A fellow Star Wars: The Old Republic personality and YouTuber SWTORista published a video on the basics of roleplay yesterday in her SWTOR Academy series of videos. As she does in all of the Academy videos, she outlines the basics of that aspect of the game. She explains how to makes a character, the differences between the types of venues, and how to go about roleplaying in the game itself. It’s a great video, but this critical question is beyond its scope: Why should you roleplay in the first place? I think I can answer it. Here’s why I think roleplay is important — for both the players and the developers.
I should state first that I don’t believe that roleplay is for everyone. When Star Wars Galaxies first started, I had a close friend who was a great gamer and even a wonderful social gamer. But when it came to immersing himself in a character and doing things that his character would do, he just couldn’t wrap his head around it. He tried, bless his heart. We even went so far as to try to get him to play a character that was a little odd to play off his particular idiosyncrasies. That didn’t work; he ended up licking the walls. At least his character did!
Despite issues with the rare person who just can’t wrap his head around it, there are many people who find a new level of fun, immersive storytelling when roleplaying a character in MMOs. I personally believe that the Star Wars Universe is one of the best to try it first because of plethora of lore to pull from. Even though in the end it wasn’t for him, my friend told me that when he first started to roleplay in SWG, he said that it felt like it was the reason that he started playing MMORPGs in the first place.
I don’t believe that you have to start jumping into roleplay at the cantina on the fleet pretending to be a Sith Lord looking to pick up a local Twi’lek dancer; your first step could be as simple as to write out a character backstory. How did your character come to be where he is now? Where was she born? Why did he end up in the Sith Academy in the first place? One of the great things about the SWTOR storylines is the amount of lore that you learn organically. And as the original lead writer for the game, Daniel Erickson, said before the game launched, the SWTOR story is set up so that the how and why of your arrival on Korriban is completely up to you. (I’m sure he said “absolutely” in there somewhere, too.) Maybe that’s a good place to start.
There is a new scientific study put out all the time; we hear on the news one day that chocolate will cure cancer, then two days later we hear that chocolate will cause cancer. Of course, that’s usually media outlets misreading the results of the study in the first place, so when Forbes says that creativity increases productivity, take it with a grain of salt. But I think the underlying truth is that creativity is good for the human psyche.
There are very few things especially in modern video games that sparks creativity like roleplay. Again, I’m not saying that you have to do anything super crazy; a character backstory, a foundation, is still creativity. There is something satisfying that you have created something that works.
I enjoy the Batman: Arkham series; I like BioShock. Both of those games have wonderful stories, and I will play them again and again. But there is nothing like making your own story, then sharing that story with other people around you. If you find a good group of roleplayers, they will help you create a story that is not just fun for you but also something that benefits other roleplayers as well. And that’s another side benefit of creativity: Creativity breeds more creativity.
This one’s mostly for the developers. Maybe it will encourage them to focus some time on the quality of life for roleplayers. Roleplayers are in a game for the long haul. In the midst of players demanding new raids, new PvP warzones, and more story, there is a quiet voice saying, “I’d be happy with chat bubbles.” That voice will be there for long time, and the reason that roleplayers will be in a given MMO for a long time is simple: They make their own content.
Most roleplayers will play through any new content. Many roleplayers that I know are avid PvPers as well, but ultimately, roleplayers will make their own content. I’ve done posts in the past about events that I spearheaded, and I’m far from the only one who does that kind of thing. Every roleplayer in his or her own way creates content. Some will go so far as creating events for large groups of people, but even the person who is roleplaying a bartender is important for creating an environment of immersion. All of them will stick with a game for a very long time — if the developers don’t neglect them.
As I mentioned, roleplaying has many benefits for the gamer and for the game itself. If you’re looking for a good how-to on roleplaying in SWTOR, then hit up SWTORista’s video, and if you’re looking for a great, welcoming server, then I would recommend Ebon Hawk, personally, but that’s only because I’ve not had that much experience on the other two large RP servers: Begeren Colony and The Progenitor. If you ever have any questions about roleplay, you can always hit me up on Twitter, I make my best effort to address anyone who asks a question there or in the comments below.