Gameplay Immersion - Is using 3rd Party Communication Detrimental to Roleplay?
Where you fall on this title question will likely depend heavily on the type of game you play. For instance Skype or Mumble parties are frequently used in World of Warcraft groups or for games like League of Legends. I enjoy a high level of immersion in my MUDs and like to have a clear definition of where the characters end and where I begin.
For those of us like myself who play a roleplay-enforced game, where breaking character is considered rude, using information gained via outside means is frowned upon, and where using information across alternative characters will get you punished by the administration, utilizing the methods of communication available in-character are more than encouraged. Of course, it exists as a grey area for a lot of players, simply because we already have so many methods of chat open.
This can open some problems:
- For those of us who play in MUDs, everything must be typed, and this can take a great deal of time if you have to explain orders, concepts and strategy in a limited timeframe. It would be easier, and is often tempting, to pickup a headset and have a five minute group chat.
- By discussing things in-game we also open ourselves up to spies: perhaps someone is eavesdropping at the door, or that letter is read and copied before it reaches its destination. Infiltration and spying is a very valid form of roleplay, and when done properly can be a right pain in the backside for the plotting character. For security's sake, the ease and temptation of OOC temptation exists again.
- The above points are all well and good, but we need to remember we play games with other people. Winning is great, but a lot of fun can be had from there being a risk involved: the chance of losing. Actually having your plot foiled or having your political group called out as the nefarious puppeteers that they are can open up entirely new avenues of roleplay and character growth for you and also gives a win to the other team. Change, conflict and interaction are why MMORPGs are the most immersive PC games out there.
- Allowing the chance for others to come out on top is important, if your little friendship group stomps on everyone repeatedly, you may find yourself with no one to play with.
To leave a paper-trail or not is up to you, whether you conduct your business behind masks in shadowed caverns or via a sterile and safe chat medium is your choice. But perhaps don't make yourself infallible, many of the best MMORPGs don't have an end game where the screen goes black and the credits roll. When there is no defined win, take some chances and roll the dice.
Author bio: When not walking her dogs, cooking or working outside, Nicola Newton enjoys playing a worlds-end-seeking, chaos wielding nihilist in one of her favourite MUDs.