So, if people go in an immersive role-play environment (such as for instance the Gorean role-play of the Star Wars role-play of Second Life, which both provides on regular basis excellent examples of role-play, and excellent examples of drama), it is arguably to do role-play. In other words, to enact “imaginary” characters in an “imaginary” setting, the setting usually being derived from a science-fiction, fantasy, or historical universe. Role-playing is not a new activity, but the visual support of immersive interfaces such as Second Life, it becomes even more enjoyable. However, the bases are the same than for any of the old table role-play games. With a few exceptions.
First, in a table role-play game, one of the player is the “game-master”, or “story teller”, the one who tells the story and describe the setting so other can inhabit it. In an immersive non-directed environment such as Second Life, there is not such a thing. Role-play SIMs will have Admin (people with out of character powers, having a “out-of-character” police role, such as kicking or banning the griefers, and so on), and GM (“game masters”, whose role is mostly to settle the numerous disputes between players). And indeed, there are a lot (but really A LOT) of disputes between players it seems … Second, in a table role-play game, you KNOW or at least see the real players behind the characters … those players are your friends, you are altogether to “enjoy” a pleasant time and construct a common story. Well, in an immersive role-play environment, it should be the same. But it seems it is not the case.
Indeed, more than often, some disputes emerge between the players. Most of the time it is based on the fact that people put themselves in opposition to each others, and that, like in real life, nobody really wants to be the loosing one. But if there is a conflict, somebody is likely to loose. And then, things go to drama. My character is stronger, no it is mine, and so on and so on … Using a “meter” (an attachment adding some systems of life points to bring more realism to the role-play fights, and used theoretically to remove drama: if you lost the metered fight, you lost it) does not prevent drama to occur AT ALL. I would think that drama comes even more commonly in the SIMs heavily using meters (but that is just a feeling from an “observer” point of view). The current answer against someone calling you to create drama is that this people is “Godmoding” (playing a character with God-like powers: my character is too strong, I can not lose, I can not be beaten, etc …). Or “Metagaming” (using information and knowledge your character is not supposed to have to foster your character purpose … for instance, reading the Tags or profile of the other characters … if your opponent write in his profile: I am a Vampire, directly attacking him with Holy Water or any kind of weapon supposed to damage a vampire without giving him the chance to actually give you role-play clues suggesting he may actually be a vampire).
But now the question remains … if everybody comes to enjoy, why this need to show that you are the strongest? And why this need to develop your character at the expense of others (who come here for the very same reason somehow)? That is simply fascinating me really … Something even more interesting that I observed a few time … When a new comer steps out of character in main chat in a role-play SIM, immediately, dozen of GM, Admins, and older players will rush at him. If they are nice, the new comer will receive a full lecture on how to role-play (by people who may actually not have such amazing role-play skills … for having observed kind of a lot of role-play settings and situations over the last few years, I am always surprised to notice that those who come to you to claim: “I can give you some advices on how to role-play” are often not the best role-players). But more than often, they will simply threaten the new comer with a kick or even a ban.
However, and that strikes me by the contrast, I observed a few times that when people get very respected in a role-play SIM, they can freely step out of character. And then, everybody in the SIM seems to applause with two hands: “Look, he (or she) is such a REAL role-player, he can allow to go OOC” (huh? That’s against SIM rules, no? What if I go OOC? Oh, right, I am not a good role-player).
I somehow would be very interested to study this phenomenon. What happens exactly during the inter-individual exchange process … What are the initial steps of a drama situation … usually they do not resolve nicely (people seems to get durably hurt by drama), so how could we find ways to reduce the negative side effect of such conflict-related resolutions? But then, how to experimentally study drama without interefering with the process? (an observer can hardly come and ask people: Hey, guys, fancy for a bit of drama? Let’s go, I observe you!).
Any suggestion welcome …