Talking like they did in days of yore: “Hey bitch, gimme buffs”

A friend of mine pointed me to Greg Costikyan’s blog:

Anyway I found this snippet on his blog:

Player 1: hey bitch gimme buffs

Player 2: Sirrah! Dost thou address a lady thus?

Player 2 is roleplaying; Player 1 is not.

This is a popular view among online “roleplayers”. However, I’d argue that Player1 is roleplaying AT LEAST to the degree that player 2 is.

Consider you are in a life and death situation and you need to cooperate with people who have widely different abilities which you may not understand. And you need to do it quickly.

Surely one would develop shorthand methods of communication, such as:

“Buff me”

Yet, we do not see this in Fantasy (and hardly even in SF) literature.

Similarly, you’d expect people to develop vocabulary for communicating about the intricacies of fighting strange beasts with magic, bows, and so forth:

“Mez the one on the left”

The fact is that people who play online RPGs competently and well have to play “out of character” in order to play competently. This implies that playing “in character” would be idiotic for people in the actual situation.

We would expect Aragorn to have a conversation with Gandalf such as:

“OK wizard. Tell me what you can do. How much range do your offensive spells have? How accurate are they? Can they be resisted? How much damage do they do? Can you fly? Can you deflect arrows? How many spells can you cast before you become exhausted? How quickly can you cast spells? Is there any defense against your spells? Do you have any spells to ward off Nazgul?”

Or at the very least we’d expect evidence of such conversations having taken place in the past…

“Could you hit it with a zinger like the one you killed the troll with back in Umbar?”

It may be out of character for a player to say “You should use your two handed sword coz it does three to eighteen against giants”, but it should not be out of character for a player to express something along those lines. Whether they talk like a pseudo medieval ponce or not is simply a matter of style. “Hey bitch gimme buffs” is hardly less “medieval” than “Sirrah! Dost thou address a lady thus?” except for the word “buffs”, for which no “in character” equivalent is available. Most of the vocabulary used by l33t players is pretty close to medieval in origin — assuming medieval is what you’re going for.

In general, EverQuest and games like it are far more immersive than paper games, for example, ever were. Players aren’t free to prattle on, talk “in character”, crack jokes, and quote Monty Python in the midst of combat. Thus the way they (we) communicate in the heat of battle is perforce more “in character” than the crap that passes for “in character” conversation in paper gaming. Indeed, the player who says “Gimme buffs bitch” is speaking teen l33t online English, but were this to be translated into the Elvish or middle English or whatever language the people in your fantasy setting are supposed to be speaking, it would be perfectly in character. To argue that one must speak idiotic pseudo medieval English to be truly roleplaying is simply silly.

If you want to look for examples of poor roleplaying online, it’s easy. Remarks like:

“That new Trek film reeked”

“Did you see Buffy the Vampire slayer last night? God am I sick of Tara.”

“Who’s going to the Las Vegas Fan Fare?”

are not role-playing.