So, this is kind of a perennial topic at this point when it comes to Imperian. It comes up time and time again on the forums - the ‘death of RP’. As if interaction between players on a MUD that still has a player-base are just going to go away. It’s a little more complex than that, of course, and there’s a legitimate problem at the root of all of it, and that’s kind of the best and worst thing, because if it was clearly and unremittingly legitimate a concern we wouldn’t have a bunch of hand-wringing about it, just people fixing it, and if it was completely off-base then it would be dismissed out of hand. What we get instead has been a wedge issue that I can’t even really express an opinion on, on the forums, because there isn’t a way it’s just going to be flamebait, and people just dismiss it anyways. But hey, I got this here blog and a need to express myself, so here we go.
How you interact is up to you
The number one problem I have about a lot of the complaints about a lack of roleplay is they essentially come down to people who seem unwilling to engage with others freely in the way they wish to. They want to have carefully manicured RP where the person aproaches them in the way they want in the way that completely validates their RP, without any real consideration to that own person’s own desires. Pretty much 100% of the roleplay I have got on Anette - a lot of it pretty interesting and complex stuff, such as philsophical debate and examination of values with Sarrius - has been from me going ‘I kind of want RP’ and just going up to someone and talking or emoting at them, or vice versa with them with me. It really isn’t that hard! Go up, talk to someone, start a conversation. Make a mark, leave a legacy.
So why does that end up so hard?
Well, it puts the onus for your enjoyment of the game on you. People don’t want personal responsibility. I’ve gone at this in considerable depth elsewhere in my more academically-minded psychology articles, but the short version is as thus: the out-group dynamic allows people to place the blame for the fact they’re not taking some manner of personal responsibility for your own enjoyment. No one in this game exists for your personal entertainment - they are thinking, living, breathing, human beings that are their for their own enjoyment.
In fact let’s expand on that.
The only person who cares for your enjoyment is the person you make care
I really don’t care if maybe 46 of the average 50ish people online at any given time on Imperian just dropped dead right now. That sounds cruel or harsh but it is the pragmatic fact of the matter. Oh, no doubt I would be concerned about the player count and their absence, but those specific people? They add nothing to my experience. There is nothing they do which improves how much I enjoy the game. Indeed, in many cases of the griefier lot, they add a lot to my lack of enjoyment, and damage my calm. They could leave right now, precisely after I type this, and stay gone, and there would be very little net affect to my personal enjoyment of the game. (Outside of questions of continued operation and all that meta stuff.)
I care about the people I interact with positively, or at least, meaningfully. People like the aforementioned Sarrius who give me thoughtful, solid roleplaying, or people like Nivvi, Dyron, or Laeka who are the pleasant everyday interactions that Anette gets on a day-to-day basis. Those are the people that I care about. And likewise, when it comes to people who care about me, I imagine it is much the same - the people whom care about Anette in-game are the ones she has had meaningful interactions with.
Organizations are a means, not the ends
One of the additional points made to shift blame from the individual to the outgroup, or at least the “not-me” is to blame cities, or guilds, or clans, or rings, or … well, you name the organization, it’s been blamed at some point for the lack of meaningful interaction. The argument here is that the leader of the formal organizations should be doing more to push roleplaying on the MUD.
I actually agree with this - to a point. But only to a point.
A city or a guild, to a lesser degree a clan, is a facilitator. It is the means of organizing a group and allowing them to communicate effectively. That’s it, basically, other than the mechancical effects (gaining class, being a locus for conflict). They are facilitator and the venue, not the event. A city or guild leader that is doing their job is not a dictator telling people how they should speak, or act, but rather the person facilitating the group to enforce their social norms collectively (ie, laws should reflect the desire of the population, not just that of the city or guild leader), and they exist to facilitate the creativity of the members in that group.
I think of a good city or guild leader like a force multiplier, they are there making sure the creatives in the group, be they the people gifted at PVP that are finding new ways to slay their enemies or the writers and crafters that come up with interesting events, get their time in the spotlight. They are the megaphone to amplify a collective message. With no message, they are meaningless and powerless. A leader who has a guild with no active members is basically just playing pretend on a throne of dirt.
The best lesson I can impart from a year on now of getting back into Imperian with Anette is that if you love the MUD and want to move things in it, no one but you is going to do that. You can rely on few other peoples, and they’ll be the base you build up with meaningful interactions. With the death of the Gods yonks ago, there is no longer the awkward and stifling situation where you end up “having” to act or interact in a certain way because “that’s the RP” - and if there’s anything that’s made clear, it’s that people wanted that. They didn’t want the personal responsibility that comes with the freedom to choose any of a myriad of paths and push it.
I made my own fun with Anette - coming up with a backstory and personality that I like, engaging with the bashing that I enjoy, and making a system I’m proud of. I enjoy those activities, and th interactions I get, for the most part (the griefy sods nonwithstanding). Find the thing you enjoy and do the fuck out of it and you’ll be fine, but you can’t expect anyone to do that for you, you just gotta pull yourself up by the bootstraps and do it yourself. If that’s something you find egregious, then honestly, Imperian as-is isn’t the game for you.
At time of me writing this, there’s 34 people online in Imperian, and that’s about average for off-peak. Reach out and grab one that’s receptive on your side. Chat. Interact. Or get into deeper roleplay. Or bash together. Or have an arena bout. Whatever it is you do, do it. As with so much human interaction, it seems we speak a language of exclusion, only to wonder why we ourselves end up excluded.