Friday, March 16, 2012

Role Playing: Advantages ... and Challenges ...

My name is Aaron Speca, and I am a Role Player.

Role playing was something I hadn’t tried since high school.  And that was very different than what I have discovered today.  Back then, what I knew of was Dungeons and Dragons, swords, sorcery, adventure-driven.  Writing?  Please.  I hated to write.  I hated the whole process of it.  I focused on math and science, wrote when I had to, what I had to, I order to get that degree and job and be a “success”.

Twenty years later, my wife made some friends here locally, and was introduced to another form of role playing than what I had been exposed to.  Writing-based, playing characters from popular series (or sometimes making up your  own), weaving an intricate tale of fantasy, intrigue, romance, adventure; it was something I didn’t get at first.

You’re role playing?  And you are writing in order to do it?  I didn’t get it at all.

Then I started reading what she wrote.  I was hooked.  She’ll tell you otherwise, but she is a really good writer in her own right, in some ways better than me.  I found myself rooting for her characters … hard.

I still wasn’t interested in doing it myself though.

Then, because I was (and still am) an avid poker player, her group asked me to come online and help them write out a poker game as the dealer.  It was an experiment that had limited success (I think we played out two hands in ninety minutes), but it did allow me to actually experience what role play on Facebook was like.

So then I decided to really try it.  I picked a very minor character from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, and thought I might try this a couple of times.

Ok, that was almost two years ago.

What I discovered was a creative wellspring I didn’t even know I had inside myself.  Stories and backgrounds for both characters within this series and original characters started to form as if from nothing in my head. 

And I was hooked.  From someone who despised creative writing to published writer in a little over fifteen months.  It’s a transition that still leaves me reeling.

What is Role Play to me?  It’s a mental exercise.  It uses so many different skills – writing, acting, improvisation, organization.  It can be a daily writing activity.  I once heard someone say, if you want to be a writer, then write a little bit every day … this is a great way to do that.  And it’s fun to boot.  Even better, it has allowed me to meet people (albeit virtually) that I would probably never have had the opportunity to know any other way.
There are some great people … real people … behind the character profiles that people LOVE to read on Facebook.  In fact, I’ve been told by a few fans that the only reason they come online is to read the stories that these characters put together. Now along with my first character, I have several others and many stories that I and my fellow group members have put together, our group has over 1000 fans, and we have built relationships with many other groups from many different book series.

Now there seems to be a force hellbent on killing all of that.  This week, many character profiles were disabled by Facebook.  Because Facebook doesn’t tell anyone exactly WHY their account was disabled, it’s unknown whether they were reported by someone or Facebook just decided to go crazy, but they are now requiring an upload of a copy of a government issued ID.  Which of course does no good, because the name obviously won’t match the name on the account.  As an aside, authors which have accounts under pen names can potentially face the exact same issue.

I’m not going to get into the legality of this requirement, which I personally think is questionable at best, but looking at it from a pure business standpoint, why is Facebook willing to kick all these people to the curb?  Do they not realize how big this community is?  How many people they stand to lose?  How much advertising revenue will go by the wayside?

I understand the issues with safety on the internet, curbing bullying and cyber-stalking, all of that.  But they are grossly missing the target if that is their intention in taking this action.  Role Players ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.  Those profiles are very clear and up front that they are not real people.  None of us are out there claiming to actually be Nick Gautier or Sookie Stackhouse or Acheron Parthanopaeus.   In fact, RPers are more often the victim of the exact bullying and stalking that Facebook claims to be trying to curtail.  I know people that have been approached and cyber-stalked by some real freaks out there, and then when they are rebuffed, they simply get mad and report the profile.

What kind of system is it where someone, with a click of a button, can report any profile for anything without proof, and have that profile disabled with no recourse for the person reported?  Shouldn’t those people have the opportunity to at least know the specific reason why they were reported so they can have the chance to fix it?

I realize this is a bit of a rant, but it is frustrating for anyone to lose their writings and be prevented from performing a hobby by rules that make no sense and are not even close to uniformly enforced.  I have many acquaintances and other people I would call true friends who have lost months or years of writing and fan-building.  Some are published, some are trying to be, some have no real designs on going that route.  But it is still a huge creative loss.  I know one person in particular (Kenneth Roy Ezell, who gave me permission to use his name and profile and wanted me to) actually had all his 3-plus years of work backed up, had a hardware failure this week and was getting ready to back it all up again when his profile was taken down.  I know others who used Facebook’s own backup feature, only to find out when they needed them that the downloaded files were corrupted and unusable.

I know there are other sites out there for RPing, but to be honest, none I have seen have the combination of functionality and reachability that Facebook has.  And the reachability is important for those of us that are writers or aspire to be writers, or even just simply enjoy the social interaction with fans and other groups.

There are pockets out there of RPers and fans that are looking at various ways to address this issue, including a proposal to create a Facebook space or type of account to let us do what we enjoy, and allow the fans to continue to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  To keep us all on Facebook would seem to be to Facebook’s advantage.  So we will see what comes of it.

Thanks for reading … and stick with me because I have some more excerpts and news coming for publications soon!!  I am not planning to go anywhere.

Kenneth Roy Ezell’s Facebook page:

Writers United: (not yet ready for posting but will be up soon)


  1. Facebook has been doing alot of crazy stuff lately. Not all of it good!

  2. Losing 3 1/2 years of work & ALL of your characters pages are the WORST ~ This is SimiDemon/Lia/Apollymia DH Origins but we are all trying to work together to find a solution

  3. Very well put Aaron, It's a great loss to so many great writers of all types. Who knows how many wonderful books were lost like mine in the purge of Facebook users,we'll never know. We were never even given a warning or a chance to correct what ever issue Facebook had with us. I found out yesterday that if we were warned we could have changed the pages over to ones Facebook does not have a issue with, but we need our pages open long enough to save all the writing before the change over so no posts are lost like it says in there rules, but we were not given this chance. Shame on you Facebook, SHAME!