Advice on how to use Twitter to write, network with other writers, and learn about the writing business.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What To Do If You Meet a Role Player

If you tweet a character, one of the things you will run into is role players. They refer to themselves as RPGs. There is quite a subculture of them on Twitter. These are people who will take a character from a television show or book and interact with others and create a storyline. At first glance, it might seem like a silly game, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It has very specific and complex rules of engagement which are carefully followed so the whole thing doesn’t collapse in chaos and bickering.

RESPECT THE ROLE PLAYERS. Why? Well for one thing Twitter doesn’t even acknowledge them. (Of course, they don't acknowledge people writing on Twitter either.) I have yet to see any of the “experts” on Twitter mention RPGs. Considering the high turn over rate on Twitter (70%), Twitter should be fawning over these people. They found something to keep them on Twitter.

Recently Twitter put a limit on how many tweets you could do an hour. RPGs were being tossed in “Twitter Jail” for a time out--their feed was frozen and they couldn’t tweet for an hour. I’m sure this was aimed at spammers, but it was the RPGs who suffered. Role Players don’t hurt anyone.

If they see you tweeting a fictional character, they will assume you are role playing. One will shyly say “Hi”. You could ignore them, but why not say hi back. I can’t really play without compromising my world, but that doesn’t mean Wendell can’t interact at all. Wendell suspects that Twitter has tapped into a multiverse and can somehow talk to other dimensions. One thing about Role Players is they are very polite and they will respect your character and your world.

If you accidentally step on toes, apologize and type DM. That tells them to go to Direct Message. There you can profess your ignorance and give them a chance to explain what you did wrong. They aren’t trying to be hard nosed, but this is a culture where rules--well, rule. The biggest taboo is manipulating someone else’s character in any way. You can’t put words into the mouth of someone else’s character without their permission. It doesn’t matter that the character is copyrighted. “@OverActingKirk” belongs to that RPG and that RPG alone. Get your own Captain Kirk!

In the grand scheme of things Role Players have no recourse if you treat them with no regard. You could do whatever you like with their character and they couldn’t stop you. They have no power. They know that. All the more reason to apologize if you make a mistake. All the more reason to give them some respect. Nobody likes a bully.

Besides if you ignore RPGs you’ll miss out on some fun. Maybe Wendell can’t join the in the game directly, but he’s had some interesting interactions. Wendell has gotten tea brewing advice from a Professor Severus Snape from Hogwarts, had philosophical discussions with more than one Doctor, picked up an original edition Frankenstein for a Trip Tucker on the U.S.S. Enterprise, and tried to teach manners to the Cookie Monster, and was instead taught manners by him.

Role playing is a bit like impromptu acting, except it’s impromptu writing. It’s not a bad exercise for a writer. If you decide to start an account to play along, you might want to look at these two sites which discuss rules: Roleplay Online or Consent Rules More than one writer has developed a character role playing. Take a character you are working with and throw him into a situation you can’t control and see how he will react.

Don’t assume Role Players are just a bunch of kids. You have no idea who is behind that avatar. They could be anyone. Treat all of them like they were people of power who will remember you, and make or break your career. If nothing else, these people obviously read books. They might even read yours.

Trek FM's Captain's Log has an article on the U.S.S. Enterprise of Twitter: Twitterfic: Role Players Explore Strange New Worlds On Twitter. It goes into more detail explaining what's going on, and even how to join in.

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