WisCon 37, part II: Roleplay and Identity

Illustration of an open doorway

Interesting interfaces

Another good gaming-related panel (WisCon had a bunch of them this year), this one was concerned with how we “expand our understanding of ourselves and the world” through RPGs. The panelists had a good representation of different kinds of RPG interests: LARPs, freeform journal-based roleplay and pen-and-paper tabletop.

A good chunk of it was really just relating interesting stories of things that have happened to us through RPGs. That was fun, but not really on topic.

The part that most interested me was towards the middle, where the panelists discussed how a PC’s emotions can sometimes spill over into the player’s life. This, one of the panelists termed “bleed”. “Bleed” can of course become pathological at the far end, but at the near end, it can be an interesting way to gain better self-understanding, as when we contrast a character’s emotional responses to a situation with how we‘d react in the same situation. One panelist brought up how these kinds of emotional responses can get foregrounded in jeepform, which reminded me how much I’d like to try that style of game someday.

There was also good discussion around how RPGs allow us to explore and experiment with identities, such as one panelist who learned to be more confident walking at night through a LARP.

The panel left me wondering where the discussion should go next. I feel like there’s a lot of unexplored territory in the near end of “bleed”, such as how roleplay “bleed” differs from the kinds we experience when reading or watching non-interactive narratives, and the psychology behind these sorts of liminal states. I feel like there are dozens of other interesting questions here, but it’s hard to pin them down; I just find the whole topic fascinating. What about you? What about “bleed” intrigues you?


WisCon 37, part II: Roleplay and Identity — 2 Comments

  1. So by definition, is bleed two way? By that I mean, is it considered bleed if a player’s emotions inform the PC’s decisions? If so, I would think it happens pretty frequently.

    Even if the flow of emotion only goes from PC to player, I would still think there is a fair amount of transference going on, especially if a player has been using that character for a while. Unless it’s one of those games where people show up with six characters just in case the first five die, I think that people have at least a moderate level of attachment to their characters and view them as an extension of themselves, so some emotional crossover seems normal and is probably an effective way of immersion in the game.

    • Hmm, seems like that kind of two-way bleed might be so broadly defined as to be useless, but I guess I haven’t thought about it enough.

      Agreed about emotional attachment — it’s probably very tied up with immersion, somehow.

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