The weird thing about me is that I've always been a little bit shy. I'm getting much better, but even now, I'm sometimes a bit shy when trying something new. If anything, I just nowadays find out much faster that this stuff isn't killing me and I'm worrying for no reason - the only hard part is getting around to try something social. I can do just fine, if I get started doing something.
In a last few years, I was a bit shy when I tried Second Life for the first time, but I was fine once I figured out how the application works. I was shy to try out Halo 3 multiplayer, until I figured out that wise people just don't even try the voice chat thingy. (No, I was not scared by the Halo 3 multiplayer. It was the brand new notion of voice chat that scared the bejezus out of me.)
But there has been times when I was completely paralysed by the idea of interacting with strangers in online games. It took me over a year to seek out other people in MUDs. I was kind of shy in Neverwinter Nights persistent worlds back in their heyday.
So, let me tell you a small story.
I used to play at a NWN persistent world called City of Arabel, back in 2003-2004. I don't know how active the world is these days, but the City of Arabel web site seems to be still up. It was a rather active PW, dozens of players logged on all the time. It had tons of scripted quests, and people actually roleplayed. I haven't talked much about what I did there. Um... I once graphed how well I did.
I was scared to roleplay, scared to do things at the time, but I tried. I was smiling on the outside. I was pained in the inside, because I was so worried that I might screw up and I was, in a way, doing better than my mind could handle the time. It was weird and incomprehensible: I once managed to participate in a multi-player mission, shot a zombie thingy with a bow, and the guy near me said "good shot!"... and that was a response from a real human. And I didn't die or anything. Wow.
And I did flub up some things, and was scared and pained and tormented afterwards - but I probably overreacted the hell out of things. Luckily, in retrospect, I think I'm the only person who was affected by that. Maybe. My memory is hazy.
But here's the thing that I regret most about being in Arabel: I didn't participate in the game that much.
I remember one incident vividly. I regrettably couldn't find screenshots that would have more details. That is pretty unbelievable in retrospect - I just went through a few CDs full of tons of NWN screenshots from single-player mods (which still run in NWN just fine, thank you for asking) - and there's ridiculously few screenshots from multiplayer games (which are ephemeral and gone now). Damn! I focus on wrong things!
One day, a druid (I can't remember much of the player aside of the fact that the character was a druid) sent a public message that said that he was giving a free lecture on how to properly care and handle animals. He told everyone to meet him in front of a roadside inn outside of the city proper.
I waited for the guy. As the time drew near, I chickened out. I left the area because no one was there. No one was coming.
When I was heading out, I saw the guy on the road, heading toward the inn.
And for the rest of my life, I'll probably regret for not going there. I'll regret that I was not there. He may have been there alone, and since I was going to be there, I might have been the reason for his disappointment. Other people might have been there, but I missed all of the fun. If I had had the mental strength to be there, it might have been a fun presentation even when it was going to be just two of us.
But I didn't get to see it. I was a coward.
And now in retrospect, that has led me to a realisation: roleplaying is an act of love. It is an act of kindness toward other person or persons.
Druids giving presentations on care of animals didn't have any function within the game. People could have gone killing monsters or doing other things and got benefit from that. But the druid in question was just doing something that was appropriate within the world and appropriate for the character he was playing and piqued interest of at least one person within the game who liked animals.
Hence it's the duty for the other players to respect that kind of expressions of love and return them. I let my own mental frailty take better of me, even when I knew it was completely natural for my ranger character to be interested of proper care of animals and be there and learn together and have great roleplaying time. And outside of the game, I still like animals. It would have been awesome. People expect roleplaying sessions to work the way they work. If the player goes batshit insane in middle of the game and does something that's completely inappropriate in that scenario, that's bad form. It's wrong.
So that is my big dark roleplaying secret: I broke the character and felt sort of crappy for that for 5 years afterwards. I feel very stupid for not thinking of that incident earlier, because I've been thinking of roleplaying from the point of view of love and friendship for a while now. I've gotten over it. I understand what roleplaying is supposed to be about now. I really do.
I had to get this off my chest.