So your RP community is dying
I saw this post last night and, in my usual way, typed out a big fiery response to it highlighting the problems with the idea and how the idea itself didn’t address the problem it was intending to solve. Rather than leave it at that, here are some tips for those facing the same situation.
Be the first to extend the olive branch
I know. The person you’re dealing with said something stupid, they don’t care about lore, and they did a bad thing in RP. I know, it sucks. But the fact is that if anything good is going to come of it, someone has to be the first to put out their hand and say “Look, forget it, let’s move on.” Don’t sit there waiting for them to do it. Don’t justify to yourself that it was all their fault and that if anyone should apologize, it should be them. Because apology isn’t what this is about. It’s forgiveness and a willingness to move on. Besides that, if you truly wish they hadn’t done it and wish they wouldn’t do it in the future, you’re not going to encourage them in that direction if you shun them completely. Show them that you want to give it another shot and be the first to ask for a return to square one.
Demand proof of rumored wrongdoing
“Don’t RP with that person. I heard they said ___ to ___. I also heard that their guild ___s with ___.” Fill in the blanks with whatever would make you most upset to hear. “I heard they said ‘kill yourself’ to so-and-so.” Anything of that sort. Now, before getting angry and hating that person forever, go down the list. Do they have proof? Have you spoken to this person before hearing this rumor about them? Do you know them well? Do you know anyone you trust who can be a witness to their character? If two or more of these are in question, don’t be too hasty to reach a conclusion. Even if the person telling you in the first place is trustworthy to you, they may have heard it from an untrustworthy source with an agenda. Ask yourself if believing this rumor would ruin the rumored person’s reputation or cause others to avoid them. If so, there may be an ulterior motive for whoever started the rumor.
A sign of a new roleplayer is their tendency to play fast and loose with the lore. Think back to when you first started roleplaying. In Warcraft, did you know that Night Elves and Blood Elves really, really hated each other? Did you know that Gnomes weren’t believers in the Light in the days before Cataclysm? These and similar misunderstandings can cause your RP to be misinformed and incomplete. Before you consider chewing the player out for not having read about every playable race, every faction, every class, every zone, and every novel in the Warcraft canon, ask them if they’d like someone to talk to about lore and how it affects their character. Don’t demand them to change their RP! Instead, suggest changes that will better allow them to fit into the community. It may be their $15 a month at the end of the day, but they’ll have a lot more fun if they have a wider pool of people to interact with. Make sure you tell them that you want to help them for this reason. Don’t help them just to satisfy yourself. (I’ll try to make another post more in depth about this)
Don’t bow down to popular rule
“But NetherStray,” you might say, “isn’t the idea of a community tightly rooted in the desires of majority opinion?” It is, yes, but the goal of integrating new players isn’t to make them conform to what the community wants. The goal of integrating new players is to help them find RP partners. That’s it. By improving how they interact with the rest of the community and by teaching them some basic do’s and don’ts of RP, you improve their chances of finding their own little community to exist in within the greater community. Whether that’s a guild or just a circle of friends is irrelevant. If they’re comfortable in the community, they’ll be willing to reach out. They’ll be more comfortable making new characters and trying new things, and when your community is in decline, pulling in new talent is much more important than retaining old talent. People will leave a community if nothing new ever happens.
So where does popular rule come into this? It comes into all of it. Along the way, there will inevitably be fellow RPers who want to dismiss the new bloods. “Hah, look at this noob! They barely know the lore! What’s with their TRP? God, they’re so Mary Sue. Not everyone needs to be a special snowflake.”
Stomp that shit out. Wow, you mean the person who’s new doesn’t know everything? You mean they’re not an amazing writer right off the bat? Say it isn’t so! It’s up to you to kill this negative talk right where it stands. Successful people don’t talk down to others. They don’t try to hold other people back. They see potential where others see ineptitude. Don’t be that asshole who could have been decent but instead decided to be a jerk, the person who made them think “Maybe I should just give up.” Lift others up. And sure, they’re not the best. Sure, they have work to do. They could improve! But they never will improve if they’re given a hard time every time they try to do something!
Conclusion, and why I’m doing this
As you might have read in the previous post, I’ve seen this happen on my original server. Once a bustling RP server with lots of active guilds, active stories, and fantastic players, the server has dwindled to only a few active guilds and cloistered players who stick to guild events and whatever social media website they’ve all flocked to this week. Too little was done to keep new players coming back. Too much was done to discourage new players from continuing to try, from improving further. Too many people were content to laugh at the new while crying that the old was fading away.
You have to come to terms with the fact that if something isn’t growing, it’s dying. Whether it’s a business or an RP community, it’s always a building sinking into the sand. People will retire, they will grow bored of the mundane, and they will have plenty more good reasons to leave. The only protection against sinking completely is to keep building. And while events and well-meaning community leaders may try to inject life back into it, it’s the individual RPers and their everyday interactions that matter most.
Support the newbies. Be the helping hand you would have wanted when you first arrived. Be the voice against doubters and haters that you would have wanted when people doubted and hated you.