Telling Stories: Buddy event
I have several friends and acquaintances who are roleplayers. This is unsurprising, but it also doesn’t really mean a whole heck of a lot. There are several people who I can talk to about roleplaying but whom I have never actually roleplayed with, or if I have it’s only been in passing. Our connection via roleplaying is entirely based upon a shared hobby rather than any shared experiences, which is all right but does arguably lack a certain degree of immediacy.
I also have several friends with whom I do roleplay, and that’s a very different can of worms. I’m not talking about people like my wife, I’m talking about people who met me originally through roleplaying and we kept talking from there. Obviously, I don’t consider this to be a bad thing; I’m regularly podcasting with a friend I made via roleplaying, I talk to several of my roleplaying friends on a regular basis, this is a very welcome example of an online hobby feeding into actual friendships. But it does pose some unique challenges while at the same time offering some notable benefits.
See, the people I met first through other means are people whom I get along with even without roleplaying. People that I only know from the roleplaying side of things, though, aren’t in quite the same boat, because that original conecting thread is different.
Normally, you meet someone you like and then start to get to know them. In roleplaying, you get to know a person that you like which doesn’t necessarily match up well with the person playing that original person. It’s very possible that the character you like is played by someone you find somewhat or perhaps entirely repulsive, or that when you take those character interactions out of the equation the two of you don’t have a whole lot in common. Two people who otherwise wouldn’t get along can have characters with enough points of commonality to be great friends; I’ve experienced that myself.
Even if the two of you do like one another, the problem then becomes the fact that you have to learn about someone whom you have already subconsciously defined. I know that the character and the player aren’t the same thing, you know that, everyone knows that. But spend enough time around someone pretending to be something, especially if they’re doing it well, and you start to think that the person on the other end has to at least have traces of that, right?
The answer is no, but that won’t help. It’ll still trip you up, it’s tripped me up many times, and I don’t think there is any technology in existence to prevent this from happening.
Plus, there’s a certain peril in being friends with your roleplaying companions, simply because it can lead to hurt feelings here and there. Yes, OOC communication and getting to know the other person is vital. Yes, there are still times when the other person is going to feel at least somewhat personally slighted by the actions of your character, because you two know each other. You talk outside of the game, you’re friends, how could you support Sven’s character instead of mine?
Sure, it’s not something you try to do, but it still does happen. The point is that interpersonal relationships can already be complex enough without adding in the extra wrinkle of entirely fictional interactions, and adding those will produce additional dramatic prickles with the friends you make via those fake social interactions. Sorry, but welcome to here.
Assuming you navigate all of those pitfalls, you’ll run into a different problem: it’s all too easy to start roleplaying just with your friends. To some degree, it’s inevitable; everyone winds up playing with a certain group most of the time, and there’s a certain amount of caution when dealing with someone you don’t know in terms of roleplay. But you can wind up shutting down other roleplaying opportunities simply because the new people involved aren’t already your friends. You have to make the effort to still branch out and meet new people.
But all I’ve talked about thus far are the drawbacks; are there any advantages? Aside from having new friends, which is always a net positive.
First and foremost, you’ve got someone to talk with about recent events outside of the context of the game. It’s the equivalent of chatting about shows after you’ve both watched them, except that it’s talking about where your characters are and where they’re going, giving you a personal stake in anything. Plus, that’s space to run future plot threads by someone else and see if either of you are creeping up on uncomfortable territory for one another.
Beyond even comfort levels, you also can get a sense of what sort of stories the other person likes to be involved in. I’ve known people who consider romantic entanglements to be their bread and butter, and I’ve known players who hate mucking up a perfectly fine roleplaying session by bringing in romance. Sure, you want to talk with people about these things OOC anyway, but having a friend means you can create an ongoing dynamic wherein you’re both adapting and tailoring your behavior to what you’ll both find fun.
Last and certainly not least, it gives you the common ground necessary to pull off something very compelling. If you think of roleplaying as a sort of improvisational acting – which it is, to an extent – you’d probably also conclude that it’s a lot easier to go through tricky scenes when you’re working with someone you feel comfortable around. That can often mean that playing outside of your comfort zone is best accomplished when playing with someone whom you consider a friend even separate from the game. You’re comfortable enough to stretch out and try something different, confident that the other person will catch you if you stumble.
Roleplaying friendships can be volatile, but they do, by and large, add to the experience in a lot of subtle ways, even if they don’t last beyond the game you both share. And at the best of times, you’ll still be friends years down the line.
Feedback is welcome in the comments below or by various other mail or message formats, like always. (Twitter stuff is, like, right there.) Next week, I want to talk about having multiple people controlling the same character. The week after that, let’s chatter about character circles as a means of defining your character.
About expostninjaI've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.
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