Can you have a completely self-sufficient community in an Online-RPG?

I think, in an ideal situation, it could be self-sufficient. However, people consistantly and painfully point out that things work out far from perfect.

People don't keep their mind in the game, even some of the best roleplayers. If you make enemies with someone with one character, chances are good that other characters are going to carry that resentment as well. Especially if it's taken personally (Cali is a good example of this).

It's something called suspension of disbelief that immerses us in movies and games and such, but it is also that same suspension that makes things appear more realistic. A good movie can draw you into it and make you feel as if the characters really truly exist. Similarly, a good game can draw you in and make you feel THEY exist, even if only they are a few pixels with another person determining their personality from another end. You inject your own feelings into characters and that makes them come alive, but that same injection can become toxic when resentment is there.

"Respect the person, hate the character" is a notion that would be great to have in roleplaying games but much too often falls short. People you like on the game you get to know, and you think you know. Your mind works a mile a minute trying to project what their personality is really like, how they'd react and such. A "good" character must be projecting good personality traits of themselves onto their character so they are "good" people. A "bad" character must secretly get a thrill from being nasty so they must be "bad" in real life. These "conclusions" happen a lot subconciously, but the wall between the reality and fantasy wears thin. Some people can manage to realize that a "good" character might be a jerk in real life and a "bad" character can be the nicest person if you'd met them, but those are few and there are usually degrees of that. To some extent, projection usually takes place.

Then you get the people who act "evil" because THEY (not their character) are bored. Another projection for the worse, it influences them. People can have a bad day in real life and that can influence their behavior (personally, I'd refrain from taking it out on an RP environment in the first place).

It also doesn't help that people feel they have to immediately justify it, which stems back to the subconcious projection, only in reverse. People think that if their "bad" character is hated and despised, they (the person behind it) are hated and despised as well. They often feel they have to rationalize it ("It wasn't me, it's just my character!" and they're mostly right. When I exiled Max, I heard a plea for help exactly like this, and I said I understand it, but my character couldn't let the wickedness just pass. I pointed out that *I* (David) felt no hatred towards him but I (Dartanian) did have some resentment for someone who would slaughter innocents. It was my character who stuck by his convictions and wanted to protect what he believed was right, where as the person behind it could never see themselves even having that much power. Dart doesn't always speak for me and I don't always speak for Dartanian (although we do have a lot in common).

You will always have those people too who believe it's "only a game." And those will not see what they do as wrong. What they fail to realize is that characters don't usually see it as a game, it is all too real to them. You CAN have a character who treats life as a game (one of my other characters is definitely like that) but they should act accordingly. If they treat life as a game of chess or checkers or chance, then that works. If they treat it as a game with pixels and clicks, then that's wrong. This subtle distinction many miss and is another way where a self-sufficient community falters.

People cannot make actual roleplaying laws without being severely criticized. Putting a tax on something would be wonderful, if it was a roleplaying community. It would also be perfectly acceptable to certain people and not to others (nothing is going to have 100% support). Yet people take it outside and think "I hunted to get this, I'm keeping it." Certain items could be made illegal, and then we'd have tyrants. Personally, I think a law stating that a sword must be sheathed in city limits would be reasonable, but many would see it as tyranny (Dart rarely carries an exposed dagger in towns).

People also look simply at stats too (called min-maxers in RPGs, people who try to find out which specific skills and attributes are needed to be the best and forgo all else). This one, I admit, is hard to distinguish because no one wants to be deficient but some variety would be nice. This takes people out of the game too, as characters simply become calculations and numbers and not flesh and blood.

So what's my point? The point is that any time you have people taking their minds outside of the game, you cannot have a completely self-sufficient community. If people's evils and good deeds stayed inside the game, then it might work. But taking vendettas out on or with other characters, looking out for their own (and not necessarily their character's) best interest, and treating things as simply toys takes away from it. It will seem kind of silly to some, but you get the most enjoyment and the most fun out of being serious sometimes. And if you are serious about the roleplaying, much more elements would be added by characters to make it more interesting. Thank you.

-Dartanian Lestor

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