On Self-Centeredness and Paying Attention

LinLin BlackbirdThe Moonglade
edited January 2021 in Harpy's Head Tavern
A few years ago, when I was entrenched in Final Fantasy XIV's roleplaying scene, a friend of mine introduced me to a sort of Roko's Basilisk - an idea that imperils you the moment you learn about it.

We were in a public space, watching someone RP with someone else, when he said to me: "Look, scroll back up and read through her emotes very carefully. Check it out. Every line she writes is about herself."

It was totally true. Her partner was gamely trying to talk to her about a political intrigue. At no point did she acknowledge them in her emotes. Every post referenced only herself and her actions. What's worse, even the dialogue was self-centered. Nearly every sentence began with "I". Not a single comment was made that wasn't pivoted to somehow relate to her or draw a comparison to herself.

This completely screwed me up. Once he'd opened my eyes to the idea, I couldn't stop seeing it everywhere I went.

It's actually okay to talk about yourself. This is a natural function of conversation, and in a perfect world where there are no self-centered people, we are perfectly happy to learn things about you. It's not okay to relate to the entire world by doing this. It's not okay to spend time with a person and fail to notice a single thing about them. It's not okay to turn a conversation back to yourself every single time you get to talk. It's alienating at best, and rude at worst.

This is a pretty big problem in today's Aetolia. I'm not going to make any comments to the effect that there was somehow a Golden Age in which we didn't do this, but it didn't seem quite so prevalent. There's no need to imply things or name names, that's not the point. But please read that emote you've written before you send it. Please review your speech, your apology, your letter, and make sure that you've acknowledged there is another character in the room with you, being piloted by someone who is taking time to craft a story with you. Ask yourself these things: Who is your roleplay for? Who is the most important character in the room at any given time? If you switched out the character you were just talking to with anyone else, would the scene have played out differently?

I want to challenge everyone reading this to try at least one of these tasks, at least once a day:
  • Ask a character for clarification about something you heard them say.
  • Look at another character and acknowledge something about their appearance. Has their outfit changed? Are they glowing? Were they always male, and now they're non-binary?
  • If another character has given you an idea or concept, don't find a reason to dismiss it, work with it. Play in the space for a little while.
  • Consider a "difficult" character and why your attempts to start RP with them may not have worked. Try an approach more tailored to them.
  • And of course, strike up RP with a stranger!


  • TetchtaTetchta The Innocent
    Lin out here giving people tips for successful first dates.

    Jokes aside, I'm super in favor and cosign all of this. I see a lot of "RP" that's mostly just one person (or heaven forbid, TWO people) just monologuing at their counterpart. This isn't a book, RP is about action and reaction. There's definitely people who drive a scene, but I feel like a lot of folk conflate "Can write well" with "Good RP" and it's not the same. If you're an exceptional writer who's ignoring everything going on around you, you're being a poor roleplayer.

    A good thing to keep in mind is the good ol' improvisation adage "Yes, and," where, when presented with a reaction to something, you say "Yes! And then!" you do the then part. You accept the other person's action, and then add on top of it.

  • PhoeneciaPhoenecia The Merchant of Esterport Somewhere in Attica
    There are very few instances where I'll outright walk out of RP on someone or dread interacting with someone. This kind of situation is one of those instances.

    There are times where I'll describe a person as emoting AT you as opposed to emoting WITH you. The moment they walk into the room it feels like they steal and dominate the scene, and it doesn't matter what your character does or says. There's a difference between a character that can command that sort of thing, though, and a player being self-centered and doing that.

    A character can be larger than life and self-absorbed, but still make you feel like you're included in a given scene. A player making every scene about their character makes you wonder why you're there in the first place.

    Some of things I tended to do when I was actively RPing to try and avoid accidentally making RP self-centered:

    * I'd always be looking at people's descs and the stuff they were wearing. With Phoe in particular being very fashion-oriented, I'd frequently have her comment on another person's style choice.

    * I would always keep a mental list of things my character would react if it came up. 'Oh, you like x? I like x! What's your favorite x?'

    * Instead of making a given scene about your character and what they have to say, make it about the other guy. You already know what your character's motivations and goals are, but what about the one you're interacting with? Think of it like unraveling a good mystery where you WANT to keep digging and find out more. Because if you're engaged with the other person, you'll want to keep coming back to unveil more. If you really don't give a crap about that sort of thing, chances are it's a good sign you just want an audience to monologue at, and it's probably worth reevaluating why you're doing it. 
  • edited January 2021
    I have in the past walked out of RP sessions because my character was ignored entirely. And honestly, those are those points where I wonder why I ever play the character that I do. And why I play Aetolia for fun.

    I try to keep an open mind on those occasions, but yes, it still stings a little. Even a few emotes can do it, but I push through it on occasion because I'm hoping that a character/players perspective may soften to the idea of an interaction. I try not to assume that it's because my character is there, or that I'm there. I try to keep things positive.

    Some people can be unaware, or others do it purposefully. But chiefly, sometimes there are people that just do not want to reply/focus on other people in open place to RP with certain characters.

    And while this is important to keep in mind, about why player openness is important - This particular issue is ultimately a person's choice to make and I don't necessarily fault them for in general. Especially if they have had poor experiences with others, and have a hard time communicating their needs. There's a lot of variables here that aren't final and could be solved just by talking to one another.

    Here's what I do to keep things off of my character:

    *Be welcoming. Give them the opportunities to change and grow in their writing. Maybe they don't know how to include anyone because they're struggling and new.

    *Using 'I' with purpose. Sometimes as a character, there are times when talking about yourself is okay. As mentioned above. You can describe how a character reacts in return to something prompted. You can establish where you are in a scene when another person arrives, leaves, or goes. But mostly, those emotes are surrounding interior feelings, vibes. In straight dialogue take the time to read your other companion's tells.

    *Making space. If an emote is going to be in an open space, I use it to describe reactions to those things that other characters do. Or, I'll add ambience to the room to give it more life. I don't do this repeatedly but sparingly, otherwise it can tip on pretentious and that's not my jam.

    Note: Sometimes people are very uncomfortable with multi-player scenes. There's not a lot you can do when there's dead air, you can encourage things to move. But if they don't work, it's not really your fault. People are giving things a try, or may have a hard time finding the right inspiration. And that's good too, and good practice.

    *Ask questions. If a character is closed to you, talk to them. Ask them things about what they think, what they do, and yes, have responses for those things you know about your character.

    *Creating opportunity. Hooks, hooks, hooks. Leave tidbits of information in responses that will allow other characters to blossom and gather information for greater dialogue. If it's in response to dialogue, or otherwise. I'm often looking and observing other interactions in multiple player sessions to see what I can use to create more times where we can interact. I like getting to know characters more in-depth. Hey, if a new character or someone new shows up in a scene - You say hello. Give'em an emote.

    *Time, attention, and compassion: Y'all, we all make mistakes. Sometimes a character has to have a scene that isn't about you. Sometimes they'll mess up and typo, or miss something. And, maybe the dialogue doesn't land right. Sometimes they'll forget lines in their responses and it'll make the emote seem different or self-focused. Ask for clarification, be patient, be kind, and always talk to them if there's something that's needed for you to GET it.

    I got more, but whew, this was longer than I intended. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
  • The insight and advice in this thread so far is super valuable and I appreciate you guys for having this discussion. Much like Sek, I won't linger for RP that does not open up to me in some way. Sometimes, walking out on a scene can be more impactful than lingering and trying to worm your way into it. I try not to assume that my character belongs in every scene just because he found himself present. Unless I was the one to initiate the scene, I am careful not to become entitled to it. 

    That said, the spirit of quality RP is collaborative storytelling. As such, the rule of thumb I try to maintain is to always serve the story above  everything. Don't become so married to an idea or outcome that you ignore the prompts, cues and twists generated by another player. Some of the best and most satisfying roleplay I've ever engaged in has been a result of willingness to allow someone to take a scene in a completely unexpected direction and simply asking myself how my character would truly respond rather than try to bull things back to a narrative that suits me. 

    I think there's a right way and a wrong way to use "I" statements. Trying too hard to avoid them and effectively taking control of the actions of another character in your emotes is very poor form in my opinion. You're not there to rob them of their own organic actions and reactions and your role doesn't extend beyond your own character. That said, your "I" statements shouldn't become self-consumed to the point that your RP partners feel like they're just hanging around to service your solo experience. Rather they should be used to provide building blocks that other players can work with. Give them a set of tools and possibilities based on sensory input, details of your surroundings and the impact of their character. Give them the satisfaction of seeing how their actions and appearance are perceived by an outside entity before you get too wrapped up in spinning your piece of the tale.

    I really appreciated what Lin said about paying attention to appearances. That sort of attention to detail tends to make or break it for me. The first thing I do when I enter a scene is look at the surroundings, look at the characters (and actually read the bloody descriptions), take note of the weather and the time of day. Pay attention to the new elements and changes and make use of them in your emotes. I will never not nerd out when someone notices a new article of clothing, or that my shirt is torn, and works it into their emotes. It makes the world and characters feel truly alive and fresh. 

    Anyways, none of this is said any better than the pros who said it before me. I just thought I'd add my thoughts and the weight of my agreement. 
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