Saturday, November 26, 2005

The School Fades Away

Two days ago I was talking to Lottie about the decline of roleplays on the Internet. The discussion was initiated by the decline of the Crow's Nest, in which the regular clientele has finally been boiled down to just the people who started Silver Moon Boarding School: Leon, Lottie, Hershi, Dave, and me. The forum, as you will recall reading in my entry about forum teams, was created in response to the popularity of Silver Moon Boarding School, and as long as the roleplay was still active on PKMN.NET, the notation of our site was assured. However, the roleplay on PKMN.NET declined into frenzied violence and the administration was compelled to prohibit further activity on the subject. From that point, we were on our own, and the forum steadily declined. Today most, if not all, of the lower members of the forum have deserted, and some of the lesser roleplays we hosted fell into decline (we even had to decommission Silverwich Legends, the sequel to Silverwich University).

When I was first indroduced to forums, I saw that several forums were based on roleplaying. Eventually, some would go under and others would take their places. Silver Moon Boarding School was anomalous in that it had passed the life expectancy of most roleplaying sites of its calibre, and it seemed assured that it would go on forever when our registration peak hit. However, the roleplay's counterpart on PKMN.NET being closed and my departure from the site to work for TPL both delivered devastating blows, the latter probably being the fatal one (I was made an administrator in January, the same month of the initiation of TPL's campaign).

The fact that the Crow's Nest isn't the only one in the roleplaying world's cycle is a bit of comfort, but that comfort is obliterated when we find that some sites have turned the subject into an assembly line in Detroit. Three of the most prominent are Neopets, Runescape, and the increasingly popular Gaia Online. (Gaia Online also was listed as the most attended site ever.) I do not blame these sites for the decline of smaller roleplays — I blame the fact that there are too many of them out there now, a result of the popularity of roleplays way back when.

This trend swoop doesn't apply to roleplay venues embedded inside forums, however. There are many new roleplays created each week, although the extent of them tends to stay the same: thirty pages or so. The reason for the shorter life spans of roleplays on the forum are not due to popularity, but because of the length of the forum roster. On PKMN.NET, some teams that remain help compound the pressure on some of the roleplays.

Yet what all of these roleplays have in common is that they are based on forum threads. We have known for a long time that reading plays off book pages is rather unwieldy unless you can get some good actors in your school to take the roles that require their talent. Forum threads are just as unwieldy, since you have only printed word as a reference. What Neopets, Gaia Online, and Runescape have that forum threads don't have, and what they have in common with telecasts, is that you can actually see the character. In these roleplays you don't have to rely and constantly go back to written descriptions or abilities, and you don't have to broadcast updates on a separate post — they occur automatically and everyone that's on the forum can be made aware quickly. In effect, these new roleplays emulate games on your PlayStation, Game Boy, or Xbox (especially the latter and the Xbox 360 due to their online playing capabilities). The catch, however, is that these roleplays can't rely on simple HTML or even JavaScript; they require server interaction, which many people coordinating the roleplays on forums just aren't capable of. It's a case of survival of the fittest if ever I saw one.

I bear no animosity toward these sites, and I certainly don't want Silver Moon Boarding School to go away. I know that it's because there has been so much of this activity that it has inherently become redundant, and there has been need for a change. I completely respect that, and I see it as cause to go off to learn some Java.

1 comment:

Articuno said...

I say! You must have thought long and hard into the reasons for the decline in forum role plays.. I would never have come up with the fact that they are overshadowed by sites such as Neopets! Pity really.. even though I'm not a forum roleplayer..