All the virtual world’s a stage

September 17, 2009


To say that roleplay (RP) is a popular activity in Second Life might be a bit of an understatement; there may be more roleplay communities in SL than there alts cruising around on Zindra.  If you’re so inclined, you could find just about any sort of roleplay imaginable.  Steampunk, Gor, Firefly, high school, dystopian future, and more than can possibly mentioned here.  It is a little difficult to say just how many Second Life residents are involved in roleplay communities.  The only way to estimate is by looking at the number of members in RP groups and even then it is tough to assume you’ve accounted for overlapping membership.  Let’s just say there are lots of residents involved, somewhere between 30,000-50,000 people. Given the popularity of RP in SL, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it.

Salvatore Otoro didn’t come to Second Life for roleplay, but has become an eloquent advocate for RP.   Salvatore is not only an active member of the City of Lost Angels RP community, he also runs the Second Life Roleplay blog and writes for ROLE Magazine.  The Second Life Roleplay blog is a fantastic resource on the ins and outs of RP; among other things, there are examples of good and bad RP, lists of RP sims, and a section on roleplay 101.  I was very happy that Salvatore agreed to chat about RP with me.

/me smiles and points excitedly to the jump and says, “I really hope you’ll read on to see what Salvatore had to say about RP in SL!”

Charlanna Beresford: So how did you get to Second Life?

Salvatore Otoro: I’ve been in SL for over 3 years,  I first came after reading a piece in BusinessWeek about a real estate developer making real money in a virtual world.  That article I believe that article was about Anshe Chung, it piqued my interest and I wanted to see this for myself.

Charlanna Beresford:  How would describe RP to someone who is new to SL?

Salvatore Otoro: Role Play is like a movie.   There are differences though.  In this movie you choose what kind of character you want to play.  You also get to choose how to play them, what they like, who they associate with, their past, their background, everything about them.  You have no script though no one else has one either.

Like a movie, there are other players there as well.  They each have a part to play and you have to figure out how you fit in with the environment you choose to play in.  The good thing is that there are numerous places to role play in of different genres.  You just have to find somewhere that has the type of role play you like, get to the sim and see what the rules are so you can start.

Charlanna Beresford: And how did you get involved in RP?

Salvatore Otoro: After being in the SL for a while I met two ladies that were heavily into RP.  They were doing role play in several sims at a time.  It was mind boggling to me at the time because it was too much for me to keep up with.  One of the places they took me was the City of Lost Angels where they played the parts of angels.  They introduced me to one of the faction leaders and we talked about what it was like and so I decided that I wanted to play something completely different from the RL me.  I decided to join the demons in the city which in turn also helped me to interact with my friends as well.

Charlanna Beresford: So what was it that was particularly mind boggling about it for you?

Salvatore Otoro: Well, my friends were in Lost Angels playing angels, they were at another sim which was a high school were they played students, and they were in a few others as well; for me it was too many roles to handle at once.  I was just getting started in role play and it seemed overwhelming just to start on my character.  I had not done role play such as Dungeons and Dragons or other things like that, so I was starting fresh and new

It took me some time to get comfortable with doing role play and interacting with others when spontaneity and quick thinking were needed. I spent a lot of time watching and seeing what others did and that helped spark my roleplay.

Charlanna Beresford: It really strikes me as potentially challenging!  Getting into character and then consistently reacting in the moment as that character.

Salvatore Otoro: At first view it’s hard.  I don’t think it is easy to do, though I think anyone can do it, given the time and dedication.   It requires a lot of imagination to put your character together and play it and interact.  It’s like the set of a movie or a TV show that is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,  all year round.  You have a role and so does everyone else, but you have no script at all.  The only thing you have is what your character is and what they are like, the rest is spontaneous.

You act as you think your character would react and eventually you have a base for your character.  You have friends, you have enemies, likes, dislikes.  Your character grows within the role play and adds to itself.

Charlanna Beresford: That makes great sense, but given that the movie is “running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week” how does one keep up?  I can imagine that different plot lines develop or dramas occur when you aren’t in SL.  How do people stay on top of that?   Or do they even need to?

Salvatore Otoro: Where I role play, in Lost Angels, we have citywide role play which involves the whole city.  There is also factional role play which just involves your faction and is basically contained within the faction.  Unless you are one of the main characters involved in the plot, you don’t really need to worry about being there for the beginning or the end.   You might have just arrived and found the chaos of the current plot unfolding and you could take part in it.  For the most part the main players are around and everyone else is part of the supporting cast.

With that in mind, you may have started something that is involved in a citywide plot or in a factional plot.  If you are not around, the story most likely will continue without you. It’s not always the case.  It could be a rewrite of the story or in some sims they have stand ins for the main character so that they don’t have to worry about those issues.  The reality is, we can’t be there all the time to be a part of everything so a few players are the main characters and the rest come and go.

Charlanna Beresford: So, in essence, they’re really a series of mini-improv scenarios with just a couple of people introducing the storyline.  They may play a big role, but it might also be taken in a different direction when they are offline.  Is that more or less accurate?

Salvatore Otoro: Scenarios in role play are usually developed by Game Moderators (GMs), Role Play Coordinators (RPCs), and factional leaders.  They discuss the events and develop the role play for it to be sprung on the rest of the players.  They develop the scenario, the main players, what the background will be and what the intended end will be.  The players in the sim get involved and their actions are what creates the fun in conquering whatever was written. As the play goes along, GMs and RPCs will steer things along to get to the end scenario, since they too are players and participants in the game.  Most is left to the players to figure out for themselves, though.

I don’t mean that the GMs and RPCs manipulate the game, but they do have to keep the game from going on forever, though.  There has to be an end so that a new and different scenario can be developed.  The whole thing is to create a fun environment for the players and things for them to work on as individuals, factions, and as a community.

Charlanna Beresford: Have you had any really challenging experiences with RP?  Does one stick out?  What happened?

Salvatore Otoro: Challenges are always good because it just stimulates my creativity.  I have been captured a few times for my evil deeds.  I remember a time long ago when I was captured by the leader of the human faction of the city for something that had happened before.  I was beaten in a fight, captured, and my faction had to rescue me.

Charlanna Beresford: What made it challenging for you?

Salvatore Otoro: It was the first time I had been captured and it went down so quickly it even surprised me.  To make it more interesting they cut my tongue out and after some fighting between the demons and the humans I was rescued.  Though now I had to play mute and find someone to heal me.  In role play, that’s a challenge.  You can’t speak and you need help so you have to really be creative, like a game of charades, and get your point across and find the right person for it.  After a while, I found an angel to use their powers on me and restore my tongue.

Charlanna Beresford: I could see how that would be really challenging!  If you were to give advice to someone about RP, what would you say would be three things they must do to enjoy it and three common things to avoid?

Salvatore Otoro: As far as enjoying the game, I would say be imaginative, be sociable, and be willing to do something differently.

The first thing to avoid in role play is mixing in character (IC) feelings with out of character (OOC) feelings; mainly because the person behind the character is just playing a role.  The best thing is to stay IC at all times.  In most role play areas, taking an IC grudge or animosity into OOC will get you punished or banned.

The second thing to avoid is metagaming.  Metagaming is the reading of tags and names, using that information for the role play. Out in the real world we don’t have our names above our head or the names of our factions, etc.  Many new players do this out of lack of understanding of the game.  When players that are more experienced do this it is seen as cheating.

The third thing to avoid is having too many role play limits.  I understand some limits but if a player has so many limits that it’s impossible to role play with them, they are playing in the wrong area.  A player should find a sim that is in accordance to how they play their character so that they can have fun with it instead of restricting all interaction to a list of no nos.

Charlanna Beresford: Those are really interesting. And then what prompted you to start your blog?

Salvatore Otoro: The blog was something that was proposed to me by a friend.  Around February I joined Plurk and started meeting people outside of role play.  As I spoke with them, some wanted to see what role play was about and I invited them to come to Lost Angels and stand back to watch role play as it happened.  One of my guests was Stacia Villota.  She came over, we started talking, and I told her that I liked helping new players so that they didn’t go through it alone.  Stacia runs Virtual Neko and she told me I should start a blog about role play in general.    She told me that my knowledge would make a great blog to help others understand what role play is about and how to go about getting started.  So I started, and it was slow going, but it slowly started to pick up traffic.  My intention was to have something that would be easy to understand, even for someone who had never done role play before.

Charlanna Beresford: I really appreciate you taking the time to chat.  Thank you so much!  Is there anything you want people to know about Salvatore or RP that you haven’t had a chance to share yet?

Salvatore Otoro: I’d like to say that role play is fun and just about anyone can do it.  My blog has a lot of information for the beginner and the seasoned player.  With time and using the tips and suggestions in the blog, you can jump right in and get started.

Charlanna Beresford: Thank you so much, Salvatore.

Salvatore Otoro: Thank you.



  1. […] PDRTJS_settings_2678_post_648 = { "id" : "2678", "unique_id" : "wp-post-648", "title" : "My+First+Interview", "item_id" : "_post_648", "permalink" : "http%3A%2F%2Fsecondliferoleplay.wordpress.com%2F2009%2F09%2F17%2Fmy-first-interview%2F" } Second Life blogger and resident Charlanna Beresford interviews me about role play in her latest blog posting titled All The Virtual Worlds A Stage. […]

  2. […] takes up these themes and helps us see how to live on these parallel planes.  In “All the virtual world’s a stage” she interviews role-player Salvatore […]

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