THE GIST

In my last travelogue, I knew that I wanted to write about journal-based role-play games, but I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to go with it. Right now, I think I’m decided on writing about why people role-play at all, since many of you seemed interested in that aspect. For those of you who still have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “journal-based role-playing,” here’s a refresher:

  • Journaling websites such as LiveJournal and Insanejournal are used
  • Players create character journals, which typically contain a character bio of some sort, and update the journal with the goings-on of the characters life as he interacts with other characters in a community environment
  • Communities are typically centered around cities, high schools, or colleges – but they can be more adventurous (some have been based on mental hospitals, teams of hit men, superheroes, vampires, etc)
  • Players use “faces” for their characters – like casting in a movie, Demi Lovato may be the face of a sixteen year old girl from Connecticut named Barbara. It’s simply a more accurate way of explaining what your character looks like than writing “brown hair, 5’5”, hazel eyes”
  • Players join communities by submitting applications. There is a possibility of rejection
  • Oftentimes, players create AIM names for their characters and communicate with others that way, in addition to the character journals

WHY DO I ROLEPLAY?

At fourteen, while most other kids my age were writing about their crushes in their Xangas, I was busy creating characters on the now irrelevant Blurty journaling website; sometimes my characters were teenage college students, others they were twenty-something drug addicts living in their parents’ basements, but most often they were everything in between. I don’t know exactly how I got into journal-based role-playing—most likely by an intriguing post from a fellow journaler. But I was hooked almost immediately. Most of my teen years were spent in my family’s computer room, impatiently waiting for the modem to dial up and fending off my younger brother from his attempts to reclaim the gruesomely large desktop. It was my main concern for a good chunk of high school. I couldn’t wait to go home and get on my computer so I could see which other players were online and willing to write an awesome scene with me. As an aspiring writer since the time I learned what the word “author” meant, I easily convinced myself that it was a legitimate way to improve my writing and meet other people who were interested in the same things as me. That was right, of course, but I couldn’t deny the fact that, in some ways, it had become more important than my real life. I rarely hung out with my friends outside of school, usually opting to go home and spend my time on the Internet late into the wee hours of the night. At one point, I actually developed insomnia. It was intense, but I still consider some of those moments as the best of my adolescence. I learned a lot about myself and met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, people who were like me and assured me I wasn’t a freak—an all too common feeling when you’re growing up.

WHAT ROLEPLAYING LOOKS LIKE

I’ve decided to do something very adventurous (for me, at least) and open up one of my old character journals. I still role-play today, but it’s very lax, and my RL (real life) friends and obligations always come first. Role-play is simply something that I turn to when I’m incredibly bored, which isn’t so often these days. As a teenager, role-playing was something very secretive and private for me, so it’s kind of weird to let all of you guys see it, but here goes! This is the journal of a character that never really got off the ground. If you notice, he’s from Dauphin Island, Alabama, which is where I live now. This is one of the rare instances where I actively put a part of myself into the character.

If you click on the link for the second journal entry, you’ll be able to read the character bio that I wrote. This character has the face of Kieran Culkin, so ideally in my mind, this character looks similar to him. The very first post (the one at the bottom of the page) is a disclaimer (OOC means out of character) that lets people know that this isn’t real. It also contains pertinent information for other players, including my timezone and what tense I prefer to write in.

The community for this character is the now defunct Tegesta, which used to be a sort of boarding school based in Key West, Florida.

THE RESEARCH

I’ve interviewed a role-play friend, Ashlee (20, San Jose, CA), who I have known for around three years. Ashlee has been playing since she was 13, and has had about a hundred characters throughout her role-playing

career. She first began when a friend clued her into journal-based RP.

These are some IM discussions I had with Ashlee (I’m purple, she’s blue).

I also conducted a survey on surveymonkey.com and posted it to various RP

communities on InsaneJournal, such as RPG_ads, PBads, and Easel, all communities that connect players with role-play communities. Fifty-six people responded to my survey, and the number is still climbing. Out of the 56, 54 were female and two were male. Fifty percent had began role-playing seven to ten years ago. I asked where participants had began RPing, how many characters they had, and if they thought their characters were an idealized version of themselves, among other things. Most responses I got to the latter question were along the lines of this:

“In some ways. Most of my characters have some aspects of me in them. RP gives me the chance to be someone I can never be IRL, e.g. a 20something gay male, or someone very physically fit (I’m disabled), or musically talented. None of my characters are perfect, however; all have flaws, sometimes similar to my own, sometimes different.”

“At first, yes. I think we all start with characters that are idolized or romanticized versions of ourselves. We all want to write our life’s story, and who doesn’t want to be the hero of that story? But as we progress, as we evolve in roleplaying, I think it becomes less about the Ideal and more about the Depth. How deep can you go with your character? How deep can you go with yourself? A RPer (hell, even a writer) would be lying if they said that there wasn’t one drop of themselves in their characters. So, with that in mind, pushing your characters is like pushing yourself. It makes you think outside of the box that you’ve been giving in the real world and jump into a box that you’d otherwise have no reason to be in. So maybe that is still idealizing myself. I don’t know.

Or maybe I’m just idealizing roleplay.”

To further my research, I plan on interviewing more players and delving deeper into the question of why. There are also some articles I want to incorporate, but I feel like I’ve said too much already!

3 Responses to “A Sweet Escape from RL”

  1. Queenie says:

    I like the direction of your travelogue and the way it’s written! You know the topic very well and that’s showing.
    I started blogging/lifecasting because I wanted to be a critic/editor so I understand where you’re coming from when you say: “As an aspiring writer since the time I learned what the word “author” meant, I easily convinced myself that it was a legitimate way to improve my writing and meet other people who were interested in the same things as me.” I wasn’t familiar with the topic until you posted about it, but I agree that role-playing seems like a good exercise for anyone interested in writing fiction.

  2. mdeseriis says:

    Cassidy, I love the way your research is moving forward. I wonder whether the fact that your survey respondents are overwhelmingly women says something about gender relationships and the role that imagination plays among teenagers. In other words, it would be interesting to understand why female teenagers and young women seem to be very passionate about RPGs whereas boys seem to direct their imagination towards other activities. Or could this possibly be related to the fact that most of your RP friends are girls? But if that is the case, is there such a thing as specific kinds of RPGs favored by men?

  3. Matt Gorman says:

    Wow–it looks like you’ve already done a great job of thoroughly explaining what it is you’re writing about and even gotten a great start on interviewing and research. From what you have so far, I think an interesting question to ask would be why is it largely females who are taking part in these things? That might be tough to answer if you could only find 2 males who roleplay, but maybe you could ask males who are active on sites like LiveJournal if they have heard of the roleplaying phenomenon and if they would be interested in such a thing (or not).

    That’s really the only other angle I could think of covering for now–it looks like you shouldn’t have a problem putting together a final travelogue.

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