Getting Through The App Process
So, you've found a game you want to play, but the staffers won't let you in to start roleplaying until you've submitted a character application, complete with a background that gives them some idea of how you envision your character, and shows them you can play within their theme.
I must admit, when I first heard about required character applications for games, I was highly skeptical. It sounded elitist. It sounded snobby.
Now, I swear by them, especially for roleplaying-intensive games such as my own, OtherSpace.
Before offering some secrets on beating the app system without having to prove you can memorize a whole bunch of theme information, let me first explain why apps are such a good thing for RP-focused games.
Three words: Investment of effort.
In many roleplaying-intensive games, staffers put a lot of time and energy into their storylines and plots, in creating a feel, a sense of atmosphere, that makes their game unique. To suddenly shatter that with someone calling himself K3WLD00D wandering around the palace, waving his sword and crying, "There can be only one!" in a game based on Camelot is akin to turning Bobcat Goldthwait loose in the middle of an opera.
If you encourage players to put some thought and effort into their characters on the front end, then you have a better chance of maintaining continuity and preserving the atmosphere you prefer. And if they make a commitment to their characters, by giving them some thought, then perhaps they'll be more likely to remain and see how those characters turn out in the long run.
If character creation in an RP MU** is just as simple as creating, giving your character a name and race, and then running around the world behaving in any fashion you want, then you may have a lot of people creating characters - but it's likely that they won't be anywhere close to your devotion to theme preservation, and on top of that they can just leave and forget about it because the character was so easy to get. Go ahead and crunch 'em, they'll make more. Those disruptions can also drive away the people who *do* share your commitment to maintaining a solid theme.
Did I just say that? Sounds rather snobby, but the simplest fact of the matter is this: It's your game, wizzes. If you want ease of access, you take the risk of getting quantity over quality. If you want quality, you're going to have to suck it up and be at least a little picky about who comes in the door.
The application process, besides acting as a gatekeeper for quality and theme familiarity, also serves to discourage twinks. I keep a running roster of rejected bios to provide an occasional chuckle. For every one application that we approve at OtherSpace, we've probably rejected three others that either didn't meet minimal standards or twinked out. No telling how many would-be twinks have gotten to the application submission page and then run the other way rather than bothering to submit anything.
But, of course, there remains a downside to the application process, especially for games with original themes: How can a total newbie to your game adequately reflect they seriously want to play in your world without having an application treated like some kind of online SAT test?
The answer is: Simple, really.
Let's say you're applying to an original-theme Wild West game, but you want to get involved sooner rather than later, and you don't want to spend ten hours poring over the information on Wyatt Earp MUSH's website. You're willing to learn, perhaps, but you've never been an expert on the Wild West. What to do, what to do?
First, check and see if the game offers a theme overview. If it doesn't, recommend it. If it does, *read* it. If you read nothing else, read the theme overview, so you can get a sense of what to expect.
If the Wild West strikes your fancy, maybe your past experience with it has been playing cowboys and Indians as a child. Maybe you always wanted to play a desperado. So, think about the qualities that one finds in a desperado: A loner, wandering from town to town, working for whoever's paying - sometimes resorting to thievery as required. It's a basic concept that could apply to a Wild West game, a fantasy game, or even a science fiction game. Han Solo is a desperado, space opera-style, after all.
Now, you've decided to be a desperado, so now you need to think about what makes him - or her - tick. What kind of childhood did they have? What sort of misadventures have they had? Have they ever been in love? With whom? Whatever happened to the love of their life? What kind of values do they have? What became of their parents? (And here's where I send out my plea to applicants of all kinds: DON'T ALWAYS KILL OFF YOUR PARENTS! ORPHANING IS OVERDONE! PARENTS CAN BE VERY USEFUL IN EXPLAINING ABSENCES DUE TO RL, AND CAN BE HANDY FOR ROLEPLAYING EVENTS).
The key to getting applications approved in most games that require them is to answer questions like those above as thoroughly as possible without being silly and without inventing non-thematic mumbojumbo that will cause the app reader to roll his or her eyes and reject it. You don't have to prove you know where the OK Corral is, you just need to avoid telling the game staff that it's in Mongolia.
What you must prove is that you've got a handle on your character, you have some parameters for behavior that they can use to determine whether your actions would be considered in-character or not, and that you aren't just some twit with Internet access.
The task really can be painless, once you've accomplished the basics.
Brody (Wes Platt) is the creator and chief storyteller at OtherSpace MUSH. He has been MUSHing for about six years (four as a player and two as the top staffer at OtherSpace). Although he is part of the OS staff, Brody continues to stay involved in roleplaying - he can often be found playing a variety of characters from his RP repertoire at OtherSpace. He's also responsible for the OS website (www.otherspace.org), news updates, the OtherSpace Observer Monthly E-Zine (www.otherspace.org/osob.htm), egroups mailing list, RP log archives, and OtherSpace Originals MU** Library (www.otherspace.org/osorlib.htm) and Online Escapes MU** Marketing Services (www.online-escapes.com). Additionally, he moderates the Roleplaying forum at Top Mud Sites. Besides that, he has written "The Stolen Warriors" serialized novel based on the original OS story arc, the first book in a planned trilogy. Send email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit the MUSH at otherspace.org:1790.