Text-based role playing in chat rooms and instant messages began as an interesting way to pass the time when I was about 12 or 13. But, throughout the years that it was a mindless hobby, it developed skills within me as a fiction writer that I didn’t become aware of until six years later.
Storytelling and Character Development:
In text-based role play, it is necessary that you present your character as best you can to the other player. For the sake of keeping my RP partner awake and interested, I would use as few descriptive words as possible to paint a picture or express a specific kind of character. By doing so, I’ve learned how to tell a story in such a way that it continues to move with few snags and slow spots. And, along the way, paint a vivid picture (I hope) in the reader’s mind of the characters used to tell the story.
When Role Playing online, you never know where the story is going. If you’re lucky, it actually is going somewhere. If you have a singular character long enough, and continue on a thread of plot for them, they will have their ups, downs, and “wtf’s” that will contribute to their character. They will give them lessons that will change their decision making in the future and it may possibly turn the most villainous of characters into a saintly one. Or vise versa.
Spelling and Grammar:
You don’t have to know text-based literary role play to know that no one online uses the English language flawlessly. There are grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors up the wazoo. Me, I’ve never been a fan of using spell check when I role play, because it messes with my groove. (Don’t worry, I do use it in writings that demand it.) That being said, I made an effort to learn the correct spelling and usage of words ahead of time so that the infernal spell check and proofreading wouldn’t be the wrench in my machinery.
Characters that are Human:
Okay, in Role Play of any kind you’ll come across non-human characters from anthros and demons, to vampires and Vulcans. When I use the term “human” I don’t mean as a race or species. I mean personality-wise. To be human is to be imperfect and those most of all are the most interesting types of characters.
In my RP experience I’ve seen far too many perfect characters and they always bore me. When a balloon pops, their character is never startled because “they were trained to expect the unexpected and are just that awesome“. When another character sticks their leg out in front of them it’s the same thing. Their uber-character steps over the leg or stops to “stoically ask them to move.”
Now, compare that to a balloon popping and Mr. Awesome, in spite of himself, screams like a girl before acting like it never happened to save face. Or, when that leg comes out in front of him, he trips on it and thuds when his battle-scarred face meets the floor. (I guess now we know where he got the scars.) Of the two outcomes, which is more intriguing?
Also, humans make mistakes. Even a character can make a decision that turns out to be the wrong one. As a writer, you’re robbing your character of wonderful development by saying, “Oh, my character knew that the TV would explode when the volume decrease button was pressed with the index finger on the left hand instead of the right hand.” Yeah. There are some things that no one could possibly know. I think you could earn an interesting reaction from your character when the unexpected happens.
So, even though a person spends hours doing text-based, Literary Role Play, it isn’t a waste of time. It is not the same thing as playing video games, and it certainly is not something that rots the brain. It develops that gray matter more than most people know, particularly the Role Players themselves.