Emotes: Do It Right

By | March 27, 2009

Blizzard has given us a wide variety of tools to help us tell our collective stories. While the animations may not capture the nuances of our characters, they can help us set the mood and tone. When the standards animated emotes don’t work, we have the /e command. With /e a player’s imagination, and working knowledge of grammar, are the limits to the character’s interaction with the game world. This command is a positive for RPers: We expand our ability to interact with each other. It is also the single most abused command on a server.

Here are two close-to-real-life examples:

Player A and Player B have run into each other on the streets of Stormwind, and reading each other’s FlagRSPs, begin to interact. During this random RP moment, Player A and Player B begin to throw insults at each other (obviously, Player A and Player B are RPing jerks). Player B then emotes the following:
Player B lunges for player A and begins to throttle the life out of him.

Player C and Player D are talking in the Pig and Whistle. Talking leads to flirting. Flirting leads to the following emote:
Player C thinks Player D is one hot gnome.

Let us ignore the idea of choking strangers on the street or “hot gnomes” and deal directly the emotes in question. In example one, we have a player taking control of another player’s character. This emote assumes that an individual will either be taken unawares or too slow to dodge someone trying to choke you. From a story perspective, attacking another character without allowing them to respond removes agency from the player. From a realistic stand point—a stand point one shouldn’t always return to when discussing a fantasy world with magic, dragons, hot gnomes and magic weapons—it is rather difficult to lunge and choke someone on the street, especially when two people are standing toe to toe shouting insults at each other.

Example two presents a character broadcasting a thought to another character. Quite simply, that is redonkulous. The two characters are flirting: By default there is some sort of attraction—physical, emotional, intellectual—between them. Broadcasting that kind of thought is redundant. Secondly, and more importantly, it is impossible to broadcast a thought. If one’s character does have some sort of psychic power, then a /whisper would be significantly more suitable for said task.

These two brief examples illustrate just a small sample of the problem. RPers, eager to interact with each other and weave some sort of story, seem to forget basic rules of collaboration and communication.

First, I strongly recommend that when engaging in any sort of RP where your character has a huge impact on another character, you talk with the player to determine your boundaries. In the world of Table Top gaming, the Game Master is the arbiter of said boundaries. Dice represent the potential of what can occur. In WoW, there are certain circumstance—bar fights are the easiest example—that cannot be handled with the tools provided by Blizzard. Using /random 20 or even /random 100 to decide is arbitrary. Therefore, you will have to address these situations with each other. So before trying to choke someone, you should probably try talking to them.

As for emoting thoughts follow these simple Rules:

1) If the word THINK is in your emote, delete what you have written and start over.

2) If the word FEEL is in your emote, and you are not discussing the tactile sensation, start over.

3) Emote how your character physically responds to emotions. For instance, when angry, don’t type, “CHARACTER IS ANGRY.” Emote the vein that is bulging from the for head, the sound of teeth grinding or the cracking of knuckles. If your toon is nervous: fidget, laugh uncomfortably, stare at the wall or have them stutter. Don’t tell the rest of the server how your character thinks or feels. Show us.

Disagree with me? Have any other examples? I’d love to hear them.


Ale on March 30, 2009 at 8:03 pm.

Example 1 is the true essence of god moding. Everyone’s done it at some point, but most of us know how to deal with each other’s emotes, and they’re never intended to force you to lose control of our characters. Often among the riders we feed off of other people’s emotes that momentarily take control of our own characters.

Outside of the riders, this type of emote is really hard to deal with. It often leads to drama.

The second example, we do that too, but I also think that every single time it’s happened we know that our characters aren’t seeing the emotion being projected. It just makes for good lols in the OOC channel.

/gattling gun arm

Tirith on April 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm.

Ideally, we would all follow the “show, don’t tell” rules that every high-school English teacher attempts to instill in young writers, but in practice I think that emoting thoughts and feelings is a valuable if not necessary shorthand for the tremendous amount of information that text cannot efficiently transmit. Sure, it would be better if Player C had described in great detail the wanton gaze their on their character’s face, the trail of drool sliding down from the corner of their mouth, etc… but I for one simply cannot produce quality writing at 120wpm all of the time. Exceptional-quality RP at a snail’s pace is nice sometimes, but it very easily snowballs into an alt-tab fest. That’s no fun for anyone.

Further, different characters are going to have different abilities to parse an emotion under different circumstances. Tirith, for instance, would have a well-tuned sense of when he is feared or trusted as a professional necessity, but he has to be bludgeoned about the head with affection in order to recognize that. Because an “X thinks…” emote provides no mechanism for IC communication, it shifts the burden of establishing that mechanism to surrounding players whose characters take advantage of that information. Granting them the ability to defer that explanation or even leave it unspoken entirely is an advantage to my eye; I love reading florid prose, but that isn’t why I RP.

My inclination in this area is to take every case as it comes. There is a balancing act between fostering interesting discourse between characters and perfect adherence to conventions of immersion.