Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Role-Playing: Part Two - Make It Hurt

The ship I had to "work on" was considerably bigger than the one above.
After saying in my last post that Kitti the Mechanic rarely gets called upon to do anything...well, mechanic-y, I found myself blagging my way through conversation of power flux, tractor beams and redirected energy at the Splintered Rock sci-fi sim last night. Laertes introduced me to the bar as his mechanic, and suddenly I had a lady asking me if I'd take a look at her ship. I managed to put it off long enough to have a laugh (at the expense of poor Captain Laertes) with another Commander and his crew in the bar, but then - all too soon - I was being escorted to her ship and plonked infront of some shiny-looking monitor that claimed to be showing me the ship's reactor and power systems. 

Did I mention that I haven't taken a science class since high school? I'd have found it easier to list the British monarchs since William the Conqueror, or...I don't know...the chronology of American Civil Rights Movements since 1948...than sit there and pretend I had a clue why this strange lady's teleporter beams had gone all fuzzy since she decided to do a bit of DIY with her ship's plasma cannons. 

Whilst I'm sure it is possible to become embroiled in deep, meaningful scenarios on the Splintered Rock sim, we were mostly just playing a kind of hot-seating game - like the ones they make you play these days in schools, where you have to imagine what the favourite colour or flavour of ice cream of Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" might be. We were just talking in character, shuffling around a relatively crowded bar, remarking on Laertes' obvious fondness for pretty women. It was light, and fun, and we were occasionally making comments out of character, too ((such is marked by double-brackets, like I have used here)). There was some guy with a fox's head sitting in the corner, complaining that he'd got sand in his tail, and when nobody knew how to respond to him, he left. I think he thought we were ignoring him.

But the most engaging role-plays that I have been involved in were those with my aforementioned friend, Sian. We have only written a few of scenes together, all of which were led by her, but each was intriguing and - perhaps most importantly - painful.

Image property of Sian Pearl. See it full-size on her flickr here.

The subject matter was hard to negotiate, and there was a real pain involved in imagining the situation and any implications it may have in the world beyond - both virtual and tangible. To make a moral judgement and dismiss the topic out of hand would have achieved nothing, and it feels futile to me to be involved in something if you aren't going to commit yourself to it. It sounds really heavy, and I suppose that it is, but at the same time I think that many writers slip into the required empathetic role automatically. You want to work at it, to compromise and negotiate to build the best scene that you can.

In our last RP (pictured above), Kitti was struggling with herself as much as with Sian. What Sian was suggesting, oh so persuasively, was something that to begin with sounded like Hell on Earth; but the more the two women talked, the more Kitti began to realise that she was stuck. The beauty, I suppose, of being a traveller is that I have no written no home for my character, and she has very few friends. She comes and goes without leaving much of a trace, and thus it is simple (and fun) to push her to the extremes of martyrdom, or self-preservation, and anywhere on the continuum between. Kitti could have left at any time she wanted, but she had nowhere to go, and the community Sian was promising, however flimsy, became more and more inviting.

The first time Sian and I wrote together, our scenario was very much about Kitti trying to rescue Sian. It was interesting to then go to that sterile, glowing-white interview suite and have Sian try to put that situation onto Kitti, and watch her previously self-righteous "This Is Wrong" begin to crumble, no matter how desperately she tried to cling to it.

Pain becomes a factor, too, when you consider how it feels to be the character in the "wrong" role. Many RPers in SL place themselves in the roles of trafficked slaves and subordinate cyborgs because they enjoy the masochistic side; but, for Sian, I feel pretty confident in saying that it is more about exploring the pain and underscoring the immorality than any sense of enjoyment. The pleasure there is the enjoyment of being appalled, not the enjoyment of the appalling thing, which I am sure is not the case for everyone creating these RP situations. A level of trust has to exist between us; she has to know that I am repulsed by what she is proposing, because she is, too.

So, I suppose that that is my advice for today: if you are going to be involved in RP, in SL or on any other platform...feel free to play around with darker ideas. Pick on something that you know is alittle too close to home once in a while. Ultimately, you are in control of the material and you can stop it at any time, so push yourself. Put something at stake. 

Make it hurt.


  1. By the way, I found the log of the RP you talk about here. I edited some of it for my own blog post here: http://parthenoid.blogspot.com/2011/09/interview.html

  2. I've just seen, thank you. I might make a post of its own here, and put the link in, or do it with my next post, if that's okay?

  3. I can send you the whole thing if you like.


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