Does video game facilitated roleplaying actually exist?

2008 October 30
by Dante

I’ve had a precious few extended jags in World of Warcraft over the past few weeks as we prepare for our move, and as I played the game by myself I found that it was pretty easy to engage in the storyline. A few times, in fact, I actually felt invested that my character would want to actually help the world and it mattered.

Then I got the opportunity to run through an instance of Ragefire Chasm with some more experienced players. I understand that each person plays the game in their own way, and often the raids are about efficiency. My experience of actually engaging in the storyline was pretty well shattered by “talk to this guy, get this quest, then get back down there and more killing.”

So I ask you, loyal readers… has anyone had a satisfactory roleplay experience using a packaged video game (such as WoW, Neverwinter, etc) as a medium? Granted, we weren’t trying to replicate D&D style roleplay in our World of Warcraft efforts, but it was a bit amazing how quickly things devolved into hack and slash, efficiency gaming once a group came into the mix.

So let’s hear it from you… does video game facilitated roleplay actually exist? Can it be done?

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Rondor permalink
    October 30, 2008

    The issue with mmorpg's is that unless the server is populated with only like-minded people you wont be able to get true roleplaying. Neverwinter Nights is as close as multiplayer can get because it's essentially D&D in the multiplayer mode.

  2. Jonathan permalink
    October 30, 2008

    I would agree with Rondor, but also add — for the most part … NO.

    “NO” at least in the context of “do people play characters and try to get into their ‘role’ in game” I’m an elf.. so all orcs must die. Or… I’m a dwarf… so, yadda yadda yadda (over simplification, but you get the idea).

    Now, an exception might be made for SUPER HARD CORE mmorpg gamers. I played WoW for 4 years; was the guild leader of a very large raiding guild; we actually organized monthly raids on enemy capital citys just for the hell of it (yeah, repair bills were killer, but it was worth it). Now, the level of involvement of the game, at this point, IS roleplaying. I WAS a guild leader. I WAS a commander of solidier on the battlefield (we were mostly a PVP guild, but it was sizeable enough that we had weekly PvE raiding schedule). I had officers, a treasury, a secretary. We even had a guild mom. My toon would (my main) would dress up for guild meetings (tux of course). We had two guild marriages during the 4 years I was the GM. We even made tshrits and hats, had a domain name, our own dedicated ventrillo server, and meetings with other guild leaders to form guild alliances for very very large raids on Alliance towns (i was horde). We shut down Hellfire Penn. for _two days_ by camping Honor Hold 24/7 with the help of three other guilds.

    OK.. sorry for the rant/vent… but… I could say that, at that level, I WAS roleplaying without even realizing it. Moreover.. i was ‘roleliving’ – because the game was a gdmn obsession. Finally, fortunately… the seal broke and quit warcrack for other, more creative activities (like getting back into blogging and table-top gaming).

  3. Donny_the_Dm permalink
    October 30, 2008

    Define role-playing. Standard definition? If so then it is impossible in a video game environment as it exists today.

    As far as ADEQUATE RPing experience, NWN (1, not the turd that was 2) was awesome. I actually felt invested in my characters, the mood was good, and I had fun.

    I would suppose that you could not truly role play in ANY linear environment. Period. Otherwise you are simply performing task A to aquire object B to progress to city C and talk to chump D, etc, etc.

    This differs from an "organic" experience because there is no true randomness. There is a set beginning and end, and regardless of the order of the intervening B-Y parts, your winning is a forgone conclusion.

    In a video game you are SUPPOSED to win. Sure a tabletop RPG is the same in this aspect, but it is not an assured thing. When I die in NWN, I reload my last save and try again. In WoW, when we TPK at BFD, We go back to our bodies and regroup, before trying again.

    Wipe in D&D, and the game is generally over. THAT is the point I have taken so long to get to 🙂

    That makes each and every experience truly unique, which is why for at least a couple of more D has nothing to worry about. Also, how many games out there let you score with a barmaid, then kill her and burn down the inn on a whim?

    Sorry about the rambling on, my thoughts are refusing to clump 🙁

    @Jon – I SO hear you. While not quite that hardcore, I do hear you 🙂

  4. Asmor permalink
    October 30, 2008

    Absolutely. I’ve had plenty of experiences roleplaying in EverQuest, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft.

    It’s something you’ve got to actively seek out, though.

  5. Silent permalink
    October 31, 2008

    “but it was a bit amazing how quickly things devolved into hack and slash, efficiency gaming once a group came into the mix”

    I find this happens often in table-top environments as well. 😉

  6. Kevin permalink
    October 31, 2008

    I would give a resounding ‘hell yes’ to your posed question. As mentioned before, it all devolves around who you play with and what kind of server you are on.

    My first real MMO roleplaying experience was with Asheron’s Call. Hooked up with a group of about 20 people who loved to roleplay and adventured as such. While we did quests, we would pose everything as though we were actually doing it ourselves. It was fun but would often devolve into bad acting, but nonetheless, it was all roleplaying.

    I don’t miss those days (lots of drama), but it was completely immersive RP. Later, I also found people who roleplayed in Anarchy Online (we pretended we were Space Marines).

    These days, the gaming table still works for me.

  7. David permalink
    October 31, 2008

    The correct answer to the question is yes. The “even more” correct answer is, likely not in World of Warcraft.

    The general audience that World of Warcraft appeals to is just not the roleplaying type of audience. I play a MMO by the name of Vanguard Saga of Heroes. I am in a dwarf only guild where I would say 70% of the guild chat is spoken in some sort of broke dwarf english and revolves around the game. “Vemu, laddies!” is my general greeting when entering the game.

    I would also pay attention to your server. Roleplay servers are marked as such for a reason. It has been my experience in WoW that it doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot, but it does helps.

    In the end, the games facilitate the opportunity to do true roleplaying if you want to make it into that. If you want to look at it as just going back in and repeatedly killing something then you’ll lose the immersion in the environment. Instead look at it as, the jobs not done yet and we need to pull up our boot straps and take care of this problem!

  8. njharman permalink
    October 31, 2008

    Never in a multi-player.

    Semi-often to a small degree in PC "party" RPG's.

    ToEE has been my favorite. I think it works well since every alignment has different starting vingette and "goals". It is also much more of a sandbox game rather than a linear story. There are multiple endings and myriad paths to get there.

    I've played it multiple times. Each time I imagine backgrounds, archetypes for my party members and actually roleplay them. (kind of pathetic sounding in a lonely dork sort of way but I had a blast).

    Evil party

    2 Dwarf brothers one fg one th. Dedicated to each other, sharing stolen loot and magic amongst themselves.

    Stereotypical EHPs, the leader. manipulated the others withholding healing etc.

    Stereotypical Sexy Sorceress. Who's area effect spells often harmed fellow party members.

    The (sex) thrall of the Sexy Sorceress a fg or something. he was basically her meat shield and plaything.

    I had other parties:

    All Druids. crazy powerful 5 D&D 3.5 druids are.

    A LG group 2 fm clerics each with their paladin bodyguard and a white wizard.

    One of nothing but short people, halflings, gnomes and dwarfs.

    Just like on the table top it's a lot more fun to give computer rpg charaters foibles instead of just playing optimally.

  9. Martindale permalink
    November 11, 2008

    Sure, it does exist. EVE Online is based around that very premise. One server, one world, all in-character.

  10. Bob permalink
    November 20, 2008

    The early days of Ultima Online were great for roleplaying. How often so you get the major characters coming into the game and being played by the developers?

    Admittedly someone did manage to assassinate Lord British at one point but it was a lot of fun 🙂

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