One of my absolute favorite aspects of fandom is the costuming and roleplaying, and I would have to say they are the two most maligned and stigmatized things that we do. Let's start with the most accepted by the popular culture and proceed to the least understood.
Computer Roleplaying Games
Mass appeal of video games have normalized RPGs on the computer, and why not. Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and Knights of the Old Republic were all such brilliant games, it is hard to see how they couldn't have had a mass market appeal, but in the one place where Roleplaying should flourish, it is all but extinct.
There was once a type of game known as the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG). The problem is that these too entered the popular culture, and they spawned a new bane: badge collectors. A sizable number of the MMORPG players became obsessed with their statistics, what badges they earned, and what loot they could get. The software companies saw these players as their core audience and in some cases, there only audience.
The games were increasingly designed for these players and not for the fans of story. Coinidentally, the acronym was shortened from MMORPG to simply MMO. Players have done what they can to keep roleplaying alive, but they are generally isolated to a specific server or guild, and they are not aided by the software designers who more and more are crafting games that challenge your prowess with a keyboard and mouse and don't require any thought whatsoever.
This is one of the reasons I am so excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds. They are trying to bring story into the games and make it front and center. I wish them the best of luck.
Table Top Role Playing Games
Table top RPG fans are the geeks that geeks love to hate. Don't believe me? Listen carefully to a lot of the podcasts out there. It won't take you too long to find people having a geeky conversation about their favorite tech and occationally mocking TTRPG players.
Table Top games are not as easy to play as their computerized bretheren, but they are a lot more fun. There are more requirements to play:
- The Rule Books
- Friends who have free time to come over
I didn't stutter at the end, and no, I am not padding the list. Creativity is the ability to think originally, and imagination is the ability to see with the minds eye events as they are described to you.
I think those last two more than anything else makes people not like tabel top games. Personally, I love them. I run an Earthdawn game at the house every Sunday. Nothing brings friends together for a good time like a shared adventure built from the collective imaginations of everyone there.
Live Action Role Playing
Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is penultimate expression of role playing. There are numerous systems for LARPing and they all generally involve renting a location, playing in a park, or the storyteller's home. Most LARPers dress up in elaborate costumes and carry props to aid in game play.
I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade both as a table top game and as a LARP, and I have to say, the LARPs were always more fun. We played at local conventions and I ran a chronicle that spanned various players homes, parks, and a few businesses who allowed us to use their establishment.
Who doesn't enjoy getting dressed up and spending a night as someone else?
One aspect of the LARPs I've played that made them so fun was that they were locked to the locations they took place. The story was handled through notes given to the players to explain what happened between sessions, and a couple players who agreed to play according to the scripted motives I provided for them. To this day, some of my favorite memories took place at LARPs.
We were a part of a LARP network where storytellers coordinated large scale events between cities, and at conventions our players would play through pivitol stories. The largest LARP event we threw had 500 players in attendence. 3,00o players made up the network. We coordinated through a email list.
LARPs are emense fun, and I miss them terribly. I had hoped that MMOs would provide a platform for virtual LARPs, but so far, they haven't.
Some people just love dressing up. They don't roleplay at all, they just wear the costume for enjoyment. For some, it is an uniform. For others, it is an expression of their identification with the character or race they are recreating. And others do it for the challenge of recreating the costume.
Steampunk is an entire movement built around costuming for the sheer fun of it.
Fans who Play together Stay together
Most of the deep, personal relationships I have developed with fans over the years has been between fans I have roleplayed with. We share an experience that is truly unique to the players who were there. Memories of events that are not replecatable in real life.
All these years later, I still run into people at the conventions who remeber the night my Taleison should have seen his reflection in the mirror and went mad. We talk about it like a moment from a movie or series that we loved, but our connection to the event is so much more personal because we were there when it happened.
So if you haven't before. I hightly recommend to gather up your friends and play a game with them. Feel free to choose the type, but make sure it is one that will build those memories that will last a lifetime.