The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo. Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT. All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions.
Tal and greetings,
I usually start a talk like this by going to an online dictionary and posting a definition to give me a focus, but when i went to find a definition of the term “role play”, I was a bit frustrated. I was actually reminded of a rather funny event that took place back on Earth years ago.
The company where I was employed had begun a formal training program that featured examinations that had to be passed prior to any advancement, and on one of the first tests, I found this interesting question.
1. What is the purpose of the Bearing cooling water system?
I actually struggled over this one for a bit. I wanted to respond with the “duh” answer, but feared it was some sort of trick question. I eventually gave in and wrote:
The purpose of the Bearing Cooling water system is to cool bearings with water.
Which was the correct answer.
I was reminded of this because it appears that the best I could come up with as a definition for Role play was “to play a role.”
After a bit of digging, I feel comfortable dividing role play into three major divisions. First, there is the type that would best described as having a “role” in a play. You assume the attributes of a character that could very well be totally different than how you actually think, act, or feel. The role you play is not you, and in a free form role play situation like happens in, for example, a Second Life role play sim, you have to try to imagine how this character would behave in a given situation.
The second type of role play also puts you in a situation where you are unable to just be yourself, but must assume the attributes and attitudes of someone else. But, this type of role play is a training tool and not an play or story, but rather a training device. For example, you might play the role of an employer dealing with employees, or maybe the opposite sex in a relationship. The purpose of this type of role play is to give you some idea of how someone else might be seeing or dealing with a particular situation.
The third type of role play in totally situational. It puts “you” in a different place and sometimes even a different time and allows you to act out how you might behave. This is also used for training purposes, such as soldiers training.
I remember one such interesting role play from my military days. A large cinderblock city was built. Some of the buildings were four or five stories tall, and my squad was attacking the city, while a rival squad was defending it. We all wore “miles gear” which was a system that used laser beams from our rifles, to trigger an alarm on the gear we wore, indicating we had been hit.
On this particular day, I was the squad leader and led the attacks on ten different attacks on the city. Some were successful, and some were not, but the common denominator in all the attacks was that I did not “survive” even one of them. No matter how hard I tried, the fact that I was the leader, and giving the orders, and directing the attack, drew the fire of the enemy, and my gear started beeping out the fact I was toast.
My point is that the role play had purpose. It was teaching me some hard truths, and giving me a chance to develop coping skills to deal with them.
In the class last week, we talked about how many people came to second life and saw within it a perfect chance to play a role play game. I called it: playing a game within the game. We admitted that role play games were not the intent of Linden Labs when they introduced Second Life, but rather they were providing a blank platform for people to interact with other people, and a lot of people used that platform to create role play stories and games.
If, indeed, Second Life was a blank platform where users could create whatever they wished to create, they had every right to create whatever they wished, and also, to be whoever they wished to be. The famous saying was: ” It is my Second Life, and I can do whatever i want to do.”
When I think of the immensity of Second Life and all the different things being done within it, I can see that this approach is fine, and no one can really present any logical arguments against it. But, it was never going to work in Second Life Gor. It was not going to work because online Gor was, from the very beginning, defined more as a community than a game. Its origins were in real people, with an interest in the Gorean novels, interacting and sharing insights with other real people. You could call it a massive fan club that suddenly had the ability to reach like minded people globally.
And when people decided it was going to be a fun venue to play a game within the game, they were faced with the choice of what sort of game they were going to play. Would they approach it like the soldiers attacking the cinderblock city, or would they approach it more like actors in a play. In other words, would they be themselves in a different time and place, or would they be someone else in a different time and place?
The people who selected the first approach adapted a three letter code to identify when they were real and when they not real. They called it OOC. Out of Character. When they were faking it, they were IC, and when they were being themselves, they were OOC. A sensible system that should have worked. But, it didn’t.
What it did was open the door to confusion, predatory behavior, emotional abuse, disappointment, disillusionment, and a divided community that had to continually put warning messages in profiles proclaiming that “remember there are real people behind the keyboard with real feelings and emotions.”
If Second Life Gorean rp was conducted in a separate place, and engaged in by a group of players fully aware of what they were doing, and why, there would not have been much of a problem. When you walk through a doorway with a warning sign that says “Danger” and you are fully aware of that danger, but chose to play anyway, whatever happens, happens, and you have little room to complain.
But, it never had that separation, and even as we welcomed new people into the community, we did so with no clear message. We were like the blind men describing an elephant based on the part they touched. Some touched the legs, and said an elephant was like a tree, and some touched the trunk and said an elephant was like a snake.
So, new people were going to think Second Life Gor was whatever the first people they encountered claimed it was like based on their own interpretation of it. And as we have pointed out in this seminar, a majority of people were coming to Gor for the original reasons. They were seeking like minded people who understood the powerful emotions involved in the message John Norman was presenting in the novels.
And because of this conflict in intent and motivation, OOC often became an excuse for people to engage in the most despicable type of behavior. It was the predators excuse. “Oh, I am not really a lying evil asshole mind fucking some submissive for kicks. It is just RP.”
As long as I have been in online Gor, there has been a conflict between those called lifestylers and those called role players. At times, it is has been bitter and uncompromising. It has led to a shattered and splintered community and disappointed and frustrated people.
The problem is that neither of those words has any cognitive meaning anymore. Everyone who says “lifestyle” means something a little different by it, and everyone who says rp’er means something a little different by it. And thus neither word means anything other than what it’s user intends it to mean, and it has no value as communication.
It is my opinion that the only long term solution to this is to accept the idea that if we want to “play a role, and be someone we are not, just for fun”, we need to do it somewhere else. The Gorean ethos is all about the idea that we are who and what we are, and we should be busy discovering the truth and reality of it, and trying to be true to that. The idea that we can be who we want to be is the modern mantra of Earth society and it is the Anti-Gor.
Coming to online Gor, and reading the books carefully, and then pretending to be someone totally different than yourself makes as much sense as role playing Policemen by robbing banks, or role playing soldiers by attacking your own homes. It is the total opposite of what Gor has to offer and what it is trying to teach.
Second Life is, by definition, all role play. We are not our avatars, and we are not running around Gor. We are in an alternative universe, and that is an amazing thing in itself.. If we want to continue to grow, and if we want to gain benefits from our participation, and even if we want to have real fun, we need to come here as ourselves , real people behind our keyboards, but interacting in a different place, and a different time.
If your idea of fun is deceiving people and pretending to be something you are not and have no chance of ever becoming, then you should be seeking your fun elsewhere.
The problem is how do we enforce this? How do we establish and maintain community standards of any kind. Is it even possible to do so? Is Second Life already too much a reflection of everything wrong with Earth, of everything the Gorean novels were trying to tell us of how we were going astray? Is it really possible to create a Counter-Earth?