Now more than ever, writers are moving away from traditional narratives and towards interactive and experimental storytelling. Role-Playing Games (RPG) enable each participant to assume the role of a character that can interact within the game’s imaginary world. Participants create in-depth storylines and develop highly complex skills in character development and pacing. And with a constant, interactive audience, writer’s block is near impossible.
RPGs are a phenomenon that is rapidly gaining followers of all ages, all over the world. We spoke with 14-year-old Mathilde, who lives in central France, about how interacting with other writers in RPGs has enabled her to improve her writing and meet other like-minded writers. Take it away, Mathilde!
Can you tell us a little more about RPGs?
RPG is the abbreviation of Role-Playing Game. It is a role-play but a written role-play. The concept is to write the story of the characters that we have either invented ourselves or the characters of books, films, series that we bring alive with other writers. RPGs cover many worlds, they could be an epic quest in the world of elves, warriors, dragons, gang warfare or an ordinary life in an ordinary school or a remake of Hunger Games… Role-playing is almost like writing a book, except that the book is written by up to 50 writers and we need the other players to write and play. It is very productive, as instead of writing alone, we write and laugh together. We have great fun.
How do RPGs help you engage with other writers?
We link up with other writers because with RPGs, by writing, we reveal something of ourselves. With RPGs we can find all types of personalities. There are jokers, cynical writers, gifted writers, mature writers, young writers, depressed writers, new and experienced writers. With the range of personalities we can always find someone who can become a friend. However our best weapon in RPGs is humour. We laugh about what has been written, without judgement. Obviously we get on better with some than others. When you set out on this journey you are not aware of how close you can get, of how much you have in common and at what point the other writers are there to help and listen to you. It is the same thing when you leave an RPG for a while, they understand and give us the time that we need to come back, and when we do, we are welcomed with open arms and the role plays continue. We all have our own universes, some prefer RPGs which are realistic and others prefer more fantasy orientated universes. We often meet the same people on different forums. We are a big family and we support each other.
What do RPGs offer writers and readers that other games cannot?
The opportunity to express ourselves and to evolve. To evolve in writing and in our artwork. Many of us enjoy drawing. Some are accomplished artists and others improve day by day. Everyone participates and they draw and colour the characters that they have invented or who belong to the culture of the RPG they’re in. We progress in all ways.
I would say between 10 and 17 years. But there are some exceptions with writers of 20-30 years. I also once role-played with a young girl of 9 years old.
How do RPGs make you a better storyteller?
They enable us to explore the depths of our imagination, the reactions and the ideas necessary to progress in situations that we had not envisaged. But above all, I would say that RPGs enable us to enrich our vocabulary and improve our spelling. The great thing with RPGs is that we can see the replies of the other players, we can compare our writing styles and we can see all the mistakes. As a dyslexic, I can say that I have made incredible progress in spelling thanks to RPGs. When I read someone who writes very well and who is of the same age, I am motivated to do better and I take more care over my spelling and the vocabulary that I use. Within our RPG we are not allowed to use SMS language and we are obliged to pay attention to our spelling and the vocabulary that we use.
What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges for young writers in France today?
The challenges: The competition. Whether it is national or international, the competition is hard. You have to have at least two books edited before you can make a name for yourself.
Opportunities: In France we have a very good literary education. At school and with specialist options (Society and literature, Philosophy, Advanced Literary Studies) and a beautiful, poetic and very rich literary language
Writer’s block, is that possible with RPGs?
No. We can get fed up and not want to write and in that case you need to take a break. We can not suffer from « writer’s block » because sometimes we don’t know how to respond at a given time but the advantage of RPGs is that as the writing evolves, it moves, it lives. Someone, somewhere will reply and it will enable you to reply once your inspiration returns.
Does your involvement in RPGs interrupt your homework?
Do I really have to answer this question!
OK, homework is a question of organisation. We can consider RPGs as a reward after homework, an obsession or a way of relaxing. For me it is a way of relaxing. As soon as I get home, I go onto my computer and I read the replies and reply accordingly. Then I do my homework but I check the replies between exercises and when I have finished my homework I am free spend my free time doing what I love doing. Sometimes I spend too much time writing …
Do you think you will turn your writing in RPGs into something concrete, perhaps a novel?
Absolutely! Developing our and other’s characters, in a world that we had not imagined ourselves, enables us to add depth, maturity and credibility to our characters. I have realised that I evolve with my characters. Writing in RPGs gives me more and more ideas of stories and scenarios and I write them down on paper. We have to be careful however not to steal the ideas of the worlds and characters of other players. If we respect these rules, it is an excellent way to develop our characters.
What advice would you offer to other writers keen to try RPGs?
Don’t be afraid. RPGs can be overwhelming when you start but if you are on the right forum for you, you will be very well received. Sign-up to a new RPG or a recent RPG and you will be more at ease. Don’t start with thirty characters! It is very difficult to manage them all especially if you have the habit of writing long monologues. A final point, if you leave a RPG, which can happen for many reasons, don’t run away like a thief but communicate and keep them informed to avoid the Role Play Masters blocking your account for lack of activity on the forum.
I am very proud of being part of the family of digital writers and I am so looking forward to meeting other budding writers…see you soon…à bientôt…