February 18, 2011

Everyone is a Role-Player

I have this running theory that everyone, even those who do not play RPG games or perhaps even scoff at the notion of RPG games is a role-player. I don’t mean someone who plays sex games where ‘I’m the wounded soldier and you’re the nurse’. I also don’t mean a person who pretends to be something they are not to gain an advantage over someone else, like the “lawyer” at the dance club hitting on women.

No, I mean people who pretend to be someone else for the entertainment of other people. Sure, they may not be rolling dice or have a book that details what their character can and can not do, but almost everyone on the planet (or at least the people I have run into) do some form of role-playing that could be construed as playing in an RPG. Almost a form of ad-lib role-playing, similar to ad-lib comedy.

Here are some examples I have run into:

-Vic at work has taken to saying some cryptic message to me as he leaves work for the day. They are all “spy” comments, like he is a secret agent leaving on assignment. Things like “If someone calls for me, tell them ‘the weasel has climbed the mountain’” or “If the President calls tell him ‘I’ll be on the jet shortly and I’m on the way’”. The other day he had a package delivered to him at work, a bird feeder that sends a shock to non-birds, such as the squirrels that were raiding his old feeder. He went into a mad scientist voice and starting talking about how the squirrels would soon be suffering.

-Gerry at work used to be a radio announcer and he will do these silly voices at various times of the day, especially if he is on the phone. Cartoon characters are his favorite. But he readily slips into his radio announcer voice at multiple times a day.

-Beth is a friend who does roller-derby. She and her teammates all pick names for themselves and add personalities to them. She herself is Irate Pirate and she carries off the pirate motif. All the other girls do something similar.

-Scott at work was talking politics and went into some voices to better illustrate his points, going from a pompous voice to a hick voice.

-Matt and I at work have been playing whereby we are both evil masterminds out to out-evil each other. We talk about how our minions have laid traps for the other (only to fail), about how his legitimate sick-day out was in fact caused by the poison I introduced into his drink the day before, etc.

These are all people who do not play role-playing games, and yet they do much of the same things we all see at a gaming table. I will admit that perhaps my willingness to play along may be a factor in other people doing some role-play. My willingness to be silly and role-play affords them some comfort and safety so that they feel comfortable being silly and role-playing as well. However, role-playing is what they are doing.

Look around you and you will see people role-playing even if they don’t know they are doing it. Just because they are not using dice does not mean they are not role-playing. Have you seen similar things?
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