IC vs. OOC: TakAdvantage of the Gaming Diversity that is NationStates

Advantage of the Gaming Diversity that is NationStates

I don’t know how qualified I am to write this rather short essay, considering the wealth of different facets of gaming that exists in NationStates and how they are often handled in different ways from different groups within those facets by players who are better than I am at it. Like roleplaying – I don’t often go on Internal Incidents, which is pretty much the quintessential place for roleplaying as far as most of NS is concerned, but I’ll do my best. Earlier this year I wrote a piece for Free Press News Service entitled http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?p=25858089#p25858089. I had planned on writing a follow-up called “How Not to Retire”, but I was hesitant because I didn’t really know how to best attack the problem. People in NS retire. They move on. They have stuff happen to them in Real Life. But, they also get burned out. They lose interest. They lose friends or strain friendship or simply have friendship strained. I guess I’m speaking to all audiences when I say it doesn’t have to be that way. There much more to NS than meets the eye.

To understand that, one must understand gameplay in general (if you’re currently involved in that facet, and I assume most who read this are). Gameplay is interaction with individuals on issues that intimately affect the individual as he or she plays this game. Delegate elections. Raiding and defending. Legislating. The likes. This can either be done out-of-character (OOC) or in-character (IC), and yes, there’s a difference. Some folks play this game differently than how they act outside of it. Like a destructive raider who’s really a nice guy, or a guy who is a hardline debater but is really passive in real life. Now, I would say there was a time when many folks played this game ICly as opposed to OOCly, which is the current trend now that folks seem to wear their emotions on their sleeve and social interactions have increased quite a bit in the game. It’s the constant time spent on the OOC side of things that burns folks out in this game, I think. When one is putting himself or herself on the line, completely out there, it can be rather draining if things don’t go as you wish they would, let’s be honest here. That doesn’t mean “getting your way”; on the contrary, it could be a desire for more interaction in your region, more conflict in the game, etc. Whatever goals you have for yourself in gameplay.

Gameplay is really the only facet of NS that blurs the OOC / IC divide. That’s why the Security Council had such a hard time in its infancy – folks who were well aware of the OOC / IC divide (those in the General Assembly) were incompatible with gameplayers who operated OOCly based on their style of play. They (the GA crowd) don’t play the game as themselves – they play as ambassadors who occasionally speak as themselves when someone “isn’t getting it” or when they need to plan ahead. As a matter of fact, every other facet of Nationstates, with the exception of the generalites for the most part, operates ICly. That means they’re playing the game as a different nation, or different individual, than what they truly are. Some may find it a bit pointless, I suppose, but doing that opens the game up to many possibilities. But it’s that reason folks have a bit of a problem jumping to the other side – they don’t quite understand it. I mean, perhaps they do, but it doesn’t jive with their current style of gaming. That’s why the Security Council was a rocky road in the beginning – it forced two different ways of playing the game to come together and deal with that different style of gaming. And yes, for the most part, they’re actually pretty incompatible. With the advent of Rule 4, it was seen as an attack on gameplay, but realistically, we, the gameplayers, are the odd man out here.

I’m one of those people who have tried to operate in multiple facets of this game. In addition to gameplay, I’ve dabbled in roleplay, NS Sports, Security Council and General Assembly writing, the likes. My main roleplay nation is Vekaiyu - NSWiki, a somewhat paranoid and pushy nation with confusing diplomacy and ran by a leader who for all intents and purposes probably shouldn’t have been picked as a leader when she first started out. But, as an aside, that’s the fun of roleplay – things don’t always go as they seem or as you’d like, but the fun is the journey one makes to get there. Anyway, the nation is not reflected with any in-game nation or even my own personal policies, though it could be if I wanted it to. I just chose not to do it that way. Vekaiyu currently is in the top-5 of the ongoing http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=361446 and is also mulling over a decision to invade a nearby nation that produced terrorists who used a small nuclear device to take out a city center in Listonia, a neighboring nation (the fact that they technically http://theeastpacific.com/topic/5227241/1/ is of course immaterial). My point in sharing all of this is not to shamelessly plug a nation, but rather to show that there’s a lot out there as far as the IC-side of things are concerned. It’s a different world. And that’s refreshing.

But is there OOC in IC? Yes and no. It’s different in gameplay, which is a mix of IC and OOC tendancies. In nearly everything else, it’s much more defined. For instance, the nation responsible for nuking a Listonian city planned it out with me ahead of time to check on some facts and, more or less, ask if it was okay (though they didn’t have to do that. It’s nice though). So in roleplay, OOC is generally used to plan out or better understand IC. In sports, OOC is typically used along the same merits, but it also includes the use of a Scorinator, i.e., a script program that takes into consideration factors like player skill levels, various bonuses, and produces results from competitions. One such bonus is an “RP Bonus”, which basically is a bonus awarded to nations that take the time to write a bit between scorinated days about their nation, the participants from their nation (or other nations) involved in the events, whatever. General Assembly is IC, but can be OOC to plan ahead or nudge a player in the right direction, as I said earlier, and so on. So there is in fact OOC in IC, but in almost all facets of this game, the line between the two is more clearly defined.

And yet it’s liberating that way. I don’t have to operate within my own means when I roleplay. I can do something completely bone-headed provided it jives with the personalities of the nation or characters I’ve made. I can invade a nation or have characters talk about coups and not have it become a subject of some OOC news article in gameplay. In short, I’m not the one putting myself on the line here – it’s a story, and it does not really affect how I interact with the people around me on an OOC basis. Trust me on that point – some of the meanest, nastiest nations I’ve encountered were run by completely nice folks. The converse to that statement is true as well. Where I do get judged on is the quality of my roleplay, how well I can adjust and write storylines, and whether or not I operate within my nation’s means or come up with some ridiculous concept to “save” them or a character (this is referred to as god modding, wanking, ass-pulling, the likes. I’ve written a http://theeastpacific.com/single/?p=8051593&t=986286 for consideration). So, realistically, there’s no concept of “winning” or “losing” here as far as nations are concerned. If my nation only wins all of the time, no one will want to roleplay with me. Likewise, if all Vekaiyu does is lose all the time, well, that’s also unrealistic and can be a bit unfun. The real goal here is to not think of it as winning a war or winning a diplomatic summit or stopping a bomb from going off in one of your cities. The real winning in roleplay is character growth, character interaction, getting many people involved in the plot, and reaching a conclusion (eventually) that is satisfying to write out. And, luckily, there are plenty of people out there who have those same goals for the most part. And they’re not concerned with being the best – they’re concerned with having fun with it.

Is there less competition in roleplay than in gameplay? In my experience, they’re not quite on the same metric with one another, but they are based on the same principles. Yes, there is certainly a competitive aspect to gameplay, and it often involves some kind of reward. A region fought between defenders and raiders. Winning a delegate election. Getting a law passed in a region. Convincing folks to join and participate in your region. These are all goals focused on some level of self-gratification. The competition for roleplay is a bit different, but it really depends on what you are focused on. I’d say for roleplaying, the competition is seeing goals outlined for characters, nations, and/or storylines realized. And yes, it is rather competitive in that aspect, because these things often take quite a bit of time to develop. So everyone is working to see their goals they defined come to fruition, but not all goals can, of course, so there is a struggle to get results, but one cannot do that via brute force or having the most endorsements at the end of the day; it can really only be done via cunning storyweaving and learning to take a few hits while also dishing them out now and then. And yes, there is a satisfying level of self-gratification when a goal is met, too. It just, in my experience, takes a bit more time and working with people you don’t agree with, not because it makes it easier, but because you have to in order to obtain that goal.

It’s that reason why I believe roleplayers will often have an easier transition to gameplay than the other way around. But there is another reason. Let’s face it, while gameplayers can escape roleplay, the GA (for the most part), NS Sports, etc, no one can escape the consequences of gameplay. We see this whenever a roleplay region is invaded or we try to get folks to vote on a Security Council resolution. The common rhetoric may be “well, this is how you play the game” but the reality is we’re not playing their game. And that’s what makes NS unique. You can play the game completely different than someone else and still “win” by accomplishing goals. But it’s much more on the side of the roleplayer, too. Roleplayers, in my experience, tend to play gameplay more ICly, which kind of takes the personal aspect away from gameplay.

Anyway, so how does this all come together? Since NS is a diverse game, one does not really need to retire from it if they’re sick of a particular portion of the game but don’t really want to leave just yet. Take out frustrations elsewhere, but keep playing, especially when things calm down and you’re able to better assess the situation. Give roleplaying and other facets of the game a chance, and conversely, if you roleplay, give gameplay a shot as well. It’s a great way to not retire but kind of take a break at the same time, because the IC side of the fence in roleplaying and the likes is much different than the OOC side, that is, gameplay for the most part.