Role Play for Adults

by Aliya Decuir Remember when you were young and would totally immersed yourself in a fantasy world? You turned pillows into mountains and marbles into herds of horses. You constructed […]

by Aliya Decuir

Remember when you were young and would totally immersed yourself in a fantasy world? You turned pillows into mountains and marbles into herds of horses. You constructed complex interactions and relationships between imagined participants as your fantasy world evolved into intricate stories. How precious those times when a friend, or group of co-conspirators, could participate in the design of such fantasies. Fantasies took on a new life as the collective imaginations and creativity of your group began weaving an elaborately shared story. Fantasies became organic as participants adapted to, and embellished upon, the shared visions, often moving in unpredictable directions.

Most experts agree that engaging in fantasy activities is an important process in a child’s development. Moving from the real world to one that is symbolic or make-believe stimulates creativity, encourages teamwork, lets children solve problems or social issues they don’t understand and allows them to explore who they are and what they feel.

So, what about adults? Is there value to engaging in fantasy role play activities? Is there value in escaping the stresses, grinds and realities of the “Real World” by immersion in role play? Does role play in Second Life foster unique opportunities for creativity, social engagement and problem solving?

Over 230 sims in Second Life are designed for role play activities ranging from vampires, steampunk, fantasy, historical, pirates, science fiction and urban/noir. These sims are designed to support elaborate, long-term, organized role play activities.

Willow Zeifer began her role play career as leader of the Txampay Pongu clan in a sim based on the movie Avatar by James Cameron. Zeifer and friends created the fantasy world of Pandora, a breath-takingly beautiful sim with glowing flora and herds of animals living in an intricate landscape reaching miles into the sky. Multiple tribes of Na’vi shared Pandora, as did human participants who came to exploit the natural resources. Zeifer’s clan, of over 200 role players, acted out elaborate rituals, hunting scenarios and organized clan activities. Conflicts with humans involved intricate plots that often evolved into complex battles. After six years in Pandora, Zeifer transitioned to Game of Thrones sims and became a co-owner of one of the sims located at Kingdoms (231, 181, 2105).

Zeifer explained how she got started in role play, “My involvement in RP definitely evolved over time. I learned from others how to emote and create dialog, how to develop my character into someone unique. Nowadays, my character even has a bit of an accent that I show through text. At first, I was a lot more casual and my characters were a lot like the person I am in RL! Now I try to create characters that are different than I am in RL, to challenge myself and have fun.”

“My enjoyment of the RP keeps me involved,” said Zeifer . “But also the friends. If drama starts happening it’s a major turn off for me and can drive me away. What keeps me involved in RP is people being kind, professional and making an effort to truly communicate, in character and out of character (OOC). It’s very important to keep those two things separate. If those things blend too much, drama can happen. For example, I play a pirate-like character on Game of Thrones who is often harsh and cruel, and if someone were to take that personally OOC, that’d be bad.”

The big question is why. Zeifer offered her perspective, “RP is about having fun and finding an escape from everyday worries. I think I’ve become a better writer of fiction, which is a cool side effect. It takes a small group of excited and talented individuals to start a RP sim. Everyone has their strengths, some are great builders, others are fantastic at scripting or landscaping or organizing rules. What I contribute is roleplay guidance to new players, role play story-line ideas and a bit of the building. In successful RP sims, there is a sort of government that works as a democracy. There’s a council that meets and votes on a regular basis. I think that’s very important to minimize drama and create a sense of fairness. The most devoted RPers usually end up on the council, elected in by vote. It sounds complicated, but it’s necessary to minimize drama, stay on the same page and run things smoothly as a group.”

And the final question is who. Zeifer sums up the type of people who gravitate towards role play sims as, “All sorts. RP sims get people who show up to enjoy the scenery. We give them an OOC tag so they can frolic without disrupting RP. We have people who join to socialize and build and RP only occasionally. Then we have the really devoted RPers. Who these people are in RL, I don’t usually ever find out. In SL, privacy is a big thing. You only share bits of your RL if you want, and it’s sort of taboo to push anyone to talk about their RL. I have been told bits and pieces of people’s RL over the years, and I’ve learned that people who RP are of all ages, from their 20s to their 70s, and if they didn’t tell you their age, it’s often very hard to guess. They usually are people who like to write and create. Women outnumber men, for the most part. Often the people who RP seem to really enjoy creating connections with other characters. If a person feels ignored or not included in the story-line, they often disappear, so it leads me to believe that interaction and inclusion in a community is very important to most people.”

As one role-player explained, it is all about freedom. Freedom to be yourself and freedom to be whomever you want to be. Role-playing provides adults a forum to engage in creative narrative and storytelling with other people. It provides the freedom to safely immerse yourself in fantasies that would be difficult or impossible for you in RL. Role-playing allows you to let your inner child play again.

Carey Decuir (Aliya)
Writer & Photographer

Written by Aliya Decuir. Photographs by Coco St. George and Aliya Decuir