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Drama and Drama: Yours Shouldn’t Have Llamas

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Whether it’s behind the computer or DM screen, role-playing and relationships are a balancing act and a half. At the very least.

It’s with a somewhat heavy heart that I let my World of Warcraft subscription expire this week, this time likely for good.

Originally playing only a few months after its release in 2004, I’ve been playing consistently with only a few breaks ever since. It’s always been a social activity for me, considering that I’ve played a character with every last one of my boyfriends, but it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I started role-playing in-game and invested myself in a role-playing guild. As anyone who has RP’ed in a guild can tell you, your guildies become nigh-on family, and as you get closer to each other, prove to be just as dysfunctional as family in real life.

As I was reading over the Drama Mamas column on WoW Insider, it shocked me that I had been involved in, or bore witness to, no less than half the predicaments described there. Maybe you can blame rhetorical theory for why we fall for our role-playing partners, while Murphy’s Law essentially dooms couples who play together in the same guild in spite of the dangers, but the resulting drama of either (or both) can soon overwhelm the fun of collaborative storytelling.

And that’s where I ended up after almost two years. The out-of-character web of relationships was too entangling, and things got too personal. I had to step back. After all, these were just people I’d met on the internet.

So I wanted to take a break and return to the real-world, thinking that I’d at least be safe from it there.

Hahahaha.

Between the the breakup of two of my players and the resulting crushes that have been flying in its wake, and my own decision to begin dating another one of my players, I’m up to my eyeballs in gunpowder that’s just waiting for a spark.

But somehow, things haven’t blown up just yet. Even in the former situation, which has already unfolded for the most part, we’ve ultimately kept our cool as a group.

What worked at the table, when my online experience failed so abysmally?

I think it’s half that we can see each other face-to-face and can work out our problems with each other directly, and half that in-character romance has been absent from the campaign. Of course I’d say that my players are emotionally invested in their characters, but the wall between two hasn’t yet been breached. At the table we’re Althea, Lucien, Eryndan, Ekhdrine, Kannan, Sa’id, and Zael. Our underlying egos stay out of it.

Why is that easier to accomplish in real life?

Maybe it’s because at the table our social conditioning and inhibitions stay with us, whereas the pseudo-society on a server is missing key components of human interaction. We simultaneously flourish and devolve in these imaginary settings; we can overcome most fears and insecurities that plague our real life, but without these restrictions we step over lines that are there for a reason. It’s all too easy to idealize or degrade someone who’s just a word or voice on the other side, or to change who we are to who we want to be, not who we should be. It’s id without the super-ego. Relationships without respect.

Put another way, on the Internet we become Assholes. But that’s nothing new.

If I ever do return to Azeroth, it will be as a character, and not a player, like some of the other guildies who shielded themselves from the drama by rarely, if ever, taking off the mask.

It’s a rare person who has the maturity to to be Jon in vent and Findarin in game, but perhaps the most mature thing is to keep the personal out of the game in the first place.

8 Responses to “Drama and Drama: Yours Shouldn’t Have Llamas”

  1. Good luck giving up the World of Warcrack…writing is better!

    You know, in almost 6 years of gaming with Jules, we’ve never really had a problem in terms of GM-player or player-player relationship. Ironically, the one time that we did end up arguing, it was entirely in character: her revenent fighter freaked the hell out of my swordmage/artificer on her Worst Day Evar, and they never really had a chance to rectify things. The nice thing is, the entire conflict was in-game, and was something we could laugh about as soon as the dice got put away.

    Face-to-face interactions bring a level of nuance to the game that just can’t be matched through Skype or any other sort of online-chat. It’s just not the same…

    • lindevi says:

      If anything, having you and Jules playing together is a good thing. You seem to balance each other out: she tempers your curmudgeonly streak while you push her outside her comfort zone.

      And you guys even play with her ex! I suppose that kind of thing is dependent on how the relationship ended, but it’s still admirable, because I’d have never guessed it if you guys hadn’t told me.

      And yes, no WoW means more time for writing. XD Good choice is good.

  2. lindarcia says:

    You and I went through about the same amount of mess, with the same sort of situation, and even with some of the same PEOPLE! I feel where you’re coming from. I too will not go back to that convoluted web of mishaps and mayhem that gets woven over and over. Sometimes I stop and realize how my actions helped perpetuate it, and the embarrassment is enough to keep me subdued and apart. Though I do still play WoW, I play as a player and not as a character. My creativity through role-play has reached an outlet in writing and miniature levels of story-plotting. I joined a book club that is FULL of aspiring writers and the steam I can let off with them is a thousand times more productive than what WoW roleplay could give.

    Best of all, I notice that the ones who walk away from WoW RP — especially the ones throwing their hat down and stomping on it in frustration — are all alike. We get tired of the perpetuated mess. We can’t associate with the ones who did it and keep doing it. And we all go back to playing tabletop games. :)

    • lindevi says:

      Yeah, I didn’t mean to downplay my own part in the drama, only to say that I’ve learned from it. What amuses me most is the flaming that erupted after I said good-bye. I had already left, it was already over and done with.

      The only reason I’d go back now would be to level through the new zones or raid the Cata content, but I burned myself out on WoW-RP. Better that I direct my creative forces to new RPG projects, my novels, and even this blog. And now I have so much time! Amazing how that game just sucks the hours in…

      So your book club doubles as a writing group, or do you guys meet again separately afterwards? I’ve actually had a post in the works about finding feedback for your writing, which includes writing clubs and mailing lists and the like, and I wonder if you’d say that networking with other readers is reliable avenue to find writing partners and readers?

  3. Aurhia says:

    In some ways it’s inevitable that “situations” happen. The kind of people who get into RP games in the first place tend to be people who are looking for something, whether it’s a creative outlet, an escape, or just other people who like geeky stuff. They’re the kind of people who get deeply, sometimes passionately, invested into what they do. And I think that’s a good thing — everyone deserves something they can lose themselves in now and again. But it also means it’s a tinderbox of possession, pride, and emotion. It’s one of the reasons I spend so much time trying to get to know people out of game when they’re in my guild — because if they only know you as part of this thing they’ve invested themselves in, then you become part of that investment and not entirely a separate person anymore in their head. I… actually, I can’t think of a counter example to that. I’ve only ever had drama to deal with (real drama, not just disagreements or rp drama) with people I failed to get to know out of game. I try my damnedest not to be a cause of it but as an officer I always had to wade into it to sort things out to minimize damage to the guild as a whole. I credit our totally drama-free atmosphere in Seelund with the fact that we all have known each other as people for a good while now, so we have some reference for dealing with each other that is not only about the game. None of us sees the others as inseparable from our investment in the game or our characters.

    • lindevi says:

      It’s interesting that you’ve had exactly the opposite experience! So getting to know each other personally brings you together rather than driving you apart? I wonder what makes Seelund’s OOC atmosphere so different from Suncrown’s. Is it the difference between a fairly casual, family-friendly guild and one that’s based on such shows as Rome and The Tudors, which are dripping with sex, violence, and treachery? Or maybe it’s just the people (myself included) who are prone to just as much drama and intrigue as their characters.

      The biggest thing that got me about the Drama Mamas column itself was the prevalence of these sorts of issues. How many times have the same things gone on in different guilds, on different servers? I daresay that VeCo sees less than it’s fair share, though, since RPPvP servers attract a much different crowd than straight RP realms.

      • Aurhia says:

        Well, you saw some of the drama I got mired in pre-Seelund. Most of that was with people who I think saw other players as part of their wow experience, rather than people who thought of the experience as being shared with those people, if that makes sense.

        You may be right about the focus though. I basically keep a “respect everyone because we’re all here to have fun” policy overall (formally known as the Bill and Ted Philosophy) but when it comes down to it, particularly regarding in-character stuff, I tell people to remember that no one in the company is to be their mark, and otherwise I don’t care what they’re doing, so long as it doesn’t hurt the Company. I promote a Company-first in-game attitude so maybe they’re less likely to turn against each other? I don’t know.

        I have no tolerance for drama or discrimination but so far I haven’t even had to talk to anyone privately about anything they’d done, so I really don’t think it’s that. These are genuinely awesome people.

        I suppose it might also have to do with the fact that most of the members are officers or former officers in other guilds, and that we’re very small. Currently 26 members. But I’ve seen things blow up in guilds even smaller.

      • Aurhia says:

        eh, by “These are genuinely awesome people” I don’t mean to imply that Suncrown’s folks aren’t. I know a lot of them and I think a lot of them are genuinely awesome too — and I welcome their Alli alts! ;) I was just expressing appreciation for how much easier it has been to be GL for Seelund than it ever was to be an officer in my former guilds.

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