Sunday, March 27, 2011

Character Oriented - Character Run RP

I've been thinking about this for a while, probably since I first began RPing in SL. The concept of character oriented - character run RP (CO-CRRP).  People likely already have a concept of it, and probably already do this in some form.  But, I'll go ahead and give a form of definition to what I mean.

For the most part, RP is primarily associated with a particular sim, and the particulars of what that sim tells you is approved as far as types of characters you can play.  Sure, they may add on to that the reasons for why certain types of characters are allowed or not allowed within their sim - such as the setting, period, genre, 'realism', etc.  That may be valid and logical to the sim and it's owners and hierarchy, but not necessarily so for the individual character.  After all, who says that a samurai can't be found a urban setting, or a street thug in the countryside of  China or Japan?  Why couldn't someone of today be transported back in time to the Dark Ages, or some neanderthal/cro-magnon man be found in today's world, or some future distopia?  And why would it be considered 'not real' for there to be genetic hybrid species of humanoids in a suburb?  In SL, they can be there, and often they are! These sorts of things, among others that may seem like bizzare mixes and meshes of characters, they make up the diversity of what SL is, and who we are on SL, whether as an expression of a persona that is unable to be fully actualized irl, or as creative expressions meant for the purposes of exploring variety of ways to present one's self and interact with others in the SL metaverse.  The focus here, though is on the diversity of character and expression within the realm of characters made for the purpose of RP.

But why is this expression limited in RP?  The real answer is because sim owners and their crew make the rules about what they will and will not approve/allow to participate in a given sim.  There may be good reason for that, but often it rejects the ability of individual characters to reason for themselves.  While it is valid that some stories do not call for certain types of charcters, races, etc.  The problematic of this is that where there could be stories made by characters in these sims, they are denied the ability to do so.  And this is because RP is run by and large on a owned sim - cohort run RP (OS-CRRP) system.  Basically, it's a difference of group v. individual conflict.  In OS-CRRP, the whole purpose is to serve the whims and will of the sim owner and group that runs the sim.  In CO-CRRP, individuals each have autonomy to run their characters as they see fit, and agree on whether to interact in certain stories or not.

I am not saying that either system of running RP is right or wrong.  Both have their pros and cons.  For OS-CRRP, a major pro is in the building of a community which works towards its own self preservation.  A con, though is that, with the growth of community standards, conformity arises and can make things stagnant and the community less adaptable to change, or otherwise close in on itself and implode.  For CO-CRRP, each individual having the freedom to choose their reality and have that greater amount of control over how their story develops can be refreshing for some.  However, a con comes into play in that, while each person has freedom of choice, conflicts can arise when there is not a consensus among individuals about a clear vision on what should happen in a story, and what direction to move it in.  Thus, there needs to be a balance between order in hierarchy and individual freedom of choice.  But how to come to such balance?

For me, I understand the need for hierarchy.  I also understand the need for individual freedom as well.  And what I want to try for is to give a certain amount of order and guidance to help keep an RP environment stable for all who decide to participate in it.  I also want each individual RPer to know and feel that their individual ability and freedom to choose who and what their character is, as well as what it does, is not trampled on by a tyrannical governing body that tries to press too far into an individual's right to the creation of their character.  For this reason do I find specific group counsels, or rules about character creation a horrible plan.  In my opinion, the expression of an individual character and its creation by its creator is something that should not be controlled by exterior force.  Should a person decide to ask for advice on how to form a particular character among peers of similar said character, then that is the choice of the character to ask for that.  It is a completely different thing than said peers dictating to the said individual that this, and only this is how this sort of character/species should look.  It is for the individual to decide what sort of character they want, and how it should look, or who to go to in order to get advice on how to make such a character. It is not the place of a governing body to do that.  If anything, what a governing body should do in any RP is make sure that those in the environment are holding to set rules about the particular game.  They can also remind people that the particular environment is set in a certain setting, theme, period, genre, etc., but they ought not be the judge of what sort of type of character expression is allowed.  Primarily, making sure that interactions are consented to, and that in the interactions, people are not being godmodded, metagamed, and griefed are the things that a hierarchy should be most focused.

For instance, say a dragon lands in the middle of the street in a modern city, the alarm shouldn't be at the dragon's presence, but if the dragon, as well as all other characters are conducting their RP in a way that keeps any conflicts within the IC story, and whether it is made clear that all parties involved are thusly involved in a consenting manner.  If one cat has the head of a lioness and calls herself Bast, and another that has more human distinctions calls himself Sekhmet, the differences in interpretation of the feline is to be disregarded as a surface issue.  If they keep any conflicts about the differences in IC and don't make drama OOC about it, then it's fine.  The diversity is a good thing and should not be destroyed just because the two particular felines interpret their expressions of their characters in a different way.  If one particular character wants to be considered an Inu (dog), and the other a Garu (werewolf/lycan), they can make those distinctions if they like, and have conflict about differences in IC.  They may not let it cross over into OOC drama and metagaming tactics to ruin one or the other individual in personal grudge matches that have nothing to do with RP and ruin the experience for themselves and others.

These all seem to be common sense things.  But, as my real life work experience has taught me thus far, common sense is somewhat of an oxymoron among all who call themselves a 'common' person.  However, I do believe that CO-CRRP is possible with a limited amount of OS-CRRP interference, and is desirable.  It takes trust among those involved in the RP, and, if anything, lack of trust and communication are among the top reasons that most RP fails eventually.  But to gain the trust of fellow RPers, and to be able to communicate with them well brings about amazing results and leads to less hierarchical dictatorship.  If done well, OS-CRRP would have so limited an involvement in the RP to the point that it seems nearly non-existent.  And that is what should happen - let the CO-CRRP be in the forefront and be the majority of an RPers experience, and the OS-CRRP be in the background, primarily managing the basic rules and potentially being a part of the core group that helps in the guidance of character development and both personal and general storylines in the RP as needed.  An RP that can hold that sort of balance is potentially the utopia of RP.  Even so, it's worth striving for.

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