Friday, September 13, 2013

"Oh...hello..." : How to Play the Introvert (And still have fun)


So cute! ...Except the part where he is chewing on the Dominion....
The third part of Mystery and Mayhem is up! If you haven't read it yet, go check it out here.

This weeks WildStar Wednesday was a PAX Prime Round-up that summarized Carbine's time at the event. It may not be some of the fantastic reveals or sneak-peeks we have been waiting for, but hang in there guys. Give these folks a round of applause and hang tight, more good news is on the way!


She watches him from the far side of the room. Not as loud as the others and not nearly as bold as to approach him. In fact, he only notices her because of the lapse in the sound, a moment of silence when their eyes meet. She startles, like a deer caught in the headlights, at once shy and graceful in her very awkwardness. Almost imperceptible, her tiny smile flickers beneath tired eyes and suddenly he realizes this congratulation is worth more in its quiet simplicity then any other.

Making his apologies, he pushes through the throngs of bodies to stand before her. A few cast him a questioning look, but he pays them no heed. She turns her face away for a moment, as though debating whether to stay or flee, but it was too late. Looking up bravely she gives him a genuine smile and tells him her story...

Perhaps you have lived on one side of the story or the other. Perhaps you have been the shy introvert, or you grew up alongside them. You saw them at school or on the bus to work. There is an appeal to those who are shy, as much as there is a fright of being in their place. There is an appeal of roleplaying a shy or Lone Wolf character; an appeal to the mysterious and unknown. But for all that they might be an enigma, there is the fear of them remaining such forever. Just as in real life, the shy are oft overlooked or even forgotten. In this fan suggestion from Evion, we will seek to look over this character concept and the challenges that follow with it. So how does one manage such a personality and obtain interactions? How can one play this character and have fun?

It is important to note that there are many types of introverted or shy characters. They are as varied as the people they represent, such as the Bookworm, the Absent-Minded Professor, the Stoic, the Mad Mathematician or the Ineffectual Loner, just to name a few. Not every character is just peeking around the corner with their hair in their eyes and fearfully avoiding eye contact (though they certainly could be!) The important thing is that, though they may talk somewhat, they are often very reserved and can be difficult to approach head on, especially in social situations. For MMORPGs where a major part of roleplay tends to come in the form of some sort of social situation, this can lead to some potential frustrations and difficulties. However, if this is what you want to play, do not lose hope! These types of characters, when played right, can also result in some amazing roleplay!

Some shy or introverted characters have difficulty feeling comfortable in social situations. Or they just might be cute kittens hiding under the porch, you never know... (image found here)

How to Make an Introverted Character in 6 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Choose to make an Introverted character

-No seriously. This might sound silly, but committing to an idea in roleplay is always a good call. Now this doesn't mean that your character cannot grow or change, but by focusing on an idea, you focus the character. Though personalities can vary within a person, even on a daily basis, there tends to be some sort of focus in a person (otherwise we wouldn't have stereotypes) and a character who acts accordingly will be much easier to interact with. A character who's personality fluctuates wildly (with few exceptions) tends to be very difficult to pin down or relate with. With a Shy character already starting with the difficulty of their very nature, there is no reason to make your fun that much harder to obtain.

Making this decision does not limit you to this idea only, however. Many characters can develop shyness, or show their introverted natures in specific situations only, or they could also grow out of it as well. Focus should not lead to stagnation, but more on that in a bit.

Step 2: Figure out why your character is an Introvert

-Remember when I told you there were many types of Shy characters? There is no one right or wrong way to do this, so feel free to use plenty of your creative genius here! If starting off with WHY your character is an introvert seems daunting, perhaps try starting with HOW they are shy.

For instance:

“How a character can be Shy”
-They rarely speak
-They are shy in social gatherings
-They simply don't feel the need to push their opinions
-They prefer the company of a select few and have difficulties opening up
-They prefer the company of non-organics
-They think they do not need anyone else
-They often turn down help for personal reasons
-They have bad social anxiety or perhaps deep phobias that push them away from social interactions
-They are shy around members of the opposite sex or any sort of flirtatious activity

Some might find that interactions with robots, golems or other entities not of their race are easier to interact with with the traditional social stigma gone from the equation. ( Image by Jason Chan)
Note that these characteristics do not necessarily need to be shown through shy characters only, but many character types can show shy tendencies in certain situations!

Maybe your character is an introvert because they simply are by nature. They are not necessarily deeply shy, but are definitely not the most social person you will ever meet. They gain their strength when left to their own devices or a select group of people and tend to feel overextended in larger groups or stressful situations. Perhaps there has been some calamity in your character's life that has promoted their shyness. Perhaps your Exile suffered bullying under their peers on the Arkship and has trouble finding a sense of self-worth. Or maybe you played an Aurin who just barely escaped the destruction of their world, shocked to numbness by losing everything they have ever known, leaving them wary of the intents of others. You character could also be a deep cynic who thinks people are not worth their time, a sort of Lone Wolf who relies only on their own strengths to see them through and might even look down on other characters.

A common mistake is to assume that introverted characters are always victims. Though there is often an emotional or even physical trauma that may have inspired their shyness, they are many times products of their own actions. For instance, your character could be a sort of Lone Wolf who relies only on their own strengths to see them through and might even look down on other characters. Maybe they see themselves as intellectually superior and shun the “unwashed masses” in their vast knowledge.

Or perhaps your character is simply lonely but is far too proud to admit it...

Why are you looking at me like that?

Remember that your character does not need to be an introvert all of the time! Hawkens here is an excellent example actually.

I hardly think that going into my personal life is wise, and /certainly/ not necessary.

Come now, it will be helpful to our readers. Hawkens here is a good example of a selective introvert. For the most part, he will speak with others without too much difficulty. He generally speaks when spoken to and will also seek others out for interactions when necessary. Get him talking about his passions, such as the Dominion, his people (the Cassians), animals, his personal hobbies, etc and he can become quite animated. He interacts regularly on the job and understands the importance on good communication. But stick him in a casual social situation and he crumbles.

He might be scowling, but he secretly loves this baby stemdragon...just don't tell him I told you!

I do not-!

As is common with many stories of secret agents, specialized operatives and the like, there exists a degree of dehumanization they face in the efforts to stay sane with the atrocities they may witness or even perform for the good of their company/Empire/etc. On the job, other people are tools. They are assets to utilize or obstacles to overcome. To interact with them with something so mundane as “small talk” or “pleasurable conversation” becomes uncomfortable. There is not set way to deal with social interactions, no magical protocol that will solve every chat. In some ways, Hawkens is simply ill equipped for such chatter when it isn't about work. He has lived so long apart from a “normal” life that such normalcy is almost frightening. And so he is shy. He avoids dancing like the plague and tries to escape the gatherings at the first available opportunity. He can become irritated or flustered from small talk and has absolutely no idea how to handle (Emperor forbid) flirting.

As I mentioned in my blog “It's All in the Details: Fleshing out Characters through the use of the Mundane” there was actually a fairly good explanation of this point, of WHY Hawkens is often an introvert in social situations:

“...he found mundane actions to be tedious and sometimes boring. Yet that never stopped him from going through the motions of care for his hygiene, of cooking in his own kitchen or from playing an occasional video game. It wasn't about the movie at all. It was about the concept of relaxation, the concept of “letting loose” or “having fun.” He was far more worried about dropping his appearance as a grumpy and bitter individual who only cared for his job and nothing else. By watching the movie, he had strangely reasoned, he was showing weakness or betraying his ideals.”

There is no rest for the wicked. Life is too short to waste on such frivolities...

Hawkens is an introvert because he believes that showing anything close to “relaxation” or “playfulness” means that he is betraying his own personal moral code and is showing weakness in his resolve. Think on why your character may reason out their own introverted tendencies.

Step 3: Figure out how to Act out your Character

-Hawkens takes full advantage of live MMORPG roleplay in timing and visual silence. He might refuse to speak, shuffle awkwardly or turn his back on a conversation not going his way. He is often short and to the point or might be sarcastic or rude if he dislikes his situation or the person he is interacting with. Other characters may display similar characteristics or something entirely different, to varying degrees of severity. Perhaps your character simply chooses to not speak often, they are too shy, too nervous or may simply not have the need to voice their opinion. Perhaps they have nervous ticks, such as nail biting, hair twirling or tail-tugging. They probably avoid eye contact and might keep their head down when others approach. Or they could keep their arms tightly crossed and glare daggers across the room. The best way to figure this out is to take a look around you. I don't mean stare rudely at the person next to you on the bus, but you can still take note of their actions and demeanor. Or perhaps you remember a time in your life when you were very shy, or you might even channel some of your own characteristics into your character. As with all things in roleplay, I highly advise taking a little time to “do some homework.” Take your time to look up the trope or phobia of your character online and learn about it. Believability comes when those you interact with can relate, which often is due to using realism as a solid tool in your roleplaying arsenal. (But more about that in a future article!) The more you learn, the better you can portray!

I think this pretty much speaks for itself. Do not underestimate the strength of applying learning to your roleplay. Who knows, you might learn something new and exciting in the process! (Image found here)

Step 4: Now figure out how to Defeat your Character

-I was highly amused the first time someone caught onto one of Hawken's tendencies. Actually, they caught onto something I was subconsciously writing that I then immediately reinforced. Hawkens, for all his bristling and arrogance, gives some very clear social cues when certain situations come to pass. For instance, rather than admit he was wrong or bested (which would certainly kill him), Hawkens huffs. “Hmph” had become his coinphrase for the admittance of defeat, an affectionate concession, or his white flag in a conversation. Though he still remained as difficult as ever, it was a great social cue for interacting with others to show that they had won!

Remember that the introverted character often defeats themselves by their very nature. Shy people tend to be overlooked. Withdrawn or loner characters may often push others away. There is a reason we view these tendencies as a personal flaw in life rather than a boon. In roleplay, this is no different. You cannot expect people to force themselves to play with you, let alone expect them to do so with a character that is predisposed to be potentially difficult to interact with. And so, you learn how to defeat your own character.

Hawkens may be a stick in the mud who couldn't flirt his way out of a paper bag and often looks like he has swallowed something disagreeable, but that has not stopped him from being an engaging character to interact with. Why? I actually touched a great deal on this in my blog “How to Play the Loveable Jerk (And not go too far)” with two very key points: Growth and Moderation. I feel they very much apply to the Introverted character as well.

If your character only ever sulks or stutters in the corner and never tries anything else, they are probably going to be very boring to interact with. Even if you can get someone to roleplay with you for awhile, there is a good chance you may force others away if your character is near impossible to interact with. Don't be afraid to let your character break the mold, or even hold a normal conversation now and then. While you may wish to adhere to a solid characteristic or type, if you wish to engage in live roleplay, you need to be willing to take AND give. Try to balance your shy or introverted tendencies in moderation with something interactive. It does not necessarily have to be talking. Perhaps your character is also a good cook and might be willing to make some food while others chatter away. However, in the same respect, for those who are playing with Shy characters this is also a good point for you to learn as well. If they are going to make concessions to play with you, then you should do the same. Roleplaying is a team effort. Don’t force fun, but learning how to work together can be quite rewarding.

Though character growth is important in any character, it is especially helpful here. It is only natural to grow and change as we go through life, and so it is no different for our characters. Perhaps your character might grow close to another or a group of characters, allowing them to interact more comfortably with them. Perhaps someone shows them that they do not need to deal with everything on their own and they begrudgingly accept help and camaraderie. Maybe they are coached in skills they lack and grow more confident, or perhaps they simply learn how to better manage their shyness and it becomes more an aspect of endearment then a fatal flaw.

One of the rewards of roleplaying with others is watching how the unpredictable can evolve your character. It's like writing a part of a book where you never quite know what the other character will write. You never know what can happen! Watching your character grow is pleasing. Watching your character help another character grow in the process is even better. It is an excellent way to show another how much you appreciate their time and sharing your experiences together, by showing them the effects they have on your character. Maybe your character loses their shyness forever, thanks to their help. However, do not feel pressured to change something you really like. The enigma that an introverted character might display can be interesting by itself. You can certainly grow and evolve around that without having to completely give that up.

Character Growth is a fascinating part of roleplay. Ushering them through their own personal growth can be rewarding not just for yourself, but for others with invested interest in your character. (Image found here)

Step 5: Patience

-A shy character that chatters incessantly the next day might seem odd. A Lone Wolf magically accepting someone into their personal life after a day may seem like wasted potential. Shy characters take patience and time on both sides of the equation to really get the best out of them. There is a tendency to rush things in roleplay...I mean who wants to really spend an entire nine months or so playing out a pregnancy, or a year “recovering from a wound”? Roleplay allows us to control the flow of time, letting us bypass frustrating or even sad or unfortunate parts of real life. Sometimes it is still good to let things flow naturally with time. Some of the closest bonds can be formed from bitter rivalries if given time, just as an introvert may open up if given space and compassion.

It may not be easy with control over the very time and space of your creation, but often patience is the best path to the most rewarding victories. (Image found here)

Step 6: Have fun!

- I can never stress this enough. Roleplaying is supposed to be fun. We play with others and relax online to enjoy ourselves. If you are not having fun, reevaluate what you are doing and reassess how you are acting. Maybe this type of character just doesn't turn out to be fun. Introverted characters can take a lot of time and patience or perhaps it isn't your style. Don't be afraid to have your character grow out of it, or try something new. If, however, you and the people around you are having fun, then go for it!

Hawkens occasionally has difficulties with the word "fun"... (Art by Kinder Egg! )

To sum up the 6 steps:
Step 1: Choose to make a Introverted character
Step 2: Figure out why your character is an Introvert
Step 3: Figure out how to Act out your Character
Step 4: Now figure out how to Defeat your Character
Step 5: Patience
Step 6: Have fun!

These are certainly not intended as the best advice in the universe that you must follow or else, but they are ideas that I have found useful in my time roleplaying that have either worked well for myself or for others. I hope that they might come in handy for those intending to play this character or are at least something interesting to think about!

Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers. As always feel free to comment here or on WSRP and always feel free to contact myself or Agent Hawkens with questions, concerns or future blog topics! Remember it is your support that makes this all possible! You guys rock. Really!


See? Even Hawkens agrees ;)

(( P.S. Patrician, you asked a question of Agent Hawkens about friendship. Though he has been largely absent on classified business, I assure you the question has not been forgotten and shall be answered soon!))

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