Online chatroom role-playing was the 90’s hype that is now a forever dinosaur. Role-playing takes me back to a day and age that to me seems like it is long forgotten. A lost art that no one else seems to remember. I was introduced to the role-playing world on the archaic dial-up service America Online, commonly referred to as AOL. I got my first taste of online role-playing on those old online chats which led me to grow a fascination for it. It was how I was able to communicate with people around the world, make friends, and delve into someone else’s shoes. I brought my imagination to life and created characters that embodied different aspects of myself. So why is chatroom role-playing a lost art?
What I knew about role-playing
Don’t get me wrong, role-playing didn’t just happen online. As a matter of fact, there was so much more to role-playing than I had ever thought. Role-playing encompasses table-top, live-action role-playing (LARP), and electronic media. However, all I knew was online role-playing. It allowed me to become the storyteller of my imagination, bringing my characters to life. I would sit for hours typing away until my hands hurt. Story after story, year after year, role-playing lead me to other online forums. Sites like The Realm of Shadows forum and World Broadcasting System (WBS,) which stands to this day. But what happened to these worlds where the imagination goes wild?
The rise of internet chat rooms
The internet was a fairly new thing back in the 90’s and the only way to access those cool online chat rooms was to connect through AOL. Once you were in, you would look up a chat and enter the chatroom. You could even create your own chatroom and wait for others to join. Multiple users could join a chat. From the chats you could add users to your Buddy List. The buddy list was a lot like your Facebook friends list today. It gave you the ability to communicate with other AOL users directly. AOL was one of the public’s first way of communicating with virtually anyone from anywhere. That is how role-playing for me was formed and created. The simplicity of it was user-friendly and easily accessible aside from the internet connection time.
The collapse of online chat rooms
For one, the mass exodus from services like AOL led to the old RP chat rooms becoming shut down or barren, leaving only their messenger service AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) still standing. However, AIM has since been shut down, with service discontinued as of December 15, 2017.
The popularity of online forums has gone down because of technology. Cell phones started to become the “it” thing and it was much faster and portable to communicate via text or online through your phone, more so than through your desktop PC. The downfall is that you had a smaller keyboard and screen to work with. Lastly, it was also timing. The role-players of old grew up. We had to start “adulting”.
As I grew older and became a parent, I found less and less time to create my characters’ stories. There was too much on my plate with being a parent of two, working a full-time job and at the time, being a full-time college student. I had to retire one of my favorite pastimes.
“I will forever enjoy the memories I made”
Although I am a retired role-player, the writing bug will be forever instilled in me. I fell in love with writing when my songwriting dreams lead me to write songs and poems. I kept a stack of these in a journal I like to reference to at times to kick into my writing muse again. To this day, I seldom write anything of substance. Every now and then I get that writing bug and I start to jog things down but as far as playing a character in writing form, those days are gone, but not forgotten.
I will forever enjoy the memories I made, the characters I created, and the bonds I formed while role-playing. Once in a blue moon, I still pop into WBS. I just kick back and watch from the shadows while the stories play in my mind.
Were you a fellow chatroom role-player? what do you miss from the old chat rooms and role-play forums? The storytelling, the friendships, the exciting drama of whipping things up with your imagination? Tell us about your adventures and let us know down below!