My New Hobby

My new pastime when bored (and online) is typing names of random fictional characters into Twitter.

No really, there’s a surprising amount of roleplaying going on there. People create accounts under the names of their favourite characters and … go ahead and act in character. I remember seeing this on Facebook and MySpace too. And you’d have to be blind not to see the similarities with logging into an MMO, or any virtual world, under a new character name.

It probably was rife in IRC, webmail and just about any online forum that lets you pick your own name and id when you create an account also. I remember there was once a guy on rpg.net who used to RP being Her Majesty the Queen. I don’t know why exactly but it was very entertaining.

I wonder if wanting to roleplay when given the opportunity to pretend to be someone else is a basic (and emergent) part of human nature — it just never surfaced before because we didn’t have the means to easily take on different identities.

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5 thoughts on “My New Hobby

  1. It’s normal behaviour in children. They watch Star Wars then run off and re-enact it. I’ll be Luke, you can be Leia and Dave can be the Wookie. [Insert “why do I have to be the Wookie?” whine here].

    The wierd thing about roleplay is that there are so few adult outlets.

    Acting used to be an outlet for roleplay back in the days of Shakespearean theatre when actors often didn’t learn the lines and made up something good as they went along. (Part of why The Bard wrote so well is he had to convince the actors to remember his stuff rather than just make up their own!).

    Roleplay is used in business training as a key to understanding what you might feel like in different situations (like having an angry customer harangue you).

    And of course it’s a niche hobby for gamers.

    But it is kind of wierd that something that is absolutely universal in young children finds such restricted expression in adult activities.

  2. Indeed, my little girl assumes identities willy nilly, sometimes jumping between identities in a matter of seconds. She loves it, and she can tell stories and have a blast with it, even if nobody but her understands what is going on. Even when she has me tell her bedtime stories, she “directs” the story by changing the lead character’s identity (who is usually named after her, but can be anything from a blue koala that lives in a rock to a frog whose best friend is a llama).

    Children learn by indulging whimsy. Interestingly, so do artists and even scientists. We just have to deal with “reality” a bit more concretely than kids, so we’re naturally more grounded, just by necessity.

  3. I would call your hobby strange, but that would sound critical and what’s so bad about strange?

    @Stabs: It is sad that there is rarely a distinction given to “actions of a child” and “acting childish.” RP is something children do, but not adults because it is regarded as childish. It is only so because we say it is. Children eat and sleep, should adults stop in reaction? Those are necessities, so too may be non-nonsensical play.

    @Tesh: Reality is overrated.

  4. Heh, no argument there. We just have to deal with it, that’s all. ;)

    Oh, and there is a difference between “childish” and “childlike”. Childish behavior is selfish, foolish, ignorant and rude. Childlike behavior is innocent, experimental and fun-loving. Nonsensical play is a healthy thing for all ages, methinketh, but acting like a jerk (“childish”) is rightfully something that we should grow out of.

  5. Heh, sounds like a fun Twitter game. I noticed they started adding little ticks beside people’s name to certify that they are the true person they claim to be. No idea how they check but at least it stops us following imposters :)

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