A distorted and inaccurate history lesson
Before I explain the situation, I'd like to make it clear that I've been an outlier and general supporter for most of the events I'm discussing here. I like roleplaying, and I encourage it, but I'm not going to try to manage a roleplaying community in any way because I don't have a pressing urge to incite suicidal thoughts. If you're reading this and protesting that this is not the way something happened, you may be right; this is secondhand. If you're reading this and taking it as a gospel recounting of what took place, stop that. Moving along.
When FFXIV was on the horizon, a gentleman by the name of Kylin decided that it would be a good idea to have a single focused community for roleplayers. This is kind of a big deal, seeing as how Final Fantasy XI's insane server selection (or lack thereof) made forming a single roleplaying community nigh impossible. Thus was formed the Roleplaying Coalition, or RPC as it has been known forever after. (I had to think for a minute about what the acronym stood for, to belabor the point.)
Now, Kylin figured that as long as a community was being formed, this would be a fine time for everyone to start working together toward a single standard of roleplaying. This is also a laudable goal. Even disregarding the usual spate of secret magical vampire roleplaying you find everywhere, having a single standard for events, timelines, and so forth would be a useful tool for roleplayers in general. So Kylin proceded to outline his views of the RPC's overall role, which included basically serving as the roleplaying police.
Some members objected to this, among them a gentleman by the name of Lior. As Lior saw it, the community's role should be to encourage roleplaying, not to create an environment where you either adhered to certain rules or you weren't welcome. Thus began roleplaying drama in earnest before the game had even reached a testing stage, which would be a new record with any other sort of community. (I'm pretty sure there's already roleplaying drama in the WildStar roleplaying community.)
After extensive debating/arguing/catfighting, Kylin backed off and left the RPC as a neutral force. This still clearly rankled him and the people who agreed with him, and his designs on being a community administrator cleary rankled Lior and the people who agreed with him. But seeing as how the entire community imploded shortly after launch, this sort of fell by the wayside.
Not very long ago, Lior opened up his own community site for roleplaying, dedicated to providing a roleplaying community that both met his personal standard for what the community ought to be like and was an alternative for those not terribly happy with the RPC as it stood. Cue an explosion of drama visible from orbit.
My bias, if it matters
I know both Kylin and Lior, albeit the latter better than the former. Both of them have been supremely cool people in every interaction between them and me, and both of them have their own version of how events went down.
While I've been involved with the RPC and the roleplaying community as a whole, it's been from the knee-deep level, not from the top. I've led one linkshell, briefly, and that's not what this was about. I was not involved in any of the discussions about how the roleplaying community should or shouldn't be handled aside from serving as an observer and providing intermittent color commentary when the drama spilled out from private discussion. While I've got some issues with the RP community in the game, they aren't relevant to this discussion.
If it needs to be said, after countless articles from me about how important roleplaying is, I don't have a side in this. The side I support -- and will always support -- is the side of "roleplaying is cool." Anything that encourages people to roleplay is aces in my book. Creating an environment that's RP-positive is a big personal wish. My bias with these sorts of arguments is for people to not be arguing over how we have fun and just have fun.
So where are we?
Right now, we've got two roleplaying communities being formed. The problem is that the game doesn't need two communities; it needs one unified community, and splitting the community will kill roleplaying and so forth.
The obvious answer? No, it won't. Fighting amongst ourselves will kill roleplaying. Creating rules about whether or not Jets can roleplay alongside Sharks is far more dangerous than the existence of the Jets and the Sharks. Division isn't only a natural part of roleplaying communities; it's an entirely healthy one.
Not everyone enjoys the same sort of roleplaying. Not everyone enjoys the same intensity level, not everyone enjoys the same subject matter, and not everyone is keen on the same amount of raw game time. Roleplaying is like any other in-game activity, with a lot of different permutations based in individual preference and schedule. Trying to form one standard that applies to all roleplayers everywhere is a process that's doomed to wind up being exclusionary and fail because there will be people who look at that standard, decide that it doesn't fit them, and walk away.
That's the real potential tragedy -- not seeing that there are so many different communities, but getting the sense that you're not welcome in any of them. The game can support two different communities. It can support people who are part of both communities, or people who are part of only one, or people who choose to be part of neither but still enjoy roleplaying. Providing more spaces for people to come together is a good thing for all involved.
And let's be honest -- the community is already divided. It's divided so many times by now that it could have produced an entirely new species of single-celled life. Trying to prevent divisions from forming in the community is like trying to prevent the breakup of Pangaea. We're long past the point when this could be prevented.
So embrace it. Let people do their own thing. Let us build many houses for people to move between, and above all else, let's remember that while we might differ on the how, we agree on the what. And with this, I hope to fix all drama ever forever.
Because sure, why not?
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, as we wait for the ending, will be taken up by a look back through FFXIV's slow-moving apocalypse -- what worked and what didn't, in other words.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.