When it comes to learning to write, I find there’s no better place than the roleplay community in MMOs. Be it World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 or any sort of massive congregation of people all playing the same video game, you can bet that there will be a large group of people hanging out at the tavern. How exactly does roleplay make you a better writer though? Well, there’s a little more to it than simply saying it gives you experience writing.
This is likely the most no-brainer of the group, but roleplay will quickly and surely hone your grammar and spelling skills when it comes to writing things. When I first started at the young age of twelve or so, my spelling and grammar were a mess. It’s to be expected, however. I had never touched anything even remotely like roleplay, and my previous writings were done on pen-and-paper with only the look over of my parents.
Not only will you learn through osmosis and interacting with others but you’ll quickly get critiqued about your writing, be it verbal or non-verbal. Maybe your edgy demon hunter with the most tragic backstory filled with death, murder and spelling errors doesn’t get any play? Conversely, maybe your earnest-yet-bumbling dwarven shaman sees all manner of interaction and is routinely praised by others.
Roleplayers are a community, and, like any community, you learn as you go. Sure, nobody is going to start as a roleplayer in their prime, but it’s something that everyone will pick up as they continue to roleplay. Don’t be intimidated! Even that verbose engineer started as someone putting emotes in their text.
On a less obvious note, roleplay will teach you basic storytelling. Sure, it’s not to the caliber of something like the Odyssey or the Iliad, but you’ll learn to pace yourself. Storytelling requires all manner of parts, from softer and quiet moments to character developing moments to tragic events and somber realizations. If you spend all your time roleplaying with your girlfriend about how much you love each other, nothing gets accomplished now does it?
You might argue that this is obvious even in storytelling, but it becomes exacerbated when it comes to roleplaying with another person. You notice patterns, you notice repeats and you’ll notice when things don’t seem to move. Static characters are something most-often avoided, and these small things will add up over time.
Roleplay is great at teaching you the basics of character building and making coherent stories, as well as showing you faults and errors in your own writing that others can help you fix or correct. Speaking of others in roleplay…
Unlike writing your own work or writing in a completely unique world, roleplay will teach you how to work with others and the finer points of creating writing in an existing world. This is especially useful if you want to write for video games, as nine-out-of-ten times you’ll be working with a setting you yourself didn’t create and characters that you either didn’t create or had worked with others to create.
Other roleplayers aren’t readers. They’re not passive critics who will read what you wrote. They, for all purposes, will be part of your story for the majority of it. This means that you’ve got to pay finer care to your audience and those around you. Sure, every writer writes for themselves on some level, but that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from criticism. If you suddenly start railroading (forcing down a track) another person’s character, you WILL get a slap on the wrist from that person!
On the same note, writing in a world you didn’t make is far different than making your own work. You have to adhere to rules, you have to be careful about new inclusions and most of all, you have to be wary about the things and creations you put out there. Does that mean you shouldn’t make new things? Of course not. But it’ll be easier for someone to believe that you’re another foot soldier than Logan Thackeray’s son who is even stronger than he is.
These are just some small, general things that roleplay will help without being big enough for a whole point:
Aesthetic design of your character. Creating story hooks from things you have. (Such as a hunter’s pet!) Matching character tone with other roleplayers. How to approach and interact with others. Dealing with “dead end” stories. Correct drama vs. Incorrect drama.
I wouldn’t say roleplay is for everyone. After all, roleplay servers can at times come off as elitist and annoying. Yet, it’s important to give it a try at least once. Being able to play as your character and discovering the story behind what you assumed to be a simple one-off nobody can be far more enlightening to yourself than you’d initially give it credit for.
Just be sure to use the right name. Nobody is going to take Hunters4Jesus78 of Stormwind seriously.