Pretendy Fun-Time Games and You: An Introduction

Hello, hello! And welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere.

I’m SE Lenair, one of several different names that I’ve gone through since my start on the internet — which is rather the point of this column, in truth. The world wide web’s been something of a constant in my life since I can remember, and as I’ve grown surrounded by it, my various interests have led me to assume different handles and monickers. Anonymity is a tricky thing to accomplish, and screen names usually make that easier for everyone involved. It’s odd to think that going by ten different names is seen as strange, as doing so has always been a constant in my life.

Why is this? Gaming, mostly. Communities that surround video games and similar media have always relied on handles in order to keep anything questionable from happening to their user base. As wonderful as the internet’s been for allowing people to find friendships around the globe, so too does it open seedy avenues for awful people to spew said awful behavior at folks that don’t deserve it — so it’s better that wolfpumpkin43 isn’t recognized as 13-year-old Suzie in South Carolina. The blanket usernames present is important, because the safer someone feels to express themselves, the better. (Though this can go in the opposite direction for some, which is another facet I plan on discussing.)

That personal expression within video games and their respective player bases is where I’m focused. Players express themselves in multiple ways: fanfiction and fan art being the top contenders. But there’s another form of fan creation which caught my interests eleven years ago: the idea of creating a character that fits within the universe presented by the game and then playing as that character. And forming interpersonal relationships with other people who are playing as their character.

In video games like Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), one becomes an active participant in a world filled with other active participants from around the world. Though this is possible in console games such as First Person Shooters and the like, those games are often limited to completing an objective with others. Unless you’re on a team, you don’t really hang out with other people after everything’s said and done. MMORPGs, in contrast, provide a water cooler effect: there are dungeons with bosses to conquer and battlegrounds to beat, but after that there’s an overworld in which you constantly run into other players. It’s not unusual to end up chatting with others or partying up with them to do things in the overworld, be it questing or simply standing around and chatting.

Because of that interaction, MMORPGs have become something of a staging ground for a select niche of the player base. Roleplayers, people who create a character and then act out that persona with others, use MMORPG worlds to build upon the spark of a character idea. Typically, people make their characters to fit within the confines of established lore because it’s fun to do so. Because MMORPGs tend to have a fantasy bent (barring the advent of sci-fi MMOs which have become a wonderful thing in the last couple years), it’s no different than sitting around a table with five other people to play a session of Dungeons and Dragons.

The difference, of course, is that you’re sitting down at a table and playing with an upwards of twenty million people.

So with that explanation out of the way, my focus is going to be on the creation of these original characters (OCs) and the different facets roleplaying player bases have within the greater fanbase. It’s an ever-changing thing, in truth, due mostly to the player base of MMORPGs rising in age. I’ve been playing MMOs for eleven years and roleplaying for much longer, so I like to think I have a grip on these concepts. Of course I’ll be tying my topics to other fan expressions such as fanfiction and the creation of original characters within that medium as juxtaposed with MMORPGs. As I’m female, my work will be dedicated to other women who create and express themselves within this medium.

With that said, my first topic I’ll be tackling is the ill-famed and much-maligned archetype of the Mary Sue. For those who don’t know what that is, the best way to explain it is to call it a character created by a fan to fit into the universe for the express purpose of being beloved by it.

I hope you’ll enjoy it! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please shoot them my way.