Let’s start with a shocker for some of you: great roleplay still exists out there in Gmod. Completely serious, wholly canon, thematically impressive, and personally engrossing roleplay is still a possibility, even though the current mass outlook on RP as a whole looks very grim. I know. I’ve been to all three levels of RP in Gmod: the pits of DarkRP, the “Serious” Roleplay, and the bastion of true roleplay itself. Yet based on what I’ve seen and heard, from the servers, the players, and the posts, Roleplay itself seems to have curled up into a urine-soaked ball in a back alleyway and died a dignity-less death. While I can’t tell you what communities are, “THE BEST EVAR” or what RPs are, “INSTANT EPIC WIN” (hint: those are pointless questions), I can tell you why it seems like RP has died, and how it’s not true.
(For focus and flame-avoidance reasons, I’m not going to turn this into a server advertisement with a lot of extra paragraphs. If you ask for names of servers and communities that I recommend, you’re gonna get a book thrown at you. Hell, if you even tl;dr this, enjoy a face-full of book. You’ve been warned.)
Let’s make some differentiations and definitions first. Roleplay is simply the act of taking on the attitude, mindset, and actions of fictional character in a make-belief scenario for the experience or enjoyment, or both. At its definitive core, roleplay is done by basically everyone playing a game as a fictional character. From the lowliest DarkRPer to the highest RP legend, both are roleplaying in every sense of the word. Some people say that DarkRP isn’t RP, while others may be “Real RP”, but they are incorrect: both groups are roleplaying, but to a different quality and degree. Quality of roleplay is the main thing to differentiate with in conversation, so from now on, I’ll use three terms to differentiate between RP quality: Low, Medium, High.
- Low Quality RP: DarkRP. That’s what most people think of when they think of low quality RP: a bunch of nonserious 12 year old kids playing gangster and shooting each other while screaming into their mics and prop minging the spawn areas. Here, the quality of RP is so low that it’d be difficult to find anyone actually trying to RP. The fact that they tacked, “Serious RP” into their title makes it even worse. Expect a lot of exploitations, DM, lack of canon, and poor administration.
- Medium Quality RP: think about an RP that is a step above DarkRP, most likely taking on a genre ripped directly out of some other franchise (HL2, STALKER, Terminator, Fallout, Star Wars, etc.). Here, players are at least able to manage some roleplay enough to the point where they can PassiveRP properly. The community itself has adopted a canon (most likely adopted from the said franchises) and maybe a loose direction, but it is often weak or not very strong. Players are still able to basically do anything that they want, but within certain guidelines often dictated politically (“Admin characters can be whatever they want to be”) or in a vague sense of the canon (No Daleks in HL2RP). There’s a general sense of roleplay, and while it might not be phenomenal, it’s better than dealing with Low Quality RP servers.
- High Quality RP: Some of you reading this now might be able to mention a time when you first encountered a High Quality RP server; most of you will not have found it or passed it by completely. Often, these were small, concentrated groups of friends RPing together in a tightly-woven adventure, where they flexed their creative muscle with interesting plots and character development. The canon was detailed and interesting, and offered an interesting look at the universe you’re partaking in. If you’re part of the “In” crowd and you appreciate good RP, you’ve found your Nirvana. Unfortunately, these communities either die out quickly or have their RP muddled and reduced to a lower standard. (Perhaps that’s a thread for another time)
Now that we’ve gone over the differences between quality of roleplay, we’re here to discuss why it seems like roleplay is dead. Here are the top reasons to the imaginary decline of roleplay:
- Sheer Number: It’s important to note one pretty important facet of information: poor RP is the majority, while good RP is in the minority. Because of this fact, people tend to generalize that all RP is poor RP, based simply on majority. While it is true that chances are you’re more likely to randomly join a server with poor RP than one with good RP, it’s not valid to use this a point to generalize ALL of Gmod RP. Just because most plants are green, doesn’t mean they all are. Most people don’t see this fallacy, however, and continue to spew that, “All good RP is DEAD”. And thus, as the saying goes, “a lie repeated enough times becomes fact.”
- Servers: Just like everyone wants to be a billionare or wants to rule a country, people have an innate instinct to wield power; at the same time, people also tend to over-estimate their own capabilities, leading to a lot of people with just a simple credit card being able to own a Gmod server, and thus being able to start an RP community. Unfortunately, in the Keynesian twist, just because you have a server, doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. The result is a lot of uncreative, underdeveloped, run-of-the-mill servers with very little thought or effort put into them. And the result? Nothing short of a SEA of crappy RP servers. The result of such poor server planning and execution? Poor quality RP.
- Scripts: Part of the problem is scripting, as well. Quick, name the top two RP gamescripts that are most often picked up and played on their crappy default settings. The answer from what I’ve seen in personal experience? DarkRP and Open Aura, both of which are tuned specifically for a generic, “Real Life RP” genre. Why do people choose them? One possibility is because they’re trying to create their own, “Real Life RP” and thus are doomed to receive a flow of poor quality RPers, but another possibility I’ve seen is because they’re intimidated or unable to code for custom content. You can make a script as simple as Cakescript (Hello Tiramisu), but to an absolute newbie who is just now looking at lua for the first time, it’s enough to make them jump ship on their idea altogether. Because of this, they are most likely forced to give up on their hope for a custom server, and settle with “Real Life RP” or give up altogether.
- Admins: Administration is a crux of any community, as it enforces rules and provides security for its own followers. Unfortunately, most people, when given positions of absolute power, choose to wield it as tyrants, subjugating everyone else to their whim instead of merely providing for them. This hunger for power and need to exert their power against others is an adolescent mindset which I see pretty often in the minds of preteens and teenagers, the most common group when it comes to DarkRP and the likes, unfortunately. The result is the, “Asshole Admin” stereotype that we’ve all run into at least once before in our collective experiences. He’s demanding, he’s oppressive, and he’s completely inept at administration, and yet he’s the guy who has the power. There are quite a few good admins and benevolent dictators out there, but they are vastly outnumbered by the mass cesspool of DarkRP and the asshole admins it creates.
- Players: Unfortunately, the biggest and most influential factor in all this is the playerbase. Unfortunately, decent quality RPers are a unique breed of players, as they combine a genuine interest in roleplay with the capacity to RP well; high quality RPers are even rarer, since they have to have more mature qualities, such as a more detail-oriented perspective and selflessness in order to progress or enhance roleplay. However, most players do not quality as, “decent quality RPers”, and fall victim to some basic character failures, such as a tendency towards destruction, lack of creativity, and the unwillingness to lose.
– The tendency towards destruction is a very basic one: guys just love to smash things. It’s in our base instinct in order to train us for a possible future of violence. That’s why FPS games are so popular: they appeal to one of our primitive instincts to fight and kill in order to survive. However, roleplay doesn’t always revolve around destruction; often times, mindless destruction will hinder and prevent potential roleplay instead of cultivate it. The occasional fight helps create roleplay, but degrading it into a DM-fest stomps out the ability to achieve enjoyment of creating roleplay and replaces it with the lesser, more primitive satisfaction of destruction. Unfortunately, with the immature, adolescent mindset of a 12 year old coupled with easy access to weapons and the glorification of jobs such as, “DWUG DEALER”, “MOB BAWSS”, and “CAWP”, DarkRP is especially notorious for breaking out into mass murder killing sprees, thus earning it the nickname, “DarkDM.” PassiveRP is considered the RP norm, because Counterstrike is not good roleplay.
– Creativity, or rather lack thereof, is a major problem as well. As much as we like to think that we’re creative, we’re pretty bad at showing genuine creativity. Most of the things that I’ve seen in RP that was trying to be creative and genuine ultimately turned out to be either blatant rip-offs from a movie or videogame, or more subtle rip-offs where a few minor details were changed from the source material. Because of this limited scope of thinking, most people are stuck with a sort of tunnel vision: they can’t see or aren’t willing to try some truly unique ideas which would foster great RP, so they fall back on some typical clichés from some Arnold Swarchenegger movie. If you’ve ever wondered why people always want to be a “Badass”, it’s their limited view and understanding paired with the instinct to try and be the alpha male. This lack of creativity and unwillingness to try new things has only helped to stagnate the state of roleplay in general, as some genuinely innovative and potentially ground-breaking roleplay ideas are passed up for a slew of the same generic and boring Real Life RP, HL2RP, STALKER RP, Fallout RP, etc. (The same also applies to both the videogame and movie industries right now as well. Why are there so many sequels and reboots from the ‘70s? Because they don’t want to take risks)
– People hate to lose, it’s just a fact. As much as we like to try and view failure as a necessary opportunity to try and improve ourselves, most people just view failure… as failure. And like the kid who cries and whines to his mommy when he doesn’t win a game, some RPers would rather bitch and moan and cry rather than lose a virtual fight with their make-believe character. The worst offences of this come up when a generic /me melee fight occurs without a set system or series of rules, because both characters will somehow gain some crazy martial arts skills and be able to block every attack, because the player will not accept their character getting beat up under any circumstances. As you can imagine, this hinders roleplay by obstructing its progression unless someone steps in and allows for someone to take the upper hand or both players end up ragequitting to avoid being beaten. I find this the most disappointing flaw, as fight RP and injury RP are two excellent avenues for more roleplay. Ultimately, it comes down to whichever player is the more mature, and accepts the blows, and thus creates roleplay himself/herself. But until players reach that level, fighting becomes a problem that prevents roleplay than an opportunity to create it.
The Player aspect delves pretty deep and is very complex, and is especially rooted in Freudian Psycho Analysis. That might take a whole ‘nother rant/discussion thread.
To conclude, I would like to remind players that Quality Roleplay is Not Extinct, but only seems that way due to the reasons and concepts stated above. The swarm of poorly developed servers with one-way scripts, totalitarian admins, and simple-minded players has overshadowed the remaining RP servers. If we want RPs with a decent, if not higher, level of quality roleplay, then we should first rethink our current view on the status of Roleplay as a whole, and then avoid the pitfalls that the other communities have fallen into. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a rise in good quality roleplays, and Roleplay itself will return to dignity.