The game of role playing is as ancient as the human race itself. As long as people have been playing make believe, pretending to be made up characters, and acting out games or scenarios, they have been engaged in the act of role playing.
During the 1980′s, this act was formalized by the creation of a game known as Dungeons and Dragons. This was a game played on a map, with little playing piece avatars. The action of the game was narrated by a storyteller that controlled the majority of the world, while each of the other players assumed the role of some heroic adventurer.
The actual game play was conducted using dice to determine random chance events. For instance, climbing a rope up a slippery mountain side is a difficult task. In order to see if a player was successful in accomplishing this task, a mathematical formula would be worked out that would then make the action successful or a failure based on the way the dice rolled.
In the years since it was first introduced, the genre of role playing has expanded far beyond the pen and paper board game known as Dungeons and Dragons. Today there are hundreds of games played across computers, using a variety of communication tools, and even acted out in real life by gamers known as LARPers.
One of the strangest and most promising games to emerge from this is known as role writing. This is a completely narrative game, where the action isn’t acted out, or rolled out using dice, but is actually written out by each player. If you want your character to climb a rope, you simply type that they climb the rope. If you want your character to fly, then that is what you type.
In this game dice aren’t necessary because each person is invested in maintaining the reality of the narrative. Anyone who breaks this reality is generally castigated by the community playing.
The result is actually more than a game however; it is instead a form of writing, a form of storytelling that is spontaneous and interactive and multi media, stretching across every level of communication possible. It is an art that is truly unique in the modern world.
At the moment this medium is still in its infancy, being explored by a variety of artistic players who are really only in it for the fun of the game. However as it progresses, we are seeing more and more forms of lasting art which are beginning to emerge from the creative maelstrom that is role writing.