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Posts with tag puppeteering

All the World's a Stage: Oh the drama! -- When to "/ignore"

All the World's a Stage is a weekly column by David Bowers, published on Sunday evenings, investigating the explorative performance art of roleplaying in the World of Warcraft.

We've talked before about roleplaying as an art form, whether you think about it as acting or puppeteering, fiction or improv, there's definitely something creative going on here. But like any art form, roleplaying is best when it means something; that's to say, when it expresses something ultimately "true" about human experience, and perhaps even illumines the minds and hearts of the roleplayers in some way.

Roleplayers all want to achieve that creativity, of course, but one problem often stands in our way: it's a rare work of art that really works for everyone. That's why the regular old art world is such a complete mess -- one man's fingerpainting is another man's post-modernist masterpiece. People constantly disagree about what subjects make for acceptable art, whether some art pushes extremes too far and becomes obscenity, and whether real art actually requires talent and skill. One person may curl up with their favorite Jane Austen novel and read it for the 10th time, while another may come home from the comic book store with the epic adventures of the Bone cousins. Each story conveys very different things to the reader -- but then the people who want to read these stories are looking for different things to get out them as well. Each form of storytelling speaks its own language for its own special audience.

We have the same problem in roleplaying. To illustrate, imagine there's a teenage boy going through public school and not getting along with his peers very well. When he roleplays, he plays an intimidating character who likes to try to get in your face, pick a fight with you and insult you to show how very powerful he is. That power fantasy may be very annoying for you and me, but for him it really means something. That's not to say it's high-quality art by any means, but nonetheless, his feelings are important too, and he has his right to play a character on an RP server the same way we all do. It's just that for us, the "/ignore" command starts to look really tempting every time his sort comes along.

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Filed under: Virtual selves, Lore, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

Roleplaying is like puppeteering

Jim Moreno writes quite a bit about roleplaying. For a long time he kept his own blog about the subject, and now he writes a special column about roleplaying for WoW WarCry, which precedes and in many ways inspired WoW Insider's own roleplaying column, All the World's a Stage. Jim's latest article struck me with an excellent point: roleplaying has often been compared to acting -- by myself no less -- when in fact it is closer to the art of puppeteering.

He cites Jim Henson and Frank Oz as two of the best roleplayers ever, even though neither of them is known to have actually played roleplaying games. Both of them, however, used alternate physical bodies -- their puppets -- to tell stories and convey their characters to their audience, whereas regular actors would have used their own bodies and faces to portray their characters, no matter how different they are from one another. The example from Jim's article that stands out most in my mind is that of Yoda telling Luke, "There is no try, there is only do," conveying so clearly who this person Yoda is, what he stands for, what he talks, moves and looks like without ever giving a hint that the whole thing is just a "puppet with Frank Oz's hand sticking up his butt."

Roleplaying, Jim says, is just the same. Instead of acting with our own bodies, we use the digital avatars that Blizzard has designed for us: we customize our characters with different abilities and appearances, but more than that, we give them actions and words that distinguish them as believable people, just like puppeteers do. A superb roleplayer can do what Frank Oz and Jim Henson did, only on a smaller scale; he can convey a sense of true depth, a human story, using a virtual puppet made of ones and zeros rather than cloth and plastics.
This is just another example of how "roleplaying" is just a new form of the same basic creative endeavors that have been around for millennia. Someone who gets "freaked out" by roleplaying might as well get freaked out by Miss Piggy and the Cookie Monster, because roleplaying is basically just an adaptation of the puppeteering concept in a modern technological environment.

Filed under: Virtual selves, RP

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