrong' way to RP. ... Except for those 'rules' things I mentioned earlier.
"Roleplaying," as we generally define it, is a bit more involved. It's a creative endeavor that involves creating and acting out a story through fictional (historical fiction notwithstanding) characters on any variety of levels. It can be as simple as a personal, character-driven story about someone's day-to-day life and can extend all the way to a broad epic of world titans clashing in some grand conflict. Some people generally will add more to this depending on how they feel the 'right way' to RP is. You know. Rules. This, though, is probably a pretty safe base to talk about the entire subculture of roleplayers.
Roleplaying is a subculture in and of itself, although it's a subculture with shared parentage between gaming (and not even just traditional gaming with pens, paper, dice and Mt. Dew anymore,) creative writing and socialization. When things are going perfectly, RP is equal parts all of these things.
It has to be.
By virtue of writing interactive fiction with other people, you are making it a creative writing process. The fact you're doing it with other people, even if you only ever interact with those peoples' characters means you are socializing. The fact that there is often a goal or greater end that requires solving a specific set of problems that may or may not have a 'lose' condition means you are also making it a game. This is especially obvious in any traditional pen and paper RPG with a fully DMed adventure.
The thing is, though, we can use this shared parentage to roughly categorize roleplayers according to what they primarily RP for. Thus, subcultures within a subculture. Broadly speaking, I see roleplayers as roughly being part of three groups. There is, obviously, overlap between all of them just by virtue of roleplaying's shared parentage. As a general rule, though, I break them up like this:
1. RPers more into gamification.
2. RPers more into dramatization.
3. RPers more into socializing.
As some examples: an RPer more interested in gamification over the other two may be more interested in the progression of their characters compared to the rest of the game world. Even in a freeform, non-stat environment, they still find ways to make their story progression make their characters more powerful somehow rather than simply just more learned. They want to fight and kill shit in particularly cool ways and get all sorts of neat loot and have awesome stories to tell about that one time they had to fight an elder wyrm naked with only the party's wizard helping him. The payoff for them is more visceral.
An RPer more interested in dramatization would care less about the actual strength of their character and more about the impact their characters have on other characters' stories. They're more interested in the subplots between characters. Romances. Conflicts. They don't care so much about combat or getting anything tangible for their characters. They care more about character building of a different sort. The payoff for them is emotional.
Finally, an RPer more interested in socializing might well not be terribly into the fiction itself and is more interested in connecting with the actual players. They'll play because their friends do it and they occasionally have some fun playing pretend with them, but the actual things that go on in game don't impact them very much. They're just there to have some goofy fun and spend time with their friends in a fairly unique way. The payoff for them is emotional, though different from the former group.
A roleplayer in general will almost always have some aspects of all three of these, but I find that most lean toward one more than the other two. Because of this, though, I find that conflict can fairly easily arise if their interests in the RP are different from each other's. The person who just wants to socialize with their friends is probably going to annoy the fuck out of the min-maxing nerd who wants to complete encounters efficiently. The person into dramatization might get irritated by the gamer who doesn't really care about their character's problems and doesn't really 'engage' them on that level.
This is generally where the skill of a GM really comes out. A skilled GM will be able to take a mixed group like this and make them work together by each having something that focuses on their general strengths as players and ensuring they all have fun. This is another topic for another time, though.
There is more that goes to this, though; stuff that's actually unique to large communities rather than small groups. You'll find people who are in one mindset who think the way the others RP is wrong. Their rules are different. The person who sits at a tavern trawling for ERP is going to naturally catch derision from somebody who is more interested in writing a story. Both of them are probably going to think the person who tries to start fights because they just like fighting is an idiot. None of these people, though, are inherently wrong. They approach their hobby in a different way. They'll all, however, likely have something less than nice to say about each other.
'Loser can't get laid IRL, so they ERP in game.'
I find that to be a problem because all three of these people can co-exist in the same space without actually disrupting each other and often do most of the time. They make the rules themselves by making assumptions of people's expectations. The only rule people seem to agree on is 'keep OOC and IC separate,' but that is also the subject of another post - and likely will be my next one so I can further expand on the idea of 'playing yourself as a character.' That last point, I feel is mostly the realm of the third group, but not always.
There is so much more that can go into this post - the differences between 'newer age' RPers versus those that were brought up into the hobby through tabletop, for example. It isn't necessarily an age gap either. There is a distinct difference between those two groups, though. They approach roleplaying in different ways. For now, though, I'll leave it in these broad and general categories and present this topic of discussion:
What do you, as individuals, think divides us? Why does it divide us? Should it divide us? Is it possible for all of us, regardless of how or why we RP, to be able to get play with each other in the same space and be involved in the same activities without interfering with each other's fun on some level? How big is the subculture gap, really? Will they ever bring back Pepsi Blue?