The weird, weird world of LJ RP: Part One.

The site that launched a thousand wanks.

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly how I got started. But I know it definitely had something to do with Harry Potter.

A decade ago – that’s a whole ten years, for those of you playing at home – Harry Potter had already made its mark as the greatest literary fad in recent memory. At that time, there were certain people who had been lucky enough, had been born at just the right time, to be able to grow alongside Harry and his adventures. We were barely into double digits when The Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone hit shelves, and by the time bookstores around the world were celebrating the release of The Deathly Hallows, we would be in our young twenties and still proudly sporting our Hufflepuff scarves.

Yours Truly, Oxford, summer of '07, Dork Supreme.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we were the core of the fandom – not only the target audience, but the group that was, on the whole, most invested in the books.

Meanwhile, there was another fad going on. LiveJournal. Basically the biggest free online journaling site that had yet come along. I remember signing up with my personal journal back when you needed an invite code from an existing user to join – although, like so many “exclusive” sites before and after them (Facebook, anyone?) they eventually opened up to anyone who could come up with a username that wasn’t already taken.

Somewhere along the way, someone came up with a brilliant idea. Take fictional characters. Make journals for them. Get together with other people possessing journals for other characters. Tell a story together, with each character supplying their portion of the narrative.

LiveJournal Roleplaying was born.

by svilen001 @ sxc.hu

And lo, geeks everywhere expressed their joy by typing in a smiley-face emoticon.

I’m sure there was more than just Harry Potter games going on. There must have been. But I sure didn’t know about them. And there were a lot of Harry Potter games. Virtual Hogwarts were springing up all over the internet. And while obviously there were people who were interested in playing the characters from the books, the canon of Harry Potter had a built-in device for creating what we in the RP world call OCs, “original characters:” It took place in a school. There were supposedly dozens of unnamed (or only-vaguely-mentioned) students running around, supposedly doing something, even if it wasn’t quite so epic or influential as what Harry and his pals were doing, especially in the Houses that weren’t Gryffindor. The pure scope of the Harry Potter world meant that not only was it a setting that allowed for magic and epicness, but also the everyday sorts of things that happen when the readers aren’t looking.

The appeal of LJ RP can be difficult to explain to someone who isn’t into it, even other geeks. The best way I’ve been able to come up with is, it’s a form of cooperative storytelling, halfway between fanfiction (where one person writes a story based in an existent fictional world) and other forms of roleplaying (where multiple people make up their own characters and create an adventure). But certainly it was easy enough for multitudes of young fans to understand: it wasn’t long until an entire culture had sprung up around LJ RP. Certain games gained notoriety (or infamy), and as players slowly got older and more mature, games describing themselves as “elite” began to turn up. The character applications, or “apps” for these elite games tended to be much longer and more detailed than the casual games of the past, and apps were judged more stringently.

And that’s when things started to get weird…..

(“The weird, weird world of LJ RP” will continue in Part Two.)

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Posted on May 12, 2011, in Geekery and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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