This is written from a real-world perspective.
As I exist, I come mostly from a roleplaying background. When I was younger, my older brother would play these text-based adventure games on the family computer. Anyone so inclined growing up in the 80s probably remembers the deliciousness that came from Infocom.
I discovered The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school. I also discovered pencil and paper role playing games, and very soon thereafter, computer role playing games. I devoured fantasy with zeal, spent time with other friends from theater class with the noble intent to roll characters and have grand campaigns (we wound up spending more time rolling characters and fleshing out their backgrounds), and generally wished I could be everything I wasn’t.
Sometime after some time passed, when I was ekeing out a career validating random matters technical in an ancient office building in Baltimore, a friend of mine (demi-more than a friend, spiritually we might as well have been brother and sister at the time) contacted me with a begging plea: he was playing a role playing game, online, text based, and was hitting a stumbling block. His character had two sisters. For purposes of story, he needed to interact on a fairly regular basis with one of them. Could I please deign to join him and take on the role of that character?
I was familiar with MUDs. I had played on a couple of them (LambdaMOO, and something called Ghostwheel, and for a little while on a couple of LotR and Wheel of Time-related ones that I couldn’t even begin to remember the name of now) and thought them an interesting diversion, in varying amounts.
I wasn’t familiar with Tapestries, but… took a look anyway.
Oh yeah, by the way, my friend’s character’s sister was a furry. In fact, they all were. And a fairly… spoiled naughty dirty furry at that. I was not up on furry fandom at the time. I didn’t know all of the subcultural stereotypes and tropes. And I was kinda irked that my friend had gone so far as to choose the name of this character he needed me to play, and a really… rather adult-oriented lifestyle. It’s not exactly the sort of person I am, not quite, but…
I grew up around cats. I’ve never lived a moment where I could say that at any given time I do not have at least one cat. In high school, even, my feline tendencies (stealth, curiosity, silence, fits of drama, fondness for fish and dark places) was known. Natural affinity for them, etc., and I also had the habit to sit on top of things, crouch in corners, be very nosy and curious, and so on. So it’s pretty safe to say I understood the cat mentality.
I dove into Tapestries, all four paws forward, and took on the role as Elisha. For my friend’s sake, I played her as he wanted me to, for a while… but one of my stipulations was that the character would be solely mine and I could grow her the way I wanted her to. He was fine with that.
Over time Elisha grew up. I made her less and less a spoiled, bratty princess with a slutty streak a mile wide, and more and more a generally dirty-minded but wanting-to-improve-herself cat on the cusp of maturity. On Tapestries, none of this gets done without roleplay. Long, long, involved roleplay.
And then I brought her to Second Life, and she matured even more, and learned to sail, and took jobs, and partnered and married and enlisted and all sorts of other things. And became, in many ways, almost exactly how I really am IRL in terms of behavior and mannerisms and interests (looking like a cat notwithstanding).
This is where Elisha is now, and… I think it’s where, as Elisha, I went wrong.
The sound I just heard was probably you blinking. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that I’m not content with what and who I have inworld, and so on – my friends, my loves, the things I do and the places I am… I love all of it and all of you who just blinked.
What I’m getting at is, in the course of having Elisha grow up and become more like me… I succeeded. Elisha is now almost exactly like me, to the point where I could probably just change her name to mine and be done with it and not really have to act any different online.
The problem there, is it would be the utter death of Elisha, and I think she deserves much better than that. Because, no matter how close to me she is, she is more than me in terms of her own life experiences. I won’t see that killed off.
When an online game reaches a stagnation point, the developers tend to release new additions to spice things up and attempt to breathe new life into the game. Sometimes they’re just little tweaks to existing things. Sometimes they’re much greater, fullblown patches.
Sometimes, the changes and new material is so significant it becomes its own expansion pack.
As Elisha, I used to roleplay a lot. That, in my and her mind, is who and what she is. Only, with the exception of the SL Coast Guard, I don’t really do it that much anymore as Elisha. She’s had her feature tweaks (I took the role from my friend) and her update patches (moving to SL, learning to sail, so on and so forth). I, and she, needed something new.
Enter my alt, Eira Montpardien. Plotwise, she’s my niece, the youngest daughter of the brother-figure mentioned earlier. She’s moved to SL also, to attend college at Hillcrest.
She is a pure roleplay character. I make no bones about saying that. It’s basically even in her profile. RL doesn’t exist for her. She was invented (based on a scripted cat pet I used to have inworld) to be a different sort of character, one who could -do- all the roleplay I would have otherwise wanted to do but managed to accidentally grow myself out of.
This is why she’s 18 and some odd, a freshman in college (an experience I actually lack IRL), interested in sociology and in many aspects other than being a catsune (her mother is a kitsune), wholly different from Elisha.
Eira is, in short, my expansion pack. A character foil that I can play off of Elisha and friends, someone to have different experiences of her own, and… more importantly…
Someone who can break through a mental stagnation I’ve started to feel with what I do as Elisha.
I’m already starting to see the difference. Forcing myself to roleplay as Eira has meant in the (admittedly reduced) time I’ve been Elisha, I’m more prone to using longer sentences, quotes, narrated poses, and so on. It’s felt like a vitamin shot to my psyche.
I know some of my/Elisha’s friends are concerned that I’m spending more time as Eira than as Elisha. That may be true to some degree, but that’s mostly because Eira is my shiny new toy. I haven’t forgetten Elisha. In fact, I need to be Elisha more to take advantage of the benefits of being able to be Eira as well, anyway. So there’ll be more Elisha around soon too. She has some patrols to make anyway, and some things she wants to do, and a boycatpartner and girlcatwife that she sorely needs to spend some quality time with…
And when she does, it’ll be astounding.