Why Do MMO Players Hate Role-Playing?

About a year ago, and I was playing my Female Natural Stalker, Lucy Liunatic, in City of Villains. I was in the Pocket D zone, where villains have to hook up with hero characters from City of Heroes in order to complete missions.

Now, I don’t normally bother to role-play in MMOs, primarily because no one else does. CoX doesn’t have role-playing servers, so there’s really no role-playing going on.

Nonetheless, I decided to be cute, and make my requests for hero partners “in character.”

[Broadcast] Lucy Liunatic: I am looking for weak-willed, morality-addled so-called “heroes” to serve me on a mission.
[Broadcast] Lucy Liunatic: If you serve me, then when I rule Paragon City, your death shall be quick and painless!

Most people ignored me, because pretty much every character in Pocket D at that time was a villain. But after a couple minutes I started to get angry responses. One player complained that I had insulted him. Another told me he was going to report me to the gamemasters for offensive behavior.

Players were upset that I was acting like a villain. In a game called City of Villains.

WTF???

I started playing table-top roleplaying games back in a decade with a “7” in it. I remember when the only MMORPG was the original MUD. I lived through D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, AD&D, Ultima, Wizardry, Traveller, Gamma World, Paranoia, GURPS, Champions, DC Heroes, Warhammer FRP, Warhammer 40K, Fantasy Hero, TMNT, Marvel Super Heroes, Space 1889, Shadowrun and the entire World of Darkness.

The most annoying type of RPG player was the “power gamer.” This person cared nothing about the plot, characterization, or any other aspect of role-playing – he (never she) only wanted to build the most powerful character possible under the rules (often by tweaking and deliberate misinterpretation), and then level up as quickly as possible.

The majority of role-playing gamers considered power gamers to be losers. They were usually annoying teenage newbies anyway. The whole point of a role-playing game was role-playing, oddly enough; so power gamers were often met with hostility and frustration.

But role-playing is rare in 3D graphical MMORPGs, the acronym notwithstanding. This isn’t because computer games are poor role-playing environments; online games like EverQuest and Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption are popular with real role-players.

Other games, like CoX, don’t encourage role-playing in their communities, so very little of it exists. Of WoW’s 222 servers, only 16 are designated as “RP” servers, with specific rules designed to promote role-playing.

The fact is, the power gamer is the norm in the world of MMOs, while role-players are the minority. As I said, I have no problem with this. Role-playing online seems awkward to me.

What I don’t understand is the hostility towards role-players. Try to role-play, even in jest, on a WoW non-RP server, and you will be ridiculed. Bring up the subject with MMO players IRL, and you will get laughter and baffled looks.

Pro gamer Jared “cha0ticz” Cugno suggested to me that MMOs have been overrun by casual gamers, aka “normal” people, who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the whole idea of role-playing. They don’t want to be seen as the kind of geek who paints lead miniatures and goes to conventions dressed as their character; so they view anyone who reminds them of such behavior as the enemy.

This hypothesis has the ring of truth to me. But the fact is, there is absolutely no reason MMOs can’t support both styles of play, even on the same server. Just let people play how they want to play, and understand that there’s nothing “weird” about role-playing.

WoW wouldn’t exist without Warcraft, which wouldn’t exist without Warhammer, which wouldn’t exist without D&D. Get used to it.

11 Comments

  1. I am one of that minority of roleplayers, then… But it seemed so natural to me because I also play D&D. I’ve noticed exactly what you’ve mentioned here, too. Of course, the only MMO game I play is CoX, and I generally stick the the “unofficial RP server” there, Virtue. And then we take into account that I’m also female. You’d think the universe would have collapsed by now because of my femaleness and my roleplaying. A girl who roleplays AND plays games? It’s the end of the world!

    Anyway, great article, and I like your blog quite a bit. I think I’ll stick around.

  2. I play most MMOs and join a RP server for a reason and all I get is a person saying “LOLs he RPs! Only nerds do that!” I don’t understand people since Role playing is a natural talent to me…

  3. For starters, zOMG, A FEMALE POSTER WHO PLAYS FEMALE CHARACTERS POSTED IN THE COMMENTS!!! O_O

    I am perk up to that immediately! =O

    Okay, secondly, and more seriously, role-playing is something that I am willing to do if it is not forced down my throat, and I am also the type of person who is not particularly interested in role-playing with people who equate being evil with acting like a jack-ass.

    The whole system used by most role-play cultures that involve so-called alignment is flawed and has turned me off from bothering to involve myself with any more D&D style RPG. Why? Lawful Good: Always follow the Law. Always Good; Throw in Evil Laws and what do you get?

    A Lawful Good character who cannot follow the laws if he chooses to remain so-called good or a Lawful Good character who cannot be good if he obeys the Law that tells him to kill any newborn found in the city BECAUSE IT`S THE LAW!

    Now, then, life has a lot more avenues for creative role-playing that are much more fun than your typical D&D style lore-syndrome, you just have to open your eyes and realise that the whole world doesn`t revolve around D&D definitions nor the definitions of any other religion. Why must people turn RP into some sort of D&D style religion… geez…

  4. Yes, I’ve tried some MMORPG but it’s just levelling end running around. Really boring. Actually the coolest MMO I tried was sociolotron which is kinda a sex MMO with poor graphics and poor most things. But great players where everyone is role playing. Some of it adult stuff, but not just that. We need games that do this, with or without the sex part. Where people can build businesses like pubs, or take part in society, or build a dynasty. And have fun with each other, not besides each others.

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