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...but what does it MEAN to Roleplay? *puffs on pipe*

Shovel

Supernova
Joined
Apr 23, 2009
Sometimes, the simplest of questions can be the most complex of questions. While out and about today I started thinking about the meaning of Roleplay, which prompted the question: What does it mean to roleplay? And upon contemplation and reflection, this prompted even more questions from myself.

Sure, we can look at the dictionary definition and get a basic understanding of the concept.

Noun
1.
PSYCHOLOGY
the acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person's behavior in a particular context.
2.
participation in a role-playing game.


...But I am not merely interested in just defining it. I would like to explore it more in depth. So, some questions that might be explored:

What is roleplay?
What does it mean to roleplay?
What is the purpose or goal of a roleplay?
What motivates one to undertake a roleplay?
When you have selected a role, is the role "you"? Or an aspect of you? Or a thought experiment one likes to see played out?
Is there a "wrong" way to roleplay?
What makes a roleplay "good"?
Is roleplay "real"?
 

Wordsmith

Moon
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Shovel said:
Sometimes, the simplest of questions can be the most complex of questions. While out and about today I started thinking about the meaning of Roleplay, which prompted the question: What does it mean to roleplay? And upon contemplation and reflection, this prompted even more questions from myself.

Sure, we can look at the dictionary definition and get a basic understanding of the concept.

Noun
1.
PSYCHOLOGY
the acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person's behavior in a particular context.
2.
participation in a role-playing game.


...But I am not merely interested in just defining it. I would like to explore it more in depth. So, some questions that might be explored:

What is roleplay?
What does it mean to roleplay?
What is the purpose or goal of a roleplay?
What motivates one to undertake a roleplay?
When you have selected a role, is the role "you"? Or an aspect of you? Or a thought experiment one likes to see played out?
Is there a "wrong" way to roleplay?
What makes a roleplay "good"?
Is roleplay "real"?
I'll bite, but I'm taking your pipe after this.

What is Roleplay? It's subjective, and entirely different for each person that does it. More often than not it's a creative outlet and escape from our reality into something fantastic, something otherworldly where we can become something we're not. There is no core goal of Roleplay other than the enjoyment it brings each individual, without that enjoyment there wouldn't be a reason to do it after all. A motivation? Again, the escape mechanic it offers as well as the creativity it takes to place your wandering mind somewhere else. Now the role part of the Role Play, that's something to each their own I'd say. Most characters, like it or not, admit it or not have something of the writer inside them. Here on BM we have the cravings and kink of the writers played out through a string together of words. That imprint is the aspect, it's also the enjoyment factor of it. Each part you're mentioning is just a link in the chain so to speak. There isn't a wrong way to roleplay either, none what so ever.

However..

Keeping that in mind know that each person clicks with people differently, each person will work better with someone of a similar style, or similar wants and needs for their cognitive adventures no matter what they might be. A good roleplay is also subjective to each person, everyone is different. Some people are attracted to the quick paced one liners, while others prefer a sonnet of words in a shakespearean style, dripping with descriptive creativity. Roleplay as a real thing? Of course it's real, it's an activity that we here at BM, and millions of other places take part in every single day. While the stories and sublime events might only take place in our head, that makes them no less real. We're thinking of them, playing a scene out in our head. Cogito ergo sum, as spoken by Rene Descartes. "I think, therefore I am." Delving deeper into this idea, because we think, we're real. Our thoughts are real, our RPs are real.

I believe that should suffice somewhat.

-Ambles up and snatches the pipe from Shovel- "Is mine now, thank you kindly.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Shovel said:
Sometimes, the simplest of questions can be the most complex of questions. While out and about today I started thinking about the meaning of Roleplay, which prompted the question: What does it mean to roleplay? And upon contemplation and reflection, this prompted even more questions from myself.

Sure, we can look at the dictionary definition and get a basic understanding of the concept.

Noun
1.
PSYCHOLOGY
the acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person's behavior in a particular context.
2.
participation in a role-playing game.


...But I am not merely interested in just defining it. I would like to explore it more in depth. So, some questions that might be explored:

What is roleplay?
What does it mean to roleplay?
What is the purpose or goal of a roleplay?
What motivates one to undertake a roleplay?
When you have selected a role, is the role "you"? Or an aspect of you? Or a thought experiment one likes to see played out?
Is there a "wrong" way to roleplay?
What makes a roleplay "good"?
Is roleplay "real"?
May as well take a shot at this.
Keep in mind none of this is intended to be anything more than my own nonsense, so don't expect citations or anything.

What is roleplay/what does it mean to roleplay?
The obvious answer is to "play" a "role". Exactly how far you take that depends on how far you want to take the label into interconnected realms. The term "role playing" is used in psychology, for instance, as a method of working through issues, it could involve training exercises, roleplaying in sex, conventional acting performances, and even the simple of performing whatever roles you have in your life. All these interlink as all relate to the ways we learn and express our behaviors.


And there is, of course, the kind of roleplaying which is this site's purpose, and this is what I tend to think of when I think "roleplaying". Everything else is perhaps better placed under other labels (since, really, you'll always have overlap with anything).
I would specifically call this "recreational roleplaying" to distinguish it from any other role-play like activites.

For the purposes of *this* brand of roleplaying, I would specify the necessity that you, the player, assume the viewpoint of the character and make decisions for that character based on the setting they exist in.
I would ascribe a few other traits to roleplaying in this sense:


(1) It is unscripted. You, the player, determine the characters thoughts, words, and actions, rather than operating off a script determined by a third-party.
*(This is on a sliding scale, of course. Even with as an actor with a script, you can offer your interpretation on the it with non-scripted actions, mannerisms, and even ad-libs. Also compare the concept of roleplaying video games, where your decisions may be limited to a pre-determined selection, but are still your choice).

(2) It is done primarily for the participants. You could do it in view of others, or gear it to be a demonstration with the intent of showing others how roleplaying is done, but it's still mostly for yourself and your partners.
*(This is what contrasts recreational roleplaying against any other kind of performing art involving a role, like acting, improve, pro wrestling, and so forth. Performers might still enjoy slipping into their performance role in a manner similar to roleplaying as part of the overlap, but I would still point to this as a difference between the two things.).

(3) Typically involves other people, i.e. one person doesn't have absolute control over things.
However, I still think you can roleplay by yourself.
Take roleplaying in a single-player video game... I often base decisions around a personality I've created for my character and often have an internal monologue of their thoughts. In a game like Skyrim where little is predetermined about your character I might even give them a backstory. Sometimes it isn't very elaborate and is mostly just by personal reactions, but it's still very similar.

(4) I'd also characterize it as having a personal connection with the character you are playing. A sense of investment with that persona. It is "you" in the context of the roleplay's setting, even if it has nothing in common with you as a person in real life (similar to how your dude in an FPS is "you"). This isn't an absolute, but is an aspect I'd point out to highlight the difference between PCs and NPCs... i.e. you might write side characters in an RP, but they aren't the main focus of your experience... also why GMs in games like D&D have a temptation to create "GM-PCs" or have "pet villains" because the game doesn't normally afford them an "avatar" in the way that players have.

On the flipside of that last point, you could also say there's an acknowledgement that the character is NOT you, that the roleplay is a fabrication you are intentionally indulging in.


For the rest of these questions, I'll be focusing on this type of roleplaying, and not focusing so much on the overlapping concepts.

**************

What is the purpose or goal of roleplaying/What motivates one to undertake a roleplay? This is one that is entirely up to participants, and will vary between them. The reasons might even go against what I said above (i.e. a person might not be invested in their character personally, and simply want to write a story, like they might write a novel on their own, with input from another person).

I guess, then, the simplest answer to this question is "to tell a story". Which of course leads to the question, "Why do we tell stories?" which might be too... complicated and in-depth for me to examine here.
Maybe I should ask, "Why do we roleplaying rather than write, or something else?"

Well, I also said above, input from a source we don't control is one of them. We want to be surprised. It's fun to write and tell stories, but if you write a novel, you are 100% in control and the surprise element is not there, which takes certain thrills from the experience.

There's social interaction. This is a big one for me. Consuming works of art, stories, etc., are one of my main hobbies, and sharing/discussing these things is one of the big things I like to talk about with others, and is one of the main things that helps me establish friendships with those people. So actively creating those stories with them is even moreso.

Personal enrichment and expression, wish fulfillment and fantasization. May you want to be something/experience something/do something, but can't for various reasons. So you act it out and express it in the form of a fictional story. It may not even be something you actually *want* in real life, but it's still as aspect of an emotion or desire you need an outlet of expression for.
Maybe there's some concept you want to explore, or you want to slip into someone else's shoes just to get out of your own head and see how different you can be.

Some forms, like playing D&D or other RPGs, will have an actual "game" aspect to their enjoyability, like a board game.

Depending on what you're doing, these are sliding scales that will go up and down to various degrees.


*************

When you have selected a role, is the role "you"? Or an aspect of you? Or a thought experiment one likes to see played out?

This one varies. Some storytellers may have more detachment from the character, in a freeform writing style, it's more like writing a novel to them, in a tabletop RPG, it is more like playing a board game.
For most roleplayers, I'd say there's an aspect of their interests, perhaps an aspect of themselves, they want to explore or express, and their "character" is a vessel for that. Again, it might not have anything to do with "you" as a person and could be your complete opposite, but it's still "your dude" in the story, your avatar.
Compare how people think of their "main character" in a roleplay versus any side characters or NPCs.
Some people might not think any differently of them, but many do.

*************************

Is there a "wrong" way to roleplay? Not really, but you can definitely have a different style from someone else that is incompatible, and to not establish guidelines beforehand to facilitate including both your styles in the roleplay will lead to problems.

*************************

What makes a roleplay "good"? Here I go trying to give objective answers to subjective things.
Well. Depending on the satisfaction on the participants, it's tough to give objective criteria. But here's some suggestions.
First off, roleplaying takes place in a medium, so it's quality is bound by the qualities of that medium.
In writing, this means good grammar, evocative writing... well, good writing is another massive subjective topic...
Around a tabletop, it means good communication with those around the table, it could also be helped with various accouterments to keep play going like decorations for atmosphere, miniatures on a map, etc... none of which are needed to be "good" by any means, but can certainly help making it "great" comparatively. At a tabletop, you might say, anything that makes things easier/quicker/flow better makes it good, like, cutting down on distractions or time spent paging through rulebooks.
In a LARP, again... expressiveness of the players in their roles, quality of the costumes and props... anything that helps with immersion.
That's as far as the format goes.
As far as the story goes, the basic one is that every player is able to express their character without being hindered and without getting in the way of others (so, a lot of RP etiquette things here... don't godmode, etc.)
Preferably, every participants would contribute at least in some way to the enrichment of the others.

It's tough to otherwise say.
Probably the biggest RP quality killer for me is... and this isn't necessarily *their* fault either... when other participants don't really entice me into their character and what they're doing (which could be due to them excluding or ignoring me, but could just be due to general differences of style between us), which prevents me from being very invested and makes me feel what I'm getting out of it isn't any better than what I could get in terms of expression/exploration of the character in a solo writing.

*****************************
Is roleplay "real"?
Nah. Not in the way that "reality" is real.
Unless all these stories really are happening out there somewhere in the infinite existence.

I mean, if you take the view that they are real in the sense that they are the expression of real thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, fascinations, and obsessions that are held by their creators, then well, sure.

And you could take the few that perhaps, in some cases, the characters we play are closer to the "real" us than the persona we assume in our day-to-day lives (though that is faaaaar from absolute or universal and for some players out there it is never remotely true... but for some, it might be very, very accurate to say).


Wordsmith said:
Roleplay as a real thing? Of course it's real, it's an activity that we here at BM, and millions of other places take part in every single day.
You can't prove to me roleplaying is real! People don't actually do that!
C'mon, show me one 20-sided die. You can't do it! :p
 

Manic

Banned
Banished
Joined
Dec 15, 2014
What is roleplay?

To play a role, to put yourself in a character's shoes and explore the scenario. Both can obviously vary according to the type of character and what you wish to explore in the RP. You could say that RP is a safe environment to try and experience something that in real life could be dangerous and/or illegal or just plain impossible.

What does it mean to roleplay?

It is acting, a good writer should be able to go beyond the mechanics of the scenario and really bring their character to life, rather than write a cliche character who seems unaware of what is happening around them and seems unaffected by it as well.

What is the purpose or goal of a roleplay?

See my top answer.


What motivates one to undertake a roleplay?

I'm a writer, I like to explore scenarios and drop characters into them, especially characters that don't fit the scenario and see how they respond.

When you have selected a role, is the role "you"? Or an aspect of you? Or a thought experiment one likes to see played out?

In some ways the character can be me, or parts of me. Sometimes an idealized version, other times a version that has nothing to lose, other times just someone who has parts of me but is different in other ways. I also do experiment, I do like to take a character that is say a normal decent guy and have them rob a bank and kidnap someone, just to see how he will handle that.

Is there a "wrong" way to roleplay?

In a way no, it really depends, if two people are happy writing one line smut to each other than that is great for them. It is more about getting the chemistry right with your partner.

What makes a roleplay "good"?

Interesting characters, emotional depth, unpredictability whilst maintaining the characters integrity. Not over planning it too much so that it feels pointless writing it, not lingering too long on details that don't matter. I wrote with someone once who would write 10-12 paragraph responses and half of that was describing the table clothes and furniture and just recapping what I just wrote. So writing a lot does not make a good RP, pacing is important, sometimes letting something happen in order to progress the plot. Not getting too hung up on realism but also not going too far the other way.

Is roleplay "real"?

About as real as any book or movie you have ever seen. The thoughts and emotions behind it might be real but that is it. Unless you are talking RP in person where you really do play stuff out, then yeah I guess that would be real.
 
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