In my life, I have spent ample amounts of time with role playing games. The first games I have ever encountered in this genre was was Square Enix’s, at that time called Squaresoft, “Final Fantasy VIII”. This game left a permanent impression and up to today I still find myself seriously comparing other games with it even on technical aspects.
This doesn’t mean that I view this game as the pinnacle of role playing games, but it was the first game, that “sucked me in”. I got engaged in the story, identified myself with characters and sometimes even started making up stories of my own in this setting. This were things I experienced only with books up to this point.
When I started studying I already had played some good role playing games, but I already missed more intelligent interaction with other characters in the games and I missed the opportunity the express myself and the character I was playing freely. Since I haven’t had an internet connection for my free use at home, so I have never played MMORPGs, apart from a few days when I visited my brother and was allowed to play a little “World of Warcraft” on his account.
At that time I got first involved with two concepts of role playing at the same time. Role play as propagated by MMORPGs and role play as experienced with pen & paper RPGs.
I started playing “Guild Wars 2” with some friends at the time and we tried to play “in character” as it is called, but we gave up on it pretty quickly, because the surroundings did not support it. We couldn’t indulge in our role play without being distracted by other individuals conversing on broken 1337speak out of the context or aggressively advertising shady markets to buy in-game currency. It was impossible to maintain an atmosphere under these circumstances. We kept on playing, but I gradually lost interest.
At the same time I got to know some people looking for a new member for their pen & paper role playing group and they convinced me to give it a shot. All I had to lose would be some hours on an evening and I was willing to take the risk. So we set out to play “Opus Anima”, a german role play system with an intriguing steampunk setting. What I encountered was something I already had wished for: I could freely decide my characters reactions to certain events compliant to the world he or she lived in. I had not to follow a predefined plot. And I could let my character express him- or herself I found fitting for the character in that situation and was not limited to a small number of arbitrarily chosen reactions. We were fortunate having an experienced game master who could easily adapt to our reactions and change the plot on the fly.
We kept playing for a longer period of time, eventually we changed the world to “Shadowrun”, a cyberpunk setting in the 2070s. Some people left the group and others joined, but in the second half of last year our play came to a sudden halt as the group broke up with rather unpleasant circumstances. I have not been able to join another group ever since, because I can’t find any.
Having enjoyed this kind of role play, I sought to pursue it further, without being limited to the people in my geographical surrounding. With my abilities I naturally sought to find role play on the internet outside of MMORPGs. Much to my surprise I found out, that role playing was relatively closely associated to hacker culture. I learned of play-by-email RPGs in different settings and joined one, only to find out that this particular game was quite dead, as well as other games played this way. I learned of MUDs, MUCKS, MUSHes and their denizens and set to explore them, only to find out, that most of them adapted to modern MMORPGs, with mostly hack and slay gameplay, and no role play even encouraged.
So I come to the conclusion, that classical role playing, as it is played in pen & paper or those rather ancient forms of multiplayer RPGs is on the decline. I find it saddening, that young people seemingly throw their imagination out and accept what they are spoon-fed as role play. This could in the end lead to an even greater decline of artistic expression in the future. Mainstream art today is rarely worth a damn to me, but the prospect of it getting even worse is unbearable.