Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roleplaying - Empathy and Viewpoint


When you're roleplaying, you're assuming a role and acting it out.  Those of us who are Thespians identify with this right away.  We're playing a part, and our character may or may not be similar to the person sitting at the keyboard.  But these typists must identify with the character, or we won't be believable characters.  My own character has aspects to her that are straight out of my Real Life.  But there are many things about her that are purely fantasy.  Some are my own, some are the fantasies of others that I cater to.

So what about empathy?  Empathy is doing just that.  It's understanding your own avatar and how it will react to given situations -- which may or may not be how you would react if it was you in a Real Life situation.  It also means identifying with other people you are role-playing with.  If you can't "click" somehow, then roleplaying a scene is going to be difficult if not just impossible.

Here's an example of a role-play session that totally failed to get off the ground for me.  As you should probably know by now, Kittin is neko.  Neko is the Japanese word for cat.  In Second Life, and in Cosplay, nekos have become sort of half-human/half-cat creatures who live in derelict urban areas.  Whether we're post apocalyptic or just futuristic evolutions of the feral cat, I'm never quite sure.  The Cat from Red Dwarf would fit this category.  Myself, I'm a product of genetic engineering out of the basement of Gina Corporation in Dark Alley.  Never mind the fact my avatar is older than the Dark Alley sim, that's just messy details.  ;)  So, given that, this is how this session started:

(This isn't the exact text, I'm paraphrasing from what I remember)

Anonymous: Last month you were issued a traffic citation for a moving violation.  Rather than pay the fine, you elected to receive corporal punishment.
Kittin: Um...?  Excuse me?  I don't understand.  I think there must be some mistake.  I don't drive.
Anonymous: There is no mistake.  You were supposed to report to my office ten minutes ago.
Kittin: No, really.  I think there's some mistake.  I'm a cat.  I don't drive.

And that was it...  It died there.  Either this other RP'er didn't know how to address this and clearly hadn't read my profile before starting or the RP wasn't going in a direction they wanted. Either way, something didn't "click" if you see what I mean.

What should have happened?  I don't know.  I can think of several possibilities.  He -- I assume it was a he, this was with the Sin Tracker messaging system, so I've no idea who it was -- could have continued to insist I show up at some landmark.  Or, he could have teleported directly to me and kidnapped me and I would wake up in an interrogation cell or something.  There are lots of ways this could have gone.


There's something about this scene that irks me.  Can you see what it is?  I walk into a crowded room and it's mostly silent.  There are avatars standing near each other, looking off in odd directions and no one except one couple is saying anything in local chat:

Boy:  *smiles at u*
Girl smiles back and waves hello to you, feeling her heart race at the sight of you.
Boy: *hugs u*
Girl wraps my arms around his neck, turning her face up to kiss you warmly, "missed you."

Aiigh!!!  Ok, I can't even type any more of that!

Let me back up.  I'm a snob.  I freely admit it.  I love the English language.  I've nothing against other languages; if I could speak another, I would love it, too.  And I know this comes from my personal dream of being a published author someday.

So what is it that's irritating me about the above?  Is it the fact that 'u' is a letter, not a pronoun?  Is it that Boy hasn't learned how to emote?  Is it that Girl doesn't know a sentence begins with a capital letter, even in dialog?  Those all bug me, yes, but it's not what makes me face-palm.

Two things drive me nuts more than anything else.  First, the use of 'you'.  There are other people here! Which 'you' are they talking about?  Every reader of these sentences should identify with being addressed as 'you' because that's what makes it an intimate conversation.  But it isn't 'me' either of them are talking to -- they're talking to each other.  In group context, they should be saying him/her and maybe interjecting their names in there once in awhile for clarification.

The second thing that's driving me absolutely batty in this is the sudden omniscients of knowing what her heart is doing?  How am I supposed to know that?  I don't have a finger on her pulse, I don't have a tricorder from Star Trek, and I'm not in her head.

When you're role-playing, you're writing.  You're participating in the telling of a story. And while it's good to know what's going on inside your character's head, don't just blurt it out.  It's the old rule of "Show, don't tell!"  How can she demonstrate that her heart rate increased at the sight of him?  One thing she could do is a sharp intake of breath, her hand to her cheek which flushes with pink.  Get some empathy in there!  What does it really feel like?  Now express that in description.

It's hard.  I'll be the first to admit that.  It takes practice and I don't presume to be an expert and flawless with it.  But I'm aware of it.  It reads better.  It's more enjoyable for the reader.  At the same time, you have to balance it with how long it takes you to write that sentence.  No one wants to wait twenty minutes while you compose.  The more you try, however, the better you'll read and the more fun you'll be to play with.  And I hope you'll enjoy it more as well.

1 comment:

  1. The thing that gets me, is that the girl was putting up with it. She was pandering to him. Girl avies of the SL world, who can emote. Put down your thesauruses and stand up an be counted. This can not go on!