Is In-Game Roleplaying Dead?

These guys are definitely taking roleplaying out of the game

These guys are definitely taking roleplaying out of the game

Amuntoth from Manifex Pixel graciously took up my guest post offer from a weeks ago and suggested a very interesting topic – he wanted to know how I felt about MMO gamers taking their roleplaying out of the game. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a huge roleplayer (I’ve never done it in ‘real life’ and most of the people I discuss it with think I’m trying to invite them to a BDSM session), I have done it in a few MMOs and always found it incredibly fun and rewarding. The problem is that it’s now becoming harder and harder to find roleplaying within the actual walls of the virtual world.

The curious thing about Amuntoth’s topic was that he had accepted roleplaying within MMOs was all but completely extinct whilst I had still been fumbling around with the foolish notion that I could still find it alive and kicking somewhere. Unfortunately my optimism was finally shattered last week once I got back into Age of Conan and even there the dedicated geek-knowledge of the Robert E. Howard fanbois couldn’t prevent it’s RPG servers from turning into juvenile gank-fests with no attempt to even create a sense of immersion or motivation. I’m by no means a name-Nazi but seeing someone on a RPG server with the handle “Sgtawesome” really takes the biscuit. It seems that in-game roleplaying is truly dead, doesn’t it?

But, as was Amuntoth’s point, it seems as if gamers are moving away from this traditional notion of RPG and instead of spending their times writing short stories, articles and blog posts and creating movies and imagery to represent their roleplaying feelings. It’s very impressive and exciting stuff and leaves me with a spark of hope for the MMORPG genre.

You can read my full guest post on the subject over at Manifest Pixel here and feel free to have a look around around whilst your at it and explore some of Amuntoth’s great posts.


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  1. Unfortunately, many people are overlyconcerned with “completing the game” than they are with just winging it. Its the main reason I’m retired from MMOs atm. Its all “WE GOTTA FINISH THE DUNGEON NOWSSSS!” Sorry, but when I’m playing a game, I don’t want it to be my 2nd (or 3rd) job. Sadly, many people don’t see it this way. I love Roleplaying and wish I could do it more in games. But its just not accepted as it used to be.

  2. Klepsacovic says:

    RP is quieter these days, but not quite dead. Those who stick with one character through the rise and fall of fotm, some just might be RPers who play that character for the image of it. People write their own mental stories. I think a lot of people are RPing in their heads. They might say it if they had the time and weren’t afraid of looking like dorks.

    • Gordon says:

      I’ve switched servers in Age of Conan to a RP PvE one and it has a lot more RPG. Still not great but a lot better than the insanity of the RP PvP server! Looking forward to leveling up and grouping :)

  3. Grimfire says:

    I think you bit the nail on the head, Klep. I think many are simply afraid of looking silly. I truly hope RP is not dead as I quite enjoy it. I’m by no means a serious roleplayer but even light RP adds a lot to the atmosphere. I hope TOR creates RP servers as there are a lot of SW geeks out there (me being one of them). As a side note, I was disappointed when the WaR RP servers closed. Now I get to play with folks like “pwnedyou” or any of the ridiculous names that bright wizards take.

    • Gordon says:

      Voice chat definitely doesn’t help and it’s made people very shy of roleplaying. I know I’d never RP over a voice chat system… I’d be far too shy for that :) I prefer typing my roleplay.

  4. Blue Kae says:

    RP may be dead in Age of Conan, but given the games mature themed focus it doesn’t surprise me that the juvenile crowd has overwhelmed any players that are RP inclined. That doesn’t mean RP is dead in MMOs though. Take a look at the Landroval server on LotRO for instance where there is a weekly RP event on Monday nights that usually draws a big crowd, or just stop by the Prancing Pony at pretty much any time. All of this is on the US-side of the game where we don’t even have server designations. The RPers on the forums got together just before the game launched and picked a server to focus on.

    • Tesh says:

      “given the games mature themed focus it doesn’t surprise me that the juvenile crowd has overwhelmed any players”

      That sentence illustrates the idiocy of calling anything puerile and inherently juvenile “mature” in the first place. The ESRB’s nomenclature is a gross distortion of the language.

      …but you’re right. :)

      • Gordon says:

        Hehe yeah it’s an odd contradiction isn’t it? Off topic but I’m curious: is the ESRB enforced by law in the US? Here we use the same certificate rating for games we do for films and it’s illegal for shop owners to sell games with high age ratings to minors.

        • Tesh says:

          I’m not quite sure, honestly. M games on down don’t seem to have much restriction, but AO games might… Certainly some retailers self-censor, but I don’t think there are any laws on the books for enforcing ESRB ratings.

    • Gordon says:

      Funnily enough I just switched to a non-PvP roleplaying server in Age of Conan and the community is sooo much better. Yeah, it wasn’t overflowing with roleplay but at least people were chatting about pen and paper RPGs in the global chat! I think PvP must bring out the worst in people.

  5. Tesh says:

    Gordon, you might remember my RP experiment with a Forsaken in WoW. The tools just aren’t there to play the role that I had cooked up. I wonder how often that comes up with the “theme park” games on rails. You can’t effectively play a role other than the one defined for you long before you ever make your character.

    • Gordon says:

      Agreed. Even though I wrote up an entire backstory for my Khitan character in AoC, I *still* have to play the character the games want me to i.e. an amnesic goodie who’s been sold into slavery by Thoth-Amon. Totally not the character I want.

  6. Well correct me if I’m wrong but the ability to roleplay correctly requires a controlled environment of sorts. Your immersion is broken by someone else interfering whether by someone’s odd name or actions that sort of break the script or mood of those you are playing with. It is hard to then say that it is a flaw from a game perspective but rather the expectations of those that roleplay.

    WoW could be the best game ever to roleplay on…. if you could remove every player outside of your own group. But then it wouldn’t be an MMO anymore. Still though you would think that the random element of anything could happen would lead to better RP since it parallels real life.

    It would be interesting to see if a world of just RP could exist in and of itself or if the countless conflicting stories would eventually cause too many issues. In the end I think it would still come down to the best RP being the kind that is in a completely controlled environment.

    There is also the double layer issue where you are roleplaying in a roleplaying game.

  7. I know I’m a bit late to the conversation but I’m doing some research and I came upon this and I have to comment.

    I don’t think that role playing in MMO’s is necessarily dead. Rather people are expanding on the experience through the use of social networks which allow them to make the process immersive in a completely new fashion. The ability to merge the hack and slash level building frenzy and the need to immerse oneself in a magical world is being united by disparate but related tools.

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