There are so many things that have been introduced to me in Second Life. And so often I have started out thinking "I just don't get that." One of those things is role playing (RP). At first I just did not get it! But I am starting to, and even drawn to it.
To me role playing had two connotations before my SL began. Both were yucky. 1. Sex games that involve women in demeaning dress up - scantily clad nurses or housekeepers, 2. Embarrassing activities in college, in which unlucky students make fools of themselves in an effort to demonstrate the instructor's elusive point.
While I was intrigued by the phenomenon of Dungeons and Dragons, I never played it, and could not really even imagine it. I have never acted in a play, never enjoyed participating in skits (because of afore mentioned embarrassing college classes), never required my students to act out social skills (for same reason), never took a course in clowning or improv, or tap dance (at least not since I was 6). While I write a lot, I never have felt I could write creatively, with characters and dialog and scenes and imagined conflict and resolution. I never dress up on Halloween.
But I love to read fiction. I enjoy a good series - in which I can follow the life of a person through a variety of adventures. I can immerse myself in fantasy and science fiction, can imagine being a member of the crew, the love interest, the tortured protagonist.
Aren't all of these part of the same phenomenon. Don't we all have ways in which we enjoy leaving the grind of day to day life behind and become someone else, the protagonist in our own screenplay?
In Second Life I am role playing all the time. Esme is my protagonist. Her costume changes are arranged not in her wardrobe but (strewn about) in her inventory. She plays the welcoming docent at ISTE headquarters on Tuesdays, she is the cheerful tour guide on Sundays. Every other Saturday she is the wise teacher. And at the times in between she is the bold adventurer, traveling solo to foreign lands, talking to the strange natives.
How is this different from librarians and Shakespearean scholars who dress in period clothes and speak middle English on Renaissance Island, or the romantics who court at Avillion, or the waring gangs that gather on street corners in Toxian City.
The people I have met in RP sims have not been sick or creepy. They have been interesting and usually kind. Whether toting a scroll, an healing potion or a deadly sword, each is simply writing her own novel, playing dress-up, clowning around, having fun, immersing herself in something that will free her, however fleetingly from the stuff of everyday. And it looks like fun.