Forum-Based Role Playing Games as Digital Storytelling
Csenge Virág Zalka
When people hear the term “role-playing games,” they tend to think of two things: a group of friends sitting around a table playing Dungeons & Dragons or video games with exciting graphics. Between those two, however, exists a third style of gaming. Hundreds of online forums offer gathering places for thousands of players—people who come together to role-play through writing. They create stories by taking turns, describing events through their characters’ eyes. Whether it is the arena of the Hunger Games, the epic battles of the Marvel Universe or love stories in a fantasy version of New York, people build their own spaces of words, and inhabit them day after day.
But what makes thousands of players, many teenagers among them, voluntarily type up novel-length stories? How do they use the resources of the Internet, gather images, sounds, and video clips to weave them into one coherent narrative? How do they create together through improvisation and negotiation, in ways that connect them to older forms of storytelling? Through observing more than a hundred websites and participating in five of them for a year, the author has created a pilot study that delves into a subculture of unbounded creativity.