We all know the basic gist of what constitutes “good manners” on an online game like World of Warcraft: no ganking, no ninjaing, all that sort of thing. We’re advised on our loading screens to speak to people before we invite them to a party, or open trade with them, and most of us don’t much like it when people spam in /yell, so we avoid doing that in turn.
Now, something of a problem arises when you’re playing a character who is, by design, very rude. I know that there are those who feel that they have nothing to apologise for in that case, and about 99% of the time I agree – if your character is not the nicest of people, you shouldn’t feel obligated to make a big deal about it out of character. However, the problem with roleplaying on World of Warcraft is that for every roleplayer, it seems like there’s about four people who aren’t roleplayers – how do you make it clear that you’re a roleplayer whose character is being rude, rather than just a rude non-roleplayer, in those first few moments when you run into someone?
Well, the most notable one is, of course, to just roleplay it. It’s not exactly all new advice – don’t just jump in and start mining someone else’s node without saying a word if you want to roleplay your character jumping in on someone else. Actually roleplay something – emote what you’re doing, or say something.
Of course, one, that takes up quite a bit of time, and two, it seems a bit silly to emote ‘/e jumps up and starts mining the same spot’ when you’re very clearly jumping up and mining the same spot. The first complaint I have little sympathy for; unless it’s a dangerous situation, there’s no need to claim that roleplay takes too long, as that’s why we’re here (in theory). The second point, though, is a good one – how do you get across quickly that your intentions are as a roleplayer, not as a random jerk, without being redundant or otherwise coming across poorly?
The simplest way would be to address the other person, in some way. Say something, glare at them, look their way suspiciously, challengingly… actually try to involve them. You’re never going to get much in the way of roleplay if you don’t try to involve other people, and especially not if you’re playing in a way some people would see as quite rude without making any attempt to engage the other person in the process.
After all, that’s the key thing about roleplay – it’s not about making your character known and then moving on very quickly. It’s about engaging other people in some way. It’s not good roleplay to run in, steal someone else’s mining node (or whatever other action you’re doing) and then just run away, even if this is perfectly in-character for you. It’s not giving anyone else anything to play off, and it’s not engaging anybody. In addition to being rude for gameplay reasons, it’s inappropriate from a roleplay standpoint.
Now, let’s say you jump up, glare at them suspiciously and then start mining away at their node; that actually engages them and allows them some way to respond. Now, of course, whether they pick up on that is another matter – there’s going to be plenty of times where the other person isn’t a roleplayer, or when they can’t think of a decent response to that. However, on plenty of occasions, they’ll be able to step in and glare at you back, or scold you for honing in on their territory.
In other words, it’s perfectly alright to roleplay being a jerk, provided that in doing so you give the other people something to play off; that ‘something’ can be quite small, but as long as you give them a hook, you’ve given them a way to get back in and actually get a roleplay out of it. Just jumping in and running off under the explanation that you play a jerky character isn’t enough; it’s not roleplay unless you can get some communication going.
Even iffy communication.