Episode #12 – “Playing a Role”

Episode #12 – “Playing a Role”

Sep 24

Our twelfth episode features Tzufit and Apple Cider talking with special guest Dyna (retired WoW player and general MMORPG community roleplayer) talk about the ins and outs of roleplay; we look into the particular problematic nuances of roleplaying and also what new players can do to get into this fascinating part of the community.

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Below the cut is a full transcript of Episode 12, “Playing a Role.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Hey everybody!  Welcome back to Justice Points.  It is episode 12.  Today we are talking about roleplaying and the RP community.  It’s going to be super fun.  This is a big topic we’ve wanted to tackle for a while and it’s a big, big thing that a lot of our listeners are into and interested in.  So we definitely wanted to cover it.  We have a special guest with us.  If you would like to introduce yourself?

Dyna:  Greetings!  I am Dyna.  I’m a roleplayer.  Oh my gosh!  I have a 5 year history with WoW roleplay and prior to that I did forum roleplay and even live-action roleplay.  So I’ve got a bit of roleplay experience under my belt.  Though I no longer play World of Warcraft, nor roleplay in that environment, I do intend to continue my tradition of roleplaying in MMO environments and as such I have a vested interest in this topic.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh wow.  We’ve got a super expert with us.

Tzufit:  She brought the roleplaying resume.

Apple Cider Mage:  You mentioned that you had a 5 year history with World of Warcraft roleplaying and obviously this is a World of Warcraft podcast.  Tell us a little bit about that, about roleplaying in WoW.

Dyna:  Alright.  Well, I did not get my starts in MMO in the traditional way.  I actually started because my mother was a roleplayer in World of Warcraft.  Prior to that, I thought MMOs were kind of for losers, but she was telling me about all these stories she was doing.  Having done forum roleplay in the past I heard about that and I was like, “Oh, that sounds really fun.  But, ugh, MMOs – they’ll steal your life.”  So I went ahead and finally joined and it was a little bit addictive for a while there.  I got my start roleplaying on Sisters of Elune.  I started out with a paladin who became my main throughout the entirety of my roleplay career, although she ended up having a couple of different incarnations as I moved.  Yeah, I started out in a small guild that my mom created and she did a pretty good job leading that but eventually she ended up quitting but I did not.  So I moved on to another guild that was an allied guild with the one my mom had.  Then after that one kind of – well the server itself stopped having as much roleplay, so I moved on to Wyrmrest Accord where I ended up in a lot of different roleplay guilds through the long years that I was there.  Honestly, I found a lot of just random walk-up roleplay too.  It was a really good place to find roleplay and I really liked that community and still have a great deal of respect for it.

Tzufit:  And full disclosure for our listeners today – Dyna and I were actually in a roleplaying guild together on Sisters of Elune for, what, probably about a year, maybe 2 years?

Dyna:  Indeed, that was when Tzufit was “Wendy” or “Blodwyen.”

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I roleplayed a few different characters but the one that Dyna and I most often roleplayed together when she was on Dyna was my character Wendy.

Apple Cider Mage:  I feel like so many good past roleplay stories are going to come rolling on out today.

Tzufit:  Oh boy.

Apple Cider Mage:  Kind of like sitting in a bar over some drinks, breaking out the embarrassing funny times had in roleplay.

Tzufit:  Well Dyna and Wendy did have at least one crazy night of drinking.

Dyna:  Oh yeah.  The old standby.

Tzufit:  So we should, just in case we have some listeners today who are not as familiar with roleplay or maybe haven’t done it at all in World of Warcraft or elsewhere, we’re going to use a few roleplay-specific terms tonight and we just want to go down a very quick list of those things so that everybody knows what we’re talking about in case we kind of throw these terms out there and don’t necessarily define them in the moment.  First of all, you’re going to hear us use the terms OOC and IC, and occasionally you’ll hear us say those as OOCly and ICly.  What those two things stand for are “out of character” and “in character.”  So essentially being in character would be when you are acting as your character.  Out of character is when you’re acting or talking as yourself, the person behind that character.  Then of course when we add the –ly on the end, just using it as an adverb in that sense.  Other terms you may hear us use are godmodding.  Godmodding is something that’s universally looked down upon by roleplayers.  It’s when you attempt to force an action on another roleplayer.  So for example, if I say, “I punched Dyna in the face and she fell to the ground,” that would be an example of godmodding because I am not only describing what my character is doing, I’m forcing an action upon Dyna’s character as well.  Another term we may use is rolling for an outcome.  So in the example that I just gave previously, I might say something like, “Tzufit takes a swing at Dyna,” and then Dyna and I – depending on what sort of combat we were using for our roleplay – we might each roll a number and say if I have the higher roll then maybe the punch lands.  If I have the lower roll, then maybe I go right past her or something like that.  Then finally is the notion of heavy RP, which if you are on an RP server you may see guilds advertising using this notion.  This essentially means that they expect their roleplayers to be in character the vast majority of the time.  There’s really no sense of  – you should really never be breaking character.  Depending on how seriously the guild or the RP community takes it, it may even mean that everything you do on that character from the moment that you login is expected to be in character.  So whether you’re doing dailies, whether you’re farming ore, whether you’re in a raid instance, all of that is expected to be in character.  Again, this is a little bit more of a fluid term than the other ones because it sort of just depends on the parameters of the RP community that you’re a part of.

Dyna:  I’d say the more common use of heavy RP is that the majority of your in-game time is spent on roleplay-oriented things.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t go out and, say, farm for an outfit or a mount or whatever you else you would want to be more thoroughly in character.  But yeah.  Overall that’s correct.

Tzufit:  And Dyna, we should ask – I think you would probably be the best person to answer this question because although Apple Cider and I certainly have a history with roleplay, neither of us is really currently active.  So as someone who has done a lot of roleplaying over the years and who has really enjoyed it, what do you think is awesome about RP and what did you like about it?  What do you think roleplayers in general really like about that aspect of WoW?

Dyna:  Oh, this is an excellent question and I could go on and on about it.  But I’ll try not to.  Basically, roleplay is the opportunity to be creative, to express a different character every time you logon.  You can make all the characters you want in the whole world.  You have a chance to play the game in a more interactive fashion.  Blizzard has a certain way that they want you to play and that’s fine and it can be fun.  But in roleplay, you never know what’s going to happen.  The fact that anything could happen from – because you don’t control all the aspects going on around you.  You basically have your character and then you never know what’s going to go on around you and how you’re going to react to it.  It’s not as predictable, although in some cases it is.  There’s just so much possibility and it’s such a great creative outlet, especially for people who might have had not the easiest day.  You can go on, you can forget what’s going on in your real life and focus on how you’re going to approach the problems you might encounter in character.  It’s also really good for people who want to practice their writing or their improvisational skills, or just to flex their creativity muscles.  You can get inside any kind of character.  There’s all sorts of different approaches you can take.  It’s just got a lot of cool stuff.

Tzufit:  I know that for me, when I was particularly active, the spontaneity aspect of it was really the hook and the adrenaline rush for it, because – yeah, like you said, you only control what you’re typing.  You don’t control what any of the other participants are typing.  So not knowing how anybody is going to react or where the situation is going to go next can be a really, really fun experience.

Dyna:  Yeah.  A raider logs on and they know they’re going to do certain things for their raid.  They’re going to go do their dailies.  They’re going to run dungeons, or they’re going to go raid.  That has a lot of varied experiences but it is still kind of limited.  You kind of know what’s going to happen.  A PvPer is going to go on and they’re going to pwn noobs or whatever PvPers do.  I’m not really a PvPer.

Apple Cider Mage:  Carry the flag.

Dyna:  Yeah, they’re going to carry the flag.  They’re going to kill people.  They’re going to heal people.  There’s a certain set of actions that you know is pretty much always going to happen in any instance where you PvP or you go raid or whatever you choose to do.  If dailies and mount collecting are your thing, you know what’s going to happen.  With roleplay you have no idea.  Most of the time it’s fairly predictable, but sometimes you just log on and the world takes you in very interesting directions.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I have two specific memories for me, and I won’t go into them because they’re just such long stories and they wouldn’t really make sense if you didn’t know the characters, but I remember 2 very specific moments of RP that really hooked me for exactly that reason.  These things that seemed like very simple, basic events that started out, that by the end of it I was sitting here at the desk chair typing things out, I was rolling in laughter or almost on the brink of tears because it was just so funny or so emotional.  When you are RPing with a good group of people, there’s really so much that can happen and so much creativity and so many cool stories and narratives that you can get out of it.  It’s really a cool thing.  Yeah, it’s very different from a lot of the other aspects in WoW.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s always interesting to see your character in roleplay kind of get involved sort of out of left field.  I always really liked the RP aspect where I really felt that I was able to randomly have these experiences with other players that also added to the characterization of my character, whoever I was playing.  That randomness was not just a spontaneous sort of thing but also that it let me discover new facets of the stuff that I was doing as opposed to, like you said, raiding or PvP.  It’s fairly static stuff and while you get gear or you get achievements or mounts or something, it’s not quite the same as developing this character that you’ve grown to love.

Dyna:  Which actually leads me to another facet of it – you actually get to engage with other players in a way you don’t normally get to.  Like when you’re PvPing, it’s a very competitive environment.  When you’re raiding, even then you’re still working together but if you’re a DPSer, you’re staring at those charts.  If you’re a tank, you’re silently cursing the other tank and trying to get agro back.  I don’t know, I’m not a tank.  If you’re a healer, then you secretly want to be at the top of the charts.  It can be very competitive.  While you do work together with other players, the thing about roleplay is it is entirely cooperative.  That is what it is about.  You cannot do it alone.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It feels very collaborative and communal in a way that, especially somebody who plays a lot of DPS, feels way more communal and collaborative than raiding.  That’s for sure.

Tzufit:  One of the things we wanted to talk about today was that the RP community in and of itself, even before we get into sort of some subsections and some other aspects of that, the RP community is actually somewhat of a marginalized community in WoW as a whole.  There are a lot of stigmas.  There are a lot of negative stereotypes that go along with being a roleplayer in World of Warcraft.  The community can be kind of prickly about those things and understandably so.  So we’re going to pick apart a couple of those stereotypes and try to figure out what’s behind them and why they exist and those sort of things.  One of the lingering stereotypes is that if you’re a roleplayer, especially if you’re somebody who’s really a fulltime roleplayer and that’s your primary focus in WoW, then people make the assumption that you are terrible at everything else in the game.

Dyna:  This is certainly something that can happen.  I’ve definitely seen this generalization made about roleplayers by any group of PvPers or PvEers, and it doesn’t matter if they’re good at it themselves.  One point is that roleplay can be done with a really crummy computer, without much skill, without much practice.  You can just spend all your time doing that and basically never get out an experience the game.  So maybe in some instances this is a justified stereotype because roleplay is an activity with lower end computers, not much reflex, they can do that.  It’s super fun and maybe they don’t get as much experience with other aspects of the game.  In addition, if you spend all your time roleplaying, it is also possible that you don’t get out and experience the majority of the game.  Some roleplayers can get really prickly about – “Oh, you’re doing PvE?  Ew.”  That’s not an attitude I see so much anymore, but my impression is that it was a very common thing back in the days of Vanilla and BC due to how intense the end game was.  If you were doing the end game then, that’s pretty much all you could do.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  There is a predominant amount of the roleplay was in Burning Crusade, Vanilla, and some Wrath.  You were actively looked down upon on my server if you decided to roleplay with epics because back before Karazhan came out in the beginning of Burning Crusade, you didn’t have access to epics.  The only way you had access to epics at all was doing Molten Core, doing Blackwing Lair, doing Onyxia, which was a whole long process of getting attuned and being in a raid guild.  It was very gate keeping.  So roleplaying was one of those things that you did especially if you couldn’t raid, especially if you couldn’t get into a raid guild because what else was there to do?  Not quest, because you’d finished questing and you wouldn’t have anything to do.  So people would roleplay.  If you were somebody who somehow managed to roleplay and raid to some degree and you wore epics, I remember it was kind of a big deal.  My guild did both, had an active storyline, had an active group of roleplayers but also did 40 man raiding.  Lot of contentious comments between us and the other more hardcore roleplayers because we would decide to wear epics to roleplay and they felt that that was an insult and that we were trying to flaunt that we were more powerful characters than they were.

Dyna:  I can also see that being a point of contention because they’re so used to being looked down upon by the PvE community that, in turn, they reflexively would look down on the PvE community to try and keep it segregated so that they don’t have to deal with bullies in their midst.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  It was very bewildering, I must say, as somebody who was new to roleplay and to raiding.

Tzufit:  I think also since roleplay is one of the few things in the game that has no minimum level requirement, you can make a level 1 character walk into Stormwind and start RPing.  So I think that’s part of it as well, that you don’t need to be level 90.  You don’t need to be level 50.  You don’t have to be anything to be able to get involved with roleplay, so it’s a much more immediately-accessible thing than PvE or PvP content.  That can be part of some of the origins of this stereotype as well because it is possible that we could have roleplayers who really aren’t that familiar with other aspects of the game, as Dyna said earlier on.

Dyna:  I also – and correct me if I’m wrong. I was on the kind of cuddly environment of Wyrmrest Accord where everything’s a little bit mixed and roleplay is the predominant activity.  I also have the impression that this is less of a stereotype these days than it used to be and it’s less of an issue that occurs because now the end game is a lot more accessible and you can do it and still have time to do roleplay.  You can also roleplay and still have time to do end game.  There’s a lot more mingling than there used to be, but that old bugbear does still remain to some extent.

Tzufit:  I do think that’s true in some ways.  I think the one thing, though, that has come with end game being more accessible is that people are very quick to say, “Well my end game is not like your end game because your end game is LFR,” or “Your end game is the first 3 bosses of normal,” or something like that.  Because people are even segregating end game PvE into “mine is better than yours,” I think there could still be a chance that they might look at a roleplayer and say, “Well yeah you raid, but you just do LFR every week.”

Apple Cider Mage:  I think also one of the other conflicts with end game being so accessible is that it’s actually made roleplay on a lot of servers that aren’t Wyrmrest Accord or Moon Guard, which have that very large community, harder to find.  One of the reasons that roleplay really got big in Vanilla and Burning Crusade is because you didn’t have much else to do.  Now that there are so many things to do in game, a lot of people don’t want to spend that time doing roleplay.  They want to do a focused activity, a targeted activity, one that has this very tangible reward, as opposed to something open ended and communal like roleplaying.  So in that respect, it’s also hurt roleplay to some degree.

Dyna:  Definitely.  I could definitely see that.  Another thing is in that instance – the smaller the community gets, all it takes is one bad experience and then you’ve lost another roleplayer and the numbers just keep dwindling because there’s so much else to do.  Why would someone want to get started in it when there’s almost none out there?

Tzufit:  It’s also a total sort of floodgate scenario.  Certainly you experienced this, too, because you and I were both active on Sisters of Elune when it was still a pretty big roleplay community there.  Then toward the end of Wrath, that really just died out very, very quickly.  It was such an immediate thing where it went from very active community to almost no one at all because it was a few people hop over to Wyrmrest or to Moon Guard and they come back and tell everyone, “Oh!  There’s a lot going on over here.  There’s a lot of walkup RP.”  So you get more people heading over and it just very quickly turns into there’s no RP here anymore.

Dyna:  Well, I also feel like the guild we were in was one of the last big RP guilds on Sisters of Elune.

Tzufit:  That is true.

Dyna:  So we were pretty much immune to it until it hit us, which was partly my fault.  Sorry!

Tzufit:  Oh, no.  I think that was bound to happen at that point.  This brings us kind of into another interesting question, which is there are on many roleplay servers attempts at hybrid guilds.  So the idea there being that you’re a guild who is not just focused on roleplay, but also maintains a raiding team, perhaps does some PvP together.  This was a project that Dyna and I were both really into at the time.  We were both roleplayers who really loved raiding.  We wanted to make raiding accessible to the other roleplayers who we knew were interested in getting into that but maybe didn’t know how to get started.  That was certainly true for me.  I was a roleplayer who never thought she would set foot in a raid and then I tanked Naxx and it was like, “Well this is where I need to be.”  So anyway.  Hybrid guilds – do they work?  Is it possible for them to work?  Have we seen them work?

Dyna:  In my experience, hybrid guilds – I like the idea.  I wished it would be a thing.  I tried it on Wyrmrest and it very much didn’t work for me because of the specific type of raiding I wanted to do.  I wanted to do raiding that progressed past Naxx 10 ever and that just wasn’t happening.  So either it was really focused on roleplay with raiding on the side, which was what we had, and then I had that experience again on Wyrmrest where I actually ended up bringing all of my favorite raid buddies over to Wyrmrest.  They all joined my RP guild and now that guild isn’t an RP guild anymore.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think that tends to be – in my experience and what I’ve seen, it really seems like most hybrid guilds are not able to sustain a balance.  It almost always happens that they end up being a raiding guild with a smattering of RP, or a roleplay guild with a smattering of raiding.  Unfortunately, when you set yourself up as a hybrid guild, what you get is a pretty big mishmash of people, some of whom really want to roleplay more and some of whom really want to raid more.  If your guild falls down on the opposite of whatever is their priority, either you have a bunch of people leave or, what seems to more often be the case, you have a ton of drama.

Dyna:  Yeah.  That’s another thing.  There can be a lot of potential for drama in roleplay.  There can also be a lot of potential for drama in raiding.  So even in the perfect scenario when you have fantastic active RP and a great raid section, there’s double the drama because something’s going to happen eventually in either of those two.  With both of them it’s twice as likely, even if you’ve got the group of the most laid back, chill, relaxed RP/raiders ever.  It’s just trouble brewing.

Apple Cider Mage:  One person is mad that somebody else’s brother killed their girlfriend and then on top of that somebody else is mad that they spent all their DKP and didn’t get the item that they really wanted and somebody else did.  It’s sound like a whole mixed salad of potential problems.

Dyna:  So-and-so isn’t pulling their weight.  So-and-so skipped out on RP with me because they had to go do their dailies.  They could have done their dailies anytime.  Yeah, there’s just a lot of drama potential and I think it could work in a perfect world but for the most part I haven’t experienced it working terribly well.  But for those who want to try, I salute you.  You are braver people than me.

Tzufit:  Yeah, no kidding.  It’s a really demanding thing to attempt to do, whether you’re leadership as Dyna and I both were at different points and sometimes at the same time in hybrid guilds.  It’s extremely demanding for the leadership.  It’s extremely demanding for the guild members.  For the leadership, you’re asking a ton of organization.  You’re asking them to organize and lead a raid at some point during the week and if you’re serious about progression it’s probably going to be a minimum of 2 nights a week.  On top of everything that goes into raid organization, you’re also asking them to try and actively encourage RP events or some kind of RP activity, probably 1, 2, 3 times a week because that’s generally what people tend to expect in RP guilds is that you do want a guild leadership that is giving you incentive, giving storylines, giving you a push to get out there and have ways for characters to connect with each other.  So it is an extreme level of organization and it also means a lot of time on everyone’s part.  It can be really, really consuming if you decide to do something like that.

Dyna:  Yeah.  Even as someone who both roleplayed and raided separately, like I actually made separate mains.  I had my roleplay main and my raid main so that I could be in a raid guild and also be in an RP guild.  Even trying to do those side by side without mixing, it was very time consuming and I’d usually slack on one or the other, much to the unhappiness of the people I was roleplaying or raiding with.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think that’s probably fairly common.  That’s kind of, as I was saying earlier, one of the fundamental issues with hybrid guilds.  At the end of the day, I think the vast majority of players, as much as they might say “Oh, I’m 50/50 roleplaying/raiding,” most people don’t actually fall down that way.  The scale tends to tip one way or the other for them.  When that happens, unfortunately just by the nature of the way things work with the community in this game, you’re going to let somebody down.

Apple Cider Mage:  It was really frustrating and this was also one of the reasons why I had to quit RP for the most part.  The RP community on my server was definitely way more focused on RP.  I got more and more into progression raiding and so the RP did have to fall by the wayside.  What helped that was the fact that RP events were always later at night on our server because it was a Pacific server and I was playing Eastern or Central.  If you have a commitment to 24 other people on any given night, what are you going to do – tell your raid leader, “Oh no.  I’m sorry.  I can’t go help out in TK or Black Temple.  I have to go to an RP event.”  Your raid leader is not going to be very understanding about that because raiding is considered more of a time commitment than roleplay, despite the fact that in roleplay there is a time commitment to other people too, because you’ve got storylines.  It feels like you can push it off to the side a lot more than raiding that is a set time where this huge group of people that all prepared for it and got geared up and all that.  It’s very hard when a lot of those two events often fall in the same time period.

Dyna:  Definitely.  I think that also strongly connects back to this weird rivalry between PvE and RP.  I haven’t noticed it as much between PvPers and RP, but definitely PvEers tend to assume, “Oh.  You’re a roleplayer.  You’re probably not very good.”  It’s the time commitment thing.  There’s also rivalry going on because either you’re dedicating all your time to one thing or the other.  It’s really hard to maintain that balance effectively.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Tzufit:  Speaking of balances that are almost impossible to maintain effectively, let’s talk about something that roleplayers spend a lot of time talking about and a lot of time trying to sort out and teach newer roleplayers how to deal with, which is maintaining separate IC versus OOC interactions with the other roleplayers who you engage with.  So, I think I’ll throw this to Dyna because I think she would probably explain it a little better than I would.  But essentially, Dyna, what is this separation about?  Why is it important?  And as I said in our show notes, “How do?”

Dyna:  How do indeed.  So the separation between IC and OOC is probably the biggest fundamental crux in how to be a roleplayer.  You cannot be your character.  Your character cannot be you.  While it might seem appealing to go, “Oh.  I’m going to make a character that’s basically me if I was in World of Warcraft,” that’s really not a good idea because things will happen to your character that you don’t like.  If you don’t have that separation, either you’re going to be preventing those things from happening, which leads to a very uninteresting story, or they’re going to happen and you’re not going to be happy about it.  This is really a negative thing.  If you can keep that separation and treat it as a story – or like when you watch Game of Thrones you might get really upset when your favorite character dies, because you know they probably eventually will-

Tzufit:  Because they’re gonna.

Dyna:  You might get upset, but at the same time you’re still very drawn into the flow of the story.  The story wouldn’t be half so interesting if you just got to watch everyone be happy and nothing ever bad happened.  Conflict is integral to moving a plot or a story along, otherwise what’s the point?  But if you don’t have that separation of you versus your character, you’re not going to have a good time.

Apple Cider Mage:  It also seems pretty integral for not just your happiness with your character or your story, it also seems to be integral to your happiness with other people.  I have had so many run-ins with people who treat their RP characters as an extension of themselves, and that’s where a lot of drama comes from because you hurt their feelings, you step on their pride.  They misattribute things that happen in roleplay to things that they believe are happening in reality and that was also another reason why I really got out of roleplay.  It’s so problematic when you treat roleplay how it should be, like improvisation or acting or a fun story that you’re telling and sharing with other people, and other people treat it as, “I’m really interacting with you as a person and I’m falling in love with you,” or something like that.

Dyna:  Which is 90% of all roleplay drama, right there, is that inability to maintain the separation between IC and OOC.  Honestly, it’s a very understandable difficulty.  I mean you’re tenderly gone through and created something that you think is beautiful or that you think is artistically valuable or intrinsically has a great deal of worth, and then someone else comes along and ruins it or does something that’s just rude or mean-spirited.  Never mind the fact that it’s just their character and that’s just who their character is.  There’s still that gut reaction of, “Hey!  He just called me a name.  Why would he do that?  That’s mean.”  You can get upset.

Tzufit:  There’s really even more at stake with RP because when someone doesn’t want to RP with you or when someone doesn’t like your character or maybe they react to your character in a negative way, for a lot of people that’s really like a double whammy at that point.  Not only are they not appreciating this thing that you have crafted that you’ve spent all this time on that you think is really interesting and fun and creative, if you’ve interjected a little bit of your own personality into that character, which lots of people do in different ways, then it almost feels like they’re saying, “Well I don’t like your personality either.”

Dyna:  Or, “I don’t like your creativity.  I don’t think you’re very creative,” or “What you do is icky and I don’t appreciate it.”  No, it can be very personally hurtful, even if your character is nothing like you are yourself.  That’s another pitfall.  If you make this character who’s mean-spirited and all this but there’s reasons behind it, and then you go out and roleplay and no one understands them.  You’d think, “Oh, they’re so different from me.  There’s not going to be any line crossing.  I’m just writing a story.”  But then you go out and, “How come no one understands or even tries to figure out why she’s beating people up or calling them names or being rude?”  There’s just so many places where you can fall on that IC versus OOC thing.  I almost feel as if the ability to maintain that separation is far more important than grammar, creativity, or anything else if you’re going to be successful.  Those other things can be practiced, but that difference between in character and out of character can be whether or not you’re Ok with roleplaying.

Apple Cider Mage:  It seems like it’s so fundamental and yet I think just due to a number of factors that kind of go back to the fact that we’re all kind of nerds and not always 100% the most socially adept people and that we so heavily already identify with characters, like you said, like Game of Thrones – the kind of fandom aspect of being a nerd.  I feel like it’s the feelings that you feel for a character except because it is a part of you or a creation you did – yeah.  It becomes so much more murky, I think, in a lot of ways.  Like you said, that’s where a lot of the drama comes from.  I think that’s why a lot of people, too, don’t roleplay villains so often because I think most of the time people that roleplay villains don’t know how to deal with the fact that so many people take them being evil or mean or nasty personally, when they’re probably just nice people.  They just want to play a mean person, a mean character.

Dyna:  Or even just to throw some chicken in the pot, to make things interesting.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because not everybody needs to be nice or accessible or sociable or a million other character archetypes.  You’ve got to have some jerky people to kind of make it interesting, make it spicy.

Dyna:  Yeah, that’s definitely a huge part of it is playing a villain can be very rough.  Another thing is you have a lot of people who – it’s not just OOC and IC even, it’s your convictions.  If you think your character is doing the right thing, you can’t assume that all the other roleplayers out there think your character is doing the right thing.  Even if you’re maintaining the separation pretty well but you think what your character is doing is right, that too can be the brunt of some drama.  It can be so difficult.

Tzufit:  I think it’s also hard because lots of people use World of Warcraft as a form of escapism, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s a great way to relax and be able to do something other than who you are, basically.  You get to turn on a different character for a while or a different aspect of yourself.  Roleplay is an even more immersive sense of escapism, I guess, than just doing dailies or raiding or PvPing.  It’s a heightened sense of escapism.  When you get into that, it can be really easy to lose yourself in that IC/OOC distinction.  In some ways it can be sort of – without sounding too inflammatory – it can be kind of dangerous.

Dyna:  No, I absolutely agree.  If you ask any given group of roleplayers, “So what’s your real life like,” and you know them well enough for this not to be an inappropriate question, you’ll find a lot of people have some really sad stories and that they’re playing the game in this way to get away from some of the horror that is – some of the really nasty things that can happen in real life.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing in some cases, but there is a balance that has to be maintained that some of us aren’t so great at maintaining.  I know I was using roleplay as a way to avoid a lot of things that I didn’t want to deal with and it wasn’t really healthy.  So yeah, there can be that component of it being unhealthy and it being pretendy fun times that you go to to escape the nasty things that you’re avoiding.  If someone comes up and kicks over your bucket of Cheerios, you’re not going to be very happy.

Apple Cider Mage:  Sort of an interesting segue from that is just one of the more problematic aspects – and I feel so bad.  I feel like I’m coming into this episode like “This is really problematic and I’ve had such terrible experiences with roleplay,” which is not really the case at all but unfortunately I have to interject some of the experiences I’ve had.  The escapism aspect starts to get even more dangerous and the blurring of the line between in character and out of character, and I know me and Tzufit have talking about this, is when you start to involve that very large genre of roleplay which is romance.

Dyna:  Ah, romance RP.  I know a lot of roleplayers who just won’t do it because it can be very confusing.  You take real life romance, what does it involve?  It involves getting to know another person.  It involves spending huge amounts of time with them.  It involves getting that feeling of intimacy between you two.  This can happen through roleplaying, even if you’re roleplaying something relatively benign.  It gets particularly sticky, however, if you’re not roleplaying something benign, but rather going into the romance section and expressing perhaps the fantasies that you wish you could fulfill in real life but maybe can’t.  It can become very easy to lose yourself in this romance you’re writing between you and someone else and you can start getting feelings for your roleplay partner.  This typically is not a good thing.

Apple Cider Mage:  Because it’s hard to go into roleplay and be 100% able to fake or manufacture or contrive this romance story between 2 characters and not have it bleed into your real life, but then you kind of have to realize – who are you falling in love with?  Are you falling in love with that other person or are you just falling in love with the character?  You may not really know that person at all, especially if your only interactions are roleplay.  I’ve known of a lot of drama that happened that way too.  I’m going to try and keep the details a little bit to a minimum because it does involve my actual real life boyfriend, but he and I used to roleplay in a big group of people.  This is before we actually started dating.  There was quite a few people that were involved with myself or involved with him in a roleplay capacity that just didn’t go very good places because the other person involved took the roleplay thing to mean real life feelings, and it was definitely not reciprocal to the point where it was not reciprocal because one of us was not even the same orientation as the other person.  It was very kind of difficult and especially as a woman, too, getting into romance RP and having it fulfill a lot of either attention or emotional needs and then it becoming very problematic because it might involve a guy and the overall structures and elements that make those interactions really dangerous.  That’s one of the reasons why I do not do romantic RP in the slightest at all anymore.

Tzufit:  I will throw myself out here, I guess, for a little bit of admitting the facts.  For me, it’s problematic enough if you get people who are having difficulty separating OOC and IC, if all you’re really doing is roleplaying those 2 characters together.  But on top of that, most people or a lot of people in my experience, when you are regularly RPing together, you spend a lot of time talking out of character as well about where you want the story to go, if you have some general ideas for progressing it, if you have a couple things that – if you have kind of bullet points on the story that you want to get done.  Along the line, you’re going to get to know the other person and that’s not necessarily a bad thing because I think that’s part of the community experience.  That’s what’s attractive to a lot of people about Warcraft, whether you’re a roleplayer, whether you’re a raider, the community is part of why you’re there.  For me, I absolutely back to back had the experience of getting too emotionally invested in my characters and the people who they were in relationships with at that time, and getting myself sort of foolishly hurt in the process.  The second one was even more annoying and worse for me, because it came so quickly on the heels of the first one, at which point I was like, “Well, learned my lesson.  Never doing that again,” and then fell right back into it.  It is difficult.  It is extremely difficult to keep that stuff separate because even if you are well aware that their character is not them and that you are not your character, that’s not the only interaction that’s happening between you, most of the time.

Dyna:  Exactly.  Like I said earlier, how do people fall in love?  They get to know each other.  They spend a lot of time together.  They talk about their hopes and dreams.  They talk about the things that interest them.  It’s the whole process of spending a ridiculous amount of time with someone, getting to know them really well, not just IC but also OOC because you will be communicating with them in and out of character capacity.  Then you’ve got this heated, charged atmosphere that you’re both writing about and there’s this sort of belief that “Oh my gosh, if they can write like that maybe they can feel like that, too.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Dyna:  It’s very easy to lose yourself in the moment.  I think we’ve all made that mistake.  I am lucky enough not to have been – I take my feelings with a grain of salt always and I’ve been fortunate enough, for the most part, to never have said anything to a roleplay partner.  But I have definitely gotten stuck in that trap.  I really think most of us have.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s also the seductive aspect of – you know how authors or writers tend to talk about how one of the things that they can do with characters is it fulfills a god aspect.  I can make these Barbie dolls do whatever I want.  The whole romance thing, for me, that was really problematic was here is the opportunity of a lifetime to write the perfect storybook romance, and if that is something you have a bad time grappling with, here you’re suddenly presented with the opportunity to write the romance novel of your dreams and there’s another living, breathing person involved and it’s like this catastrophic, perfect, dream wedding or kids or romance of the ages, storybook, emotional opera, that sort of thing.  It can be very seductive.  It’s like being a teen again and getting sucked into something like Twilight where “it’s like everything I ever could dreamed of since I was a little kid.”

Tzufit:  “It’s the most romantic thing!”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes.

Dyna:  Yes.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s hard not to get sucked into that.

Dyna:  I also really feel like ladies are particularly vulnerable to this.  We’ve been socialized to believe in this Disney princess romance ideal that – of course there are going to be men that get sucked into this too.  It’s still a highly charged way of doing things.  But I think in particular women are vulnerable because we are so used to thinking that romance should work a certain way, and so having the opportunity to do so in writing for weeks or months at a time, it’s kind of a perfect storm of “Oh yeah, this is going to happen.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I don’t know.  It’s so weird to me because I’ve had so many different kinds of experiences with the whole romance thing.  I’ve found that a lot of avoiding that problematic aspect, which I definitely did not get out of the first couple of times – I will say that.  I had some pretty messed up sort of stuff going on.  It does depend on who you’re roleplaying with.  It does depend on how critically you’re looking at your involvement.  It’s funny because I really eschew romance RP, and yet my main character who I roleplayed with for many years has been technically in-characterly married to her husband who’s another roleplayer for 5-6 years now.  They got married in Burning Crusade.  They had the storybook romance between a night elf druid and a gnome mage, however that works.

Tzufit:  That is my general notion of the storybook romance.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh yes.  She was definitely, literally, moving up in the world.

Dyna:  Oh my.

Apple Cider Mage:  But I felt that that didn’t go really terrible places because I was roleplaying with somebody that I was really just good, platonic friends with, and that it was definitely more of a story experiment between the both of us, where we really liked our characters and we already knew that our characters together worked really well.  So it was kind of a predetermined sort of thing that really kind of felt very organic, but also always fade to black.  Always fade to black and definitely a very chaste romance aspect because one is a night elf druid and one is a gnome, so it’s not like you can have them slobbering all over each other in public without getting stares.  I feel like I did avoid some of the problematic aspects of romance RP with my main just due to the fact that the other person I was roleplaying with had as much of a cool head prevailing, rather than some of my other roleplay foibles as it were.

Tzufit:  Well let’s confront that topic head on, because it’s kind of a huge taboo – not just within Warcraft, but especially within the RP community, and that is a little thing that is primarily known as ERP, which stands for – you guessed it – erotic roleplay.  So this is a big, big stigma.  The RP community, in general – certainly not everyone – but especially your very well-respected, large RP guilds on RP servers are very clear, I guess, about how ERP should function, if it should function at all, and what their expectations are.  In general, the notion is that if you do it, we don’t want to know about it, and it had better never happen in public.  We never want to hear from somebody outside of the guild that, “Oh well we saw so-and-so doing this in the tram” or whatever.  It’s generally, I think, the attitude that most roleplayers convey is that it’s something that shouldn’t happen or doesn’t happen that much or only happens with people who are really sort of explicitly looking to like go to Moon Guard and essentially have cyber sex with people.

Dyna:  Yeah.  This is kind of a huge stigma.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure the majority of roleplayers have at least tried it, but no one wants to confess to it because if you say you’ve done that then automatically that’s probably all you’re looking to do in roleplay.  It means that you were just in it to get your OOC rocks off, you know?  There’s all sorts of assumptions that are made the moment you touch that topic and it can be very difficult to do in a way where – it’s a sticky one.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Not even tackling the stickiness, I guess, of the 2 participating individuals yet, but the thing is that it is so shamed and so looked down upon inside the community that – yeah, Dyna, my gut reaction is that probably most people who have roleplayed have engaged in ERP at one point or another during their time roleplaying.  But I can’t say that with any certainty.  I can’t attempt to do any sort of poll on the topic because how many people do you think would actually be willing to even admit to it?

Dyna:  Most of us would lie about it.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly, because you don’t want to be known as that person.  It is absolutely a thing that is shamed.

Apple Cider Mage:  Especially if you’re a woman.  Especially if you’re a woman because of-

Dyna:  I would agree with that.  Although I do think it’s a little more egalitarian.  Guys will be shamed too, maybe not quite as much as women, but it is still considered a negative as opposed to in real life.

Tzufit:  I think where you primarily see the difference between men and women when it comes to that is that while both will be shamed over it, women may tend to be approached more often with sort of, “Well I know you did it with so-and-so so you know.”  That kind of thing.

Apple Cider Mage:  You’re either a virgin or you’re a whore, basically.  If you’re not the sister of the Light, then you’re down in Goldshire in Lion’s Pride Inn with no clothes on.  I think it’s because there are so many more problematic social elements and societal elements to just the sex topic in general, that involving it in roleplay when most of the time it’s probably between 2 consenting individuals and it’s a thing and it’s not that big of a deal.  I don’t have a problem with it so much.  Sex is a really contentious topic in our society and it comes with a lot of problems and it comes with a lot of social structures that make it really problematic even if you do have 2 adults engaging in that sort of thing.  Number 1, I think it makes the in character/out of character aspect that we talked about earlier a lot harder.

Tzufit:  Impossible.

Dyna:  So much harder.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because either you have someone a lot of times, usually a guy – I’m not trying to stereotype, but usually they take the sex thing to mean a lot of things about the relationship or the roleplay.  They tend to take it as a sign or an indication.  The people that engage into it may not have enough substantial discussions about what it actually means, just like real life sex.  Who would have thought?

Dyna:  Something that I know I’m personally a little paranoid about if I was to engage in such things, which of course I never would, because otherwise I’d be a total e-whore, right?  But another thing I’d be really paranoid about is if I’m writing about this stuff, what does that reveal about me that maybe I don’t want to reveal about me?  If you’re writing about sex, it’s very subjective and maybe without even meaning to you’re showing the things that you may or may not enjoy in real life.  You’re taking certain things as normal that maybe the other person doesn’t see it as normal.  It’s very sticky.

Tzufit:  Yeah, that’s a really great point.  There’s something very fundamentally revealing – no pun intended, obviously.  There’s something more personal about trying to write out that sort of thing than just “Oh, so-and-so walks down the street and buys an apple.”

Apple Cider Mage:  From personal experience – I’m going to be honest – from personal experience, there’s also the problem where I think, again it’s only tended to happen with men, is a lot of men tend to take it to a really not good place really quickly because a lot of men, especially in a fantasy aspect, think that is a good place to indulge in a lot of “not normal” things and not ask you about it or get your permission and just sort of hoist it on you.  You’re like, “Oh my god, I know this is a fantasy thing, but this is my character, but this is also me.”  I’m a survivor.  I have a lot of trauma problems.  A lot of things that people want to do in ERP are not safe for me to indulge in because it brings up a lot of awful, nasty stuff.  So because it’s still roleplay and it’s characters as opposed to like you having sex with a real person in real life or that sort of thing, I feel like a lot of the rules that should be adhered to at all time even when it’s pretendy fun-time roleplay with sex bolted on, those rules tend to go out the window really quickly.  That’s one of the reasons why I think ERP does get such a bad rap is – and rightfully so, to some degree – a lot of people do not respect consent.  A lot of people do not respect the public/private line, like with roleplay mods.  There’s a lot of things that I don’t want to see in a roleplay mod, even if it’s third-party because it doesn’t feel like it’s respecting my ability to avoid that if I want to.

Dyna:  Yeah, and that actually brings us to another really difficult part of the whole ERP situation.  You never know who the person is out of character, and I don’t just mean, “LOL!  I’m a guy and I accidentally ERPed with another guy!  Oh no!  Am I homosexual?”  It’s not even that.  It’s you don’t know who’s on the other side of that screen.  They might be a survivor like you.  They might be a 12 year old who’s, “I want to know what this is all about.”  You don’t know and you can’t really know unless you know that person pretty darn well.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and the internet being the internet, that’s a really, really hard to thing to do.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Dyna:  You have to be so careful and if you’re going for ERP – like some people specifically go for ERP and I don’t really think it’s wrong.  It’s not the style I prefer to engage in, but to each their own.  The only real big issue is there’s not usually that much care being taken when finding someone with whom to indulge that.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s such a big topic when you go into real life stuff.  People do real life roleplay in a sexual environment and that has all sorts of rules, like safe words and enthusiastic consent, and ending a scene, and that sort of thing.  That goes out the window a lot of times in roleplay because you’re not physically in the same room with the person.

Dyna:  And also it’s such a hot topic like, “No, I don’t ERP.”  No one wants to talk about it and so therefore it’s not being talked about in terms of safety either.  It’s just not being talked about in “decent” environments.

Tzufit:  And this is my biggest fundamental issue with it is because it is so heavily stigmatized, and it is so heavily shamed, there is absolutely no support network whatsoever for people who decide to ERP and either, worst case scenario find themselves in a situation where they haven’t given consent for the things that are happening, it’s triggering, or it’s generally disturbing, any of these things, even just down to the problem of someone who decides to engage in it and gets way too emotionally invested.  There is nobody to turn to at that point because if you want to talk to somebody about the fact that “This happened to me and I kind of need to talk through the experience and try to start the process of working through it,” you first have to admit that you engaged in ERP.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s a problem I ran into because it’s hard enough as it is expressing that something upset you or hurt you in some way, and then you have to deal with the fact that you have to tell them, even if it’s somebody you know in-game, and especially if it’s somebody you know in-game, “Well this happened when I was pretending to be an elf.”

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.

Dyna:  You can’t talk about it in-game because you’re going to get looked down on, even if the person you’re talking to has spent many weeks in Goldshire.  They’re not going to be able to acknowledge that and so they are socially kind of required to look down and say, “Oh.  Well you shouldn’t have done that.”  If you try and talk to someone about it in real life, they aren’t going to really get it.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Then there’s also the aspect of, “Well why are you upset?  It was just roleplay.  It wasn’t real.”  That’s the problem and I feel like that’s even where some people who are maybe potentially abusive find an in.

Dyna:  And they can get away with a lot of things that, if we were as a community a little more open about the fact that we do this, we might be able to put a stop to some of that, because I definitely have heard a lot of stories about abusive personalities that are able to use roleplay situation to fulfill that abusive need they have.

Apple Cider Mage:  And it hurts a lot of people, that plus some of the people that go into roleplay from an entirely sexual aspect to roleplay things that are particularly dangerous or illegal or hurtful or harmful in some way.

Dyna:  But you can’t talk about it.  You can’t publically address what’s going on to prevent it from happening to other people.  There’s not much you can do about it without outing yourself and that is really dangerous.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.

Tzufit:  It’s a defense mechanism for the community because the community, as we talked about at the top of the show, is already marginalized.  The last thing that they want is to give additional ammunition to these people who are like, “Well you suck at raiding.  You suck at PvP.  All you guys do is stand around Goldshire and have sex with each other all the time.”  The last thing you want to do is give any credence to any of those arguments.  So of course people don’t want to own up to it, but then – yeah, exactly – you create this toxic environment where it means that people get hurt, they have nowhere to go, and people can be abusive and there’s no way to stop them.

Dyna:  Or if they do stop them, or if you do say something, then you’re part of the lower class that, “Oh, well that person’s kind of iffy.  They ERP.”

Tzufit:  Exactly, and that’s certainly – make no mistake, for those who haven’t seen this or who aren’t on RP servers – you know who the people are who have been caught engaging in ERP or who are your known ERPers.  It is very clear who those people are.  Everybody on the server knows it.

Dyna:  And they don’t even have to have explicit tags in their RP profiles.

Tzufit:  No.

Dyna:  The rumors spread like wildfire.

Apple Cider Mage:  “I saw Goody Mabel behind the barn fornicating with the farmer.”  That sort of thing.  I feel bad because I have definitely had those discussions with people.  Like the time, “Oh I found these 2 people roleplaying this that and the other thing in the moonwell.”  You kind of pass it around as kind of like an LOL sort of story, and then on the sly everybody does it – or a good portion of people do it.

Dyna:  I’ve been part of it myself.  Again, ERP is not my primary roleplay style by any stretch of the imagination, but it is something that I’ve done – primarily in the past.  Don’t judge me.

Apple Cider Mage:  We’re all friends here.  We’re all friends.

Tzufit:  Yeah, let’s all be honest.  Everybody in this discussion tonight has engaged in ERP at some point or another.  I would not do it again, personally.  It’s certainly something that I think is extremely problematic and can lead to lots of other issues from it, but do I think there’s anything fundamentally wrong, fundamentally worth shaming people over if they choose to engage in it?  Absolutely not.  So here are 3 people who are willing to admit to the fact that we have engaged in ERP and if you have as well and if you need to talk about it, please talk to us because we are willing to have that conversation.

Apple Cider Mage:  Don’t feel like you’re alone or you can’t reach out.  If something happened to you that you want to talk about and you feel uncomfortable, we’ve been there.  We’re not going to shame you for it.  It’s not a big deal.  It’s mostly if something really did bother you, telling a trusted friend or another person or third party, therapist, someone like that, it’s going to be good for you because despite it being roleplay and pretendy fun times, if it’s not fun for you and it hurts you as a person, it’s worth discussing.

Dyna:  Now, with all of these negatives being said, I’m going to just completely turn the tables around here and say something outrageous.  I do think romance RP can be done in such a way that neither party is romantically engaged on an out of character level.

Apple Cider Mage:  Absolutely.

Dyna:  I have done this and it is the only way that I will engage in romance RP.  My personal writing style, I’m not actually a big fan of romance.  However, I have had romantic roleplay done in a fashion that it really added a lot to the story without overwhelming it or becoming – a bit habit for romance RP is that it becomes the story and I really can’t stand that, personally.  But to each their own.  The ways to succeed at roleplay in a romantic capacity are that separation between OOC and IC, and for me, the biggest way I accomplished that is defining and out of character friendship that is completely unromantic.  So I will engage in romantic roleplay with other women who are straight, and I am mostly-straight, so that works out a little better because we don’t tend to be attracted to each other so much as engaged in the story on one level and then gushing about it together on another.  Or someone who has a real life partner that they are not having marital or relationship issues with.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes.

Dyna:  If there are marital issues, big warning sign.  Do not engage in romantic roleplay.  That person is vulnerable.  This is not a good time to be forming a very, very close bond.  Friendship is great, but don’t go there.  Don’t go there when there’s strife.  It’s never good.

Apple Cider Mage:  What about romantic roleplay with somebody that you’re already pretty romantically involved with?

Dyna:  Honestly, as long as you guys can keep any OOC and IC problems separate – so, you know say Ed forgets to take out the trash, I’m not going to go online and have my character be mad at him for some invented reason, or vice versa.  Say his character did something cruel or the story involved them having some sort of fight, I’m not going to take that off the computer with me and go, “Oh.  Yeah, no.  I’m not touching you tonight.  We’re fighting.”  But you can engage with it with other people, too, you just have to know them on an OOC level and that OOC relationship has to be different from the IC one.  I’ve actually ERPed while cracking fart jokes in Ventrillo.  Like that sounds really vile, but at the same time that also lets me know that my roleplay partner isn’t off, you know, touching themselves or anything that makes me uncomfortable, because he’s right there with me going “PFFFFFT.”

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s a good way of putting it.  I like that.

Tzufit:  I think you had a good point at the beginning too, that a lot of times when people decide that they’re going to engage in romantic RP, it can very easily overwhelm the rest of the story.  Then you’re left in this sort of odd situation that I’ve seen many roleplay couples get into over the years, where either the other person takes a break from the game for a little while and your character is just sitting around.  People ask you, “Where’s your wife?  Where’s your husband?”  And it’s like, “Yeah, they’re doing stuff.”  Or the other problematic element is that sometimes that relationship can become so insular that that’s the only person you’re RPing with all of a sudden.  That’s not really a very interesting or fun way for you to grow that character if you’re only interacting with one other person.

Dyna:  Oh, without a doubt.  That can become an issue.  Even if you manage to maintain the OOC and IC separation perfectly fine, if you become too insular – and if you’re both Ok with that, then great.  It kind of sucks when someone takes a break, but whatever.  But if one of you wants to get out and roleplay with all the people and the other one then starts to feel left out or like they’re being ignored, you just have to be careful.  You have to know your roleplay partner.  You have to kind of compromise sometimes.  There has to be a lot of OOC communication to prevent misunderstandings about where you want the story to go.  It can be really tricky because especially with having a roleplay partner, even if it’s not romantic RP but they’re just best friends and they do everything together, there’s going to be a certain level of attachment and even commitment to the story, to being friends with each other.  If you suddenly back away from that, your friend could get hurt.

Apple Cider Mage:  Now, I know that we’ve talked about a lot of things and we’re getting into some more difficult, pernicious aspects of roleplaying.  We talked about romance.  We talked about erotic roleplaying.  One of the things that actually got referenced on 2 episodes ago when we were talking to Kiran about their experiences with roleplay and one of the reasons why they actually got out of World of Warcraft, is due to the fact that roleplay is you pretending to be another person from yourself, this is often a way for people to experience or get into character or even fantasize if we’re still talking about more of a sexual inclined roleplay, to experience a very different person from themselves.  The question that comes up is how different is too different?  If you’re roleplaying a character or an identity even that is not your own, can you do that respectfully?  Can you do that in a way that doesn’t alienate other people?  I think Dyna has quite a lot of things to say about the subject, perhaps.

Dyna:  I do, in fact.  I do strongly believe that roleplay is an excellent way of exploring different points of view, different orientations, different genders, different ways of seeing the world.  One really great aspect of this is that it can teach you that, “Hey, I might be roleplaying a character but first and foremost they are who they are and they are only incidentally female, gay, male,” whatever you are not.  I think it can be really humanizing and a way of, “Oh, you know, these things don’t actually define who you are as a human being.  They’re just a part of you.”  It can be very educational in that way.  However, all too often, I see this stray over the line of, “Well I’m going to roleplay a girl who just really wants to hook up with all the guys and that’s just who she is.  That’s part of who she is and don’t you dare say that I’m fetishizing her because she is a real person in my mind and this is the way she is, and this is the way a lot of women are.  So you don’t get to tell me not to.”  That can get really icky.  There are women out there who like to sleep with every guy, I guess, and that’s Ok.  But on the other hand, if you’re a guy and that’s what you’re going for, it can feel very marginalizing.  It can feel like my entire gender is being reduced to a blow up doll, a virtual blow up doll.  Of course that can go vise versa and particularly we see this – I hate to point fingers and name names – but we can see this on Wyrmrest Accord for the homosexual community, in particular gay men.  Very frequently, women who are either straight or gay like to get on there and play gay men because it’s very appealing to a lot of us and instead of really focusing on the character as a character, they can sometimes become a prop for what we wish they would be.

Apple Cider Mage:  It feels very fetishizing and that’s kind of what we talked about when we were touching on our queer episode.  There’s a lot of problematic elements in the community that fall along the very well-trod line of oppression, marginalization, and then if you take it in kind of a “benevolent” direction, as a fetish tool or a stereotype, and really can be very off-putting, hostile, or downright offensive to any members of that group that they might interact with.

Dyna:  I honestly feel like most people who do this aren’t even aware they’re doing it.  I don’t think that anyone goes online with the intention of saying, “Today I’m going to make the LGBQT community feel marginalized.”  I don’t think anyone really thinks that and I think a lot of people probably do think that they’re treating it very sensitively and that they’re showing it in a way that is very respectful when maybe it’s not.

Tzufit:  It’s so difficult and so delicate to try to counteract, because a lot of people don’t recognize that they’re essentially marginalizing an entire group of people when they do this.  They think that they’re doing something that’s perfectly acceptable or maybe even particularly enlightened.  So you can get a lot of pushback at that point because it’s very difficult for them to understand that what they’re doing is actually harmful.

Dyna:  I would hazard a guess that most of these people would consider themselves allies of that community and it would hurt their feelings to be told – oh, poor privileged feelings – that what they’re doing maybe isn’t cool.

Apple Cider Mage:  I mentioned this in the other episode.  I’ve had less dealings with the – what’s a good way of putting this – the gay, male, blood elf population of roleplaying as the Alliance side, which is predominantly straight men roleplaying as lesbians with other men or whomever.  That’s always been something that I’ve had to confront a lot more, especially as a queer women, that has been intensely problematic.

Tzufit:  That’s what I have run into more of as well.  Of course, all of us here are predominately Alliance roleplayers so that maybe something that’s kind of factionally determined.  I’m not really sure.  But yeah, I certainly ran into a lot more of that aspect of things where it was 2 men RPing a lesbian couple.

Dyna:  Yeah.  Honestly most of my knowledge of the apparent epidemic of straight women playing gay blood elves is mostly secondhand.  I haven’t really encountered it much on Alliance.  I’m sure it’s there, but it didn’t seem to be as much of a thing as the traditional lesbian draenei.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, or night elves.  There was an entire guild of lesbian nuns that was 90% men.

Tzufit:  What?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I’m not going to name names because I always get bitten in the butt when I start to name names and it inevitably turns up into somebody’s hands.  There was definitely a group of roleplayers on my server that had a cloister of nuns – well as close to nuns as you get in the Warcraft universe – all paladins and priestesses of the Light who were all bonking each other and, as far as I can tell, were mostly men.  Not that I have anything against whatever you want to do in-game, but it is a little bit marginalizing as a queer woman trying to get involved in roleplay with people whose idea of queer women performance is being directly influenced by straight guy porn, basically.

Dyna:  What’s really hard to tell is maybe someone is really genuinely exploring a different sexual or gender identity.  If you call them on it, they have reason to have hurt feelings.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  It can be really problematic.

Dyna:  Even for something that does seem straight up fetishizing, you can never know what’s going on in the person’s mind, so it’s really nerve wracking if you want to even gently address it because you don’t want to stifle someone’s foray into that realm.

Apple Cider Mage:  Absolutely, and with the comments about the gay blood elves thing, I absolutely know for a fact that not all of the gay, blood elf male roleplay characters are all piloted by straight women.  There’s a lot of queer people in the community – gasp – roleplaying queer people.  It’s what I do.  It’s what a lot of people do.

Dyna:  Definitely.  So if you go and say, “Hey!  Hey.  That’s a stereotype.  That’s offensive,” and then they turn around and say, “Excuse me?  This is what I am in real life.  Back off.”  It can seem clear cut but then not be.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  So it’s kind of one of those things where how do you address it?  Is it really problematic?  It’s up to a lot of different factors.  I think a good ground rule is for everybody, if you are coming into roleplay and you know for a fact that you are using that character that is not a part of a population you belong to, that maybe extra research or respecting people of that group is a higher priority than playing that character.  I don’t know.  It’s kind of up to the people involved.

Dyna:  I’d really say that just a rule of thumb – make the character first.  Their orientation or gender or whatever can be a very big part of who they are, but don’t make it be the main thing about them.  I think that is probably the biggest point of playing something that you are not in a respectful manner.

Tzufit:  Now similarly, one of our Twitter followers brought up an interesting point.  This was from @shieldspec, and I’m going to read just some of their tweets on the subject.  They asked:  “I was wondering if you’ll have time to discuss pros and cons of cultural appropriation in roleplay.  Specifically, an RPer may, inadvertently or not, express ethnic stereotypes when playing a tauren, a troll, or a pandaren.  On the other hand, playing with other cultures as inspiration can be done with respect and facilitate education.”  I thought that they brought up a really interesting point there, because Warcraft certainly plays kind of fast and loose with their own cultural appropriation and if we take what we’re given as troll accents or troll religion or tauren culture as how we should RP characters that we create of those races, we can get into some kind of hairy situations.

Dyna:  Absolutely, and the problem in particular that is endemic to World of Warcraft and also probably other MMOs, but Blizzard is particularly bad about, is that we as roleplayers have to get our pointers from the lore.  If the lore is full of all of these ethnic stereotypes that are really harmful and – to use a word I heard earlier a lot – marginalizing, oh my gosh.  It gets hairy.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, absolutely.

Tzufit:  Warcraft, I think they’ve done, in some ways, a little better with the pandaren in terms of creating a society that is unique but is referencing something specific.  But at the same time, they’ve also just all out created a mishmash of Chinese, Japanese, any other culture that they think might work for the pandaren, they’ve tossed in the pot and come out with whatever they wanted.  You have to be so careful with that stuff because – yes, you do take your cures from lore, but at some point you really just need to exercise some common sense and decide if this is offensive.

Dyna:  Yeah.  If you want to roleplay your pandaren’s parents as insisting that they become a doctor.  No.  No.  Just please be respectful.  Be careful.  We have to understand that, yes, the lore is taking this from some pretty mishmash, generic Asian culture.  Just because Blizzard isn’t necessarily culturally sensitive in terms of general stereotypes that we apply to people of races that are not typically our own – typically meaning from the Blizzard employees’ standpoint – doesn’t mean that we as roleplayers have to follow in that path.  We definitely don’t have to exaggerate it anymore than it already is.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think that’s the main thing.  What we have is bad enough.  Let’s not push it any further.

Apple Cider Mage:  In general, roleplay tries to take quite a lot of elements of the Blizzard lore as canon, but be better than the company.  Be better than the writers, especially in ways that don’t marginalize people of different ethnic groups and races and stuff like that because that’s kind of a failing of the company.  You don’t want to make your character do that, too.

Dyna:  And that’s not to say that you can’t have a character that is part of this culture that has totally been appropriated from real life cultures, and if you have one of these characters you must break lore in order to be sensitive.  That’s not true.  You can play a character and still be sensitive without destroying lore in any way.  You don’t have to play in particular to the stereotypes that they’ve laid out for us.  You can still have a pandaren who is a pandaren without walking too far across that racist line.

Tzufit:  So we spent a lot of time discussing some of the more negative aspects of roleplay tonight, but Dyna since one of the reason that we asked you to come on the show is that you are someone who has historically had a lot of really great experiences with roleplay and it’s something you really love to do.  So coming from that experience, do you have any tips for new roleplayers especially, but maybe even people who are already roleplaying now, to really help keep that experience as positive and as fun as possible?

Dyna:  Absolutely.  For all that I’ve had some not so nice things to say about roleplay, I do strongly believe that it is a wonderful pastime.  First, you have to consider there’s going to be the potential for drama in any activity you do.  So though I have talked a lot about different things that can cause drama tonight, that’s going to apply to any activity.  There’s just different ways in which things can go badly.  For someone who wants to try roleplay, I say go for it.  A couple of pointers would be if you’re making a character, make the character first.  Don’t worry so much about the things that you want to do that are maybe interesting like, “Oh I want to play a gay male blood elf.”  Well maybe make the first aspect of their character not that they are a gay male blood elf, but that they are whatever you want to do.  So some sensitivity when you’re creating your characters.  You can play anything you want.  It’s a great way to explore different mindsets.  Just be wary of falling into those pitfalls.  Another thing about the OOC and IC separation, especially for someone who’s new to the roleplay game, that can be really difficult to maintain and if you mess you, you mess up.  Do take a step back, especially if you find yourself getting emotionally invested.  It’s Ok to put it down and take a break.  Don’t get carried away.  It’s just a game.  It’s something you do for fun.  If you’re not having fun, you are not obligated to continue doing it.  Another thing is it can be really intimidating to first step into roleplay.  You’re going to walk into it and if you’re in a great community surrounded by all these really creative people with wonderful, inventive backstories, it could be really intimidating but you have to remember we all started somewhere.  We’ve all made weird, messed up roleplay mistakes.  You can’t expect to be perfect at first.  It can be very scary to try and break into because you’re putting out a part of yourself that you probably don’t usually show other people, which is your creative side, particularly the writing aspect.  You’re putting it out there for everyone to judge.  So just be aware that most of us probably aren’t judging you negatively.  We’re a pretty welcoming little subgroup in most cases.  I’m sorry that poor Apple Cider here has had less than great experiences sometimes in that regard.  But for the most part, we’re very welcoming.  We’re very interested in getting new blood.  Just keep in mind you’re going to mess up and we’ve all messed up, and that’s Ok.  You’re not expected to be perfect at first.  You might cross the line.  Just take a deep breath and try again.  It can be such a worthwhile pastime and it can really help you grow as a writer, as a creative person.  It can help you maybe get your mind off some real life worries.  It’s really fun.  For anyone looking to get involved in roleplay, and I do strongly suggest that if you’ve never tried it and you are interested, don’t be scared to do it.  There are lots of resources that you can begin to use.  Specifically for World of Warcraft roleplay, there’s rpmadesimple.com.  It’s a really awesome World of Warcraft roleplaying guide and blog.  It’s got lots of great articles on how to get started, how to make a character, and I think it’s a really great reference to use, especially if you’re new to the practice itself.  In general, there’s a couple of articles that I would recommend.  I have posted them the guild website for the guild that isn’t actually yet running because the game for it isn’t yet out.  In particular, I would suggest M. Luminos’ RP Golden Creed.  M. Luminos is a member of the TESO roleplay community (TESO meaning The Elder Scrolls Online).  It showcases the separation between IC and OOC.  There’s also the Roleplayer’s Creed, which is different, by Kat of the Cheshire Cats from Sisters of Elune.  It kind of says the same thing but in a different way, so it would be useful to look at it from a different perspective maybe if you didn’t quite catch it the first time.  If you’re interested in starting a new character, there is Ludovick’s Rambling Guide to Character Creation.  This is particular is one of my favorite articles, and it is created by a friend of mine who was commonly known as Ludovick in World of Warcraft.  It’s an excellent resource and I would strongly recommend even people who’ve roleplayed before to read it.  If you’re interested in doing conflict, confrontation, fight fight fight roleplay, I wrote an article about that myself, which was pretty well received by other members of the roleplay community.  It basically outlines the basic methods you can use to engage in combat roleplay.  If you need to talk about roleplay to anyone, I’m certainly available.  There’s also a large community around The Elder Scrolls Online that is pretty much willing to talk about roleplay anytime of day or night.  If I knew a World of Warcraft specific one I’d link it, but I don’t.  There’s also the RP section of the forums on the WoW website, but that one can be a little iffy.

Apple Cider Mage:  The one RP blog that I’ve always read is Too Many Annas, and that was more like RP writing and RP discussion from a female roleplayer in World of Warcraft.  Links for all of these guides will be included in the blog post for the episode.

Tzufit:  Well Dyna, thank you so much for being willing to come on the show tonight and for bringing with you your experiences and your resources and your roleplaying expertise.  We very much appreciated having you come on and talk to us.

Dyna:  Absolutely.  I was really happy to be able to do that and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my favorite pastime.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah and we thank you for sharing your expertise, which is absolutely wonderful and hopefully your RP endeavors in TESO go smoothly.

Dyna:  Here’s hoping!

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