Posted by: Sean | February 3, 2009

Show your emotions!

I know it’s a mantra we repeat here at a lot at Blogatelle: Show, don’t tell. But it’s a worthwhile one; every writing student learns it first up. Offworld recently observed that Valve’s reputation for excellent videogame storytelling really boils down to just simple old observation of this rule – Their stories are actually not that great, but they tell them well by relying on dialogue as little as possible and making the story happen in front of you.

In this vein, I’d like to take a bit of time to excoriate anyone who puts in their ‘current emotion’ in their role-play flag. I think one of them has a specific field for this (might be ImmersionRP, but I forget) and I know I see a lot of FlagRSP users whack it in there at the bottom of their descriptions.

It’s not that I don’t understanding the motivation here. People come and go into your role-play all the time and you want them to know what you’re feeling, what the tone of your role-play is. But even so, guys, there’s better ways to do this. Just a simple emote can pretty much show others every emotion you could ever need to know, and doing it this way is (a) More visceral and (b) Lets the other player respond directly to the signs of your emotion. It’s all around a much better choice.

Ideally, I’d have a much longer list here, but it’s actually hard coming up with lots of emotions. Here would be my first thought on every emotion I can think of, a swift emote that lets everyone around you know how you’re feeling. If you have any more emotions you’d like me to try, leave me a comment.

Cheerful: /me has a big grin plastered to her face and just can’t get rid of it.
Sad: /me slumps his shoulders and sighs.
Excited: /me hops around, unable to stay still.
Depressed: /me hangs his head and looks at the ground, not even bothering to make eye contact.
Disbelieving/Surprised: /me has her eyes wide open, and speaks breathlessly.
Angry: /me clenches his fists and growls softly.
Proud: /me tosses her head back, stands up to her full height and smiles.
Frightened: /me seems to curl up into his shell, hunching his shoulders inward and folding his arms.

If you’re wondering, yes, some of these could be misinterpreted. “Frightened” could also be “ashamed”. But to me, that’s not a bug, that’s a feature. People can and do misread emotions all the time. And if you build your emotion into everything you do and say (a frightened character may also stutter, their teeth chattering) you’ll not only be more impressive with your emotions than a simple flag would, but you’ll improve in your characterisation skills.

Indeed, every paragraph in this post begins with the letter I.

I don’t know why.

It just amused me to do so.


  1. The I’s sure have it in this entry haha! 😀

    But really, you make a good point. As using emotes is a much better and more expressive way of showing your current state than using FlagRSP or something similar.

  2. My God! If I follow the first letter of each paragraph, there’s a secret message!

    Translated: “IIIIIIII”

    … Hokay, so, maybe not such a great “secret” after all.

    In all seriousness, though, this is a great post for anyone who likes to use the /me emote editor. Way to add some serious depth!

  3. It bugs me too when I see emotions in RSP descriptions (It’s MyRoleplay that has the field for it), mostly because people forget to change them (You quite often see someone RPing that they’re miserable and angry, while their description shows them with a smile), and also because it allows a certain amount of laziness.

    Plus, there’s the whole cliche of “Soandso looks happy, but you can see a deep pain/sadness/misery hidden in their eyes.”

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