Role-playing, Live action, online, and meta gaming

Dear Diary,

There’s not a weirder relationship I have than with role-playing. It’s not something I hold with such high regard that I stick around smelling my own role-playing farts, but I certainly don’t dislike it. It’s a really fun way to pass the time, challenges your insecurities and makes you push for creativity. The great thing is there aren’t any serious consequences for failing at this either. With live action role-play if you fail at being creative you can throw away your character, start a new, and everyone has to pretend to be interested in you because there’s usually not enough going on in the beginning of the night to distract them from the fact that you did so badly before. In online role-play there’s the opposite problem, there’s so many friggen people doing it you can just throw out a person and it won’t matter… you just go grab a new one. So role-play is cool.

So what I wanted to talk about is…. meta gaming. What is meta gaming? Well the meta is you. You aren’t your character, you know more than your character. You have to try and role-play your character as if you only know what your character knows. If you game as if your character knows what you know, it’s called meta gaming. In LARP depending on how bad it is it can be called cheating. If your older character dies and you know who killed him… walking in with a new character screaming that the person killed him is gonna be cheating, you’ll be slapped on the wrist or flat out kicked out. In online role-play you’ll probably get thrown away.

However some meta gaming is actually not only okay it’s a GOOD thing to do. Let’s talk over a situation I’ve known about as a good example of meta gaming.

I don’t know all the details, but basically someone’s character was looking for someone and because of the situation his emotions would have lead him to keep searching for this other person before returning to the other vampires to go… ya know have fun and role-play and such. So when he searched for a while eventually the storyteller said “Hey this isn’t gonna get resolved this way, if you come and role-play I assure you this will be resolved.” but he sternly refused. No, his character WOULD NOT do that. Not ever. So guess what he had the pleasure of doing? Sitting around not role-playing for the majority of the night. I think maybe he gave in eventually, but he really wasted huge chunks of his time.

So, how does this apply to online role-play? Well I remember once I got in an awkward situation with a role-player where my character had conflict with them. My character’s conflict got resolved by a third party and even though I had already added the person who I had conflict with… she assured me in a player to player basis that her character was so offended that she WOULD NOT under ANY circumstances not try and physically harm my character. This is analogous to the sitting around searching for someone example. We both wanted to role-play with each other, we both liked the personalities we drew up for our characters, but she was sabotaging the role-play by making sure her character was PERFECTLY consistent. Maybe you can get away with these sorts of things in online role-play because ya know…. throw the person away and find new role-play… but I feel like there’s a lot of missed opportunities because of an unwillingness to let the meta guide your character just a little bit so you can ya know… have fun. These are extreme examples, but in many cases it’s more subtle. Your unwillingness to break character even a little bit can make certain situations being role-played monotonously. With just a slight tweak to their behavior you can move on to more fun role-play.

There was a quote that someone told me in terms of the LARP role-play and that is this. “When role-playing, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be role-playing the MOST exciting time of this characters life. You should absolutely let boundaries of normality be broken, emotional behavior to kick into your character, cause it just creates more fun role-play.” This is extremely paraphrased, but the point remains valid and it’s not a point I made myself. In fact the person I’m quoting is quoting someone else so…. yeah.

Remember role-play is for fun, getting stuck in consistency and sabotaging fun is just a waste of time.



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