Roleplaying is like a polyfractal prism
Roleplaying is like a polyhedral gem - it has many facets, each of which is equally valuable, and contributes to the overall whole. Most people practice only one facet at first, then become fascinated when they discover there are others - this is often followed by trying to find the most 'pretty' facet, or in other words, the 'best' way to roleplay. But no matter what niche people find among the varied aspects and styles of roleplaying, the most common mistake is to assume that all other styles are ugly.
I'm not talking about respect for other gamers; I'm not talking about "Oh, we realize that some people enjoy this, but it's just not for us."; I'm speaking of the tendency to ignore the other facets when their favorite is discovered. Yes, that side is pretty, but so are all the other sides; wouldn't the entire gem seem much more beautiful if you could see all of it?
It appears to stem from a belief that different styles are mutually exclusive - often, just on the basis of BEING different. But someone looking into the gem through only one facet is effectively looking through a mirror; they are blinded to the fire burning inside. Their roleplaying is similarly one-sided, since in peering into the game for enjoyable roleplaying, they only see a reflection of their own style - they will enjoy this, but any other facets will shine elsewhere.
Then we have the dedicated roleplayers - those who try to be better at roleplaying, because of the sheer wonder of it . . . not to be the best (and thus better than anyone else), not to have more fun than everyone else . . . not when those take priority over roleplaying itself (besides, these goals tend to be self-defeating). Such people will head into each game with an eager, open mind, looking for new ways to roleplay, ways to improve their own. They try to find other facets of roleplaying, and enjoy those styles as well.
That's right . . . I'll repeat it once more for emphasis. AS WELL.
Somehow, they don't see different styles as mutually exclusive. In the long run, they DO have more fun than others . . . because, with campaigns where different styles are present, they can step back and enjoy the entire gem . . . viewing it from multiple angles.
But that isn't quite true, either - multiple angles imply that each angle is viewed separately, and then compiled into one vision. Rather, as they encounter different styles, they try to incorporate these into their own; a unified whole, with aspects present from each style, yet never so arranged that boundaries are defined. Without outer edges, there are no sharply defined limits, no question of how to 'fit in' another style; never does their style become self-contained.
As for being the 'best', all one can try to do is be better . . . not, mind you, better than others, but better than one has been. If you try to be the best, eventually you may delude yourself into thinking that you have found it . . . and this is the greatest sorrow, for when you are the best, there is no need to improve . . . nor to look for ways to do so. 'Tis grand to be able to look upon a given insight, and declare "This was one of the most rewarding progresses I have ever made; it ranks up there among two or three others in my life."; but watch out for judging too closely - "This is a close tie for that one two years ago." leads to trying to rank them . . . and eventually, to deciding which one is 'best'. When you are striving to be better, you can enjoy to the fullest measure each insight into roleplaying, because you know that each one was valuable.
I know what you're saying - "But how does this mean people think the other facets are ugly? It sounds like they're just uncaring of them." - well, I shall explain.
It is the most common of mistakes, because when people are looking for the 'best' style of roleplaying (or the one THEY will have the most fun with), they change styles when they see something 'prettier'. In contrast, their previous style is obviously less accurate than the 'correct' one they found; when they find the 'best', ALL other styles must obviously be wrong. Their own style is the ONLY right way, and anyone who does elsewise, by default, must be unenlightened.
So, they try to bring everyone else around to their way of roleplaying - seeing it as a favor to the gaming community, and delighted (at first) with the prospect of showing everyone how to roleplay best. They soon grow frustrated with the unnatural reticience of many people in changing - why can't the fools SEE how this is for their own good? Now daunted by the idea of trying to show people what to do, they have less and less respect for anyone who doesn't agree with them when told what to do - since their style is so OBVIOUSLY right, folk should agree when it is explained that their style is not roleplaying at all, and shown the path. Anyone who still persists in roleplaying their way, ergo, must be idiots.
That is the most common mistake, and alas, the most deadly.
For what does one do when a facet is ugly, but destroy it, that it not mar the beauty of the entire gem? Yet if all (other) styles of roleplaying are eliminated, then, no matter which one remains, it will be nothing more than a blank reflection of the previous self. Roleplaying consists of ALL the facets, each style is unique not only for what it provides, but for what it does not contain. Roleplaying must be seen as the whole gem, where no single facet entirely reflects the shape of the thing. Accept that each person around you has an equally valid style of roleplaying, and that together, you can truly make your game a roleplaying experience - acknowledge this at least, even if you do not try to see more facets, to reflect more of the gem in yourself.
As of 24/08/2003, this, and all other articles authored by FireCat which are held on this site, have been released into the public domain. Please feel free to use them as such.