Another life: RPGers create worlds online

Nathan Smith was trying to escape a dragon as well as some bandits and a skeleton. But then he and four others fought their way out of the situation. 

“We only wanted to see the great city that our homes were in, retire to our quarters, and get to bed,” he said, describing a day playing a video “role-playing” game that he had just finished. “This is the adventure I love, an online place where I can be who I want to be!”

Smith, 24, is from Orlando. He has played video games since he was six. He’s a former active-duty military member and a current role roplay gamer.

Role-playing gaming, also called RPG, has one set rule: Be whoever you want to be. The first commercially available RPG was Dungeons & Dragons, D&D for short, which debuted in 1974. D&D has stood the test of time as a fan favorite for most RPG players in 2024. Just two years ago, according to an article by the PC gamer, Robert Wardhaugh was running the longest game of D&D known for over 40 years. 

As time progressed, RPG games took all kinds of shapes and forms.

The entrance of the digital age brought about massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and the art form took to new heights. Millions of players from all facets of life now come together to create stories through gaming. 

RPGs have seen a big jump in popularity not because of a new game but because players are actively evolving and evaluating ways to create worlds away from the real ones; they live in real life by creating fantasy worlds where they can be barbarians, soldiers, wizards and much more.

“I am able to express myself and several different ideas I have through many different characters,” explained Josh H., an online D&D player for over ten years from Oklahoma. “The fantasy of being a great warrior or a scholarly mage allows me to play those lives out in detail.”

This level of detail and fidelity allows players to immerse themselves in whatever story or life they see fit.

“I’d like to think of myself as a writer in my spare time,” Josh exclaimed. “I like to build my stories around characters, and then I fall in love with the stories that I create; when I can do that with many different people at one time it only adds to the excitement.”

Creativity and a fantasy world draw the attention of many online gamers worldwide. When speaking to some of these gamers, a question arises: Why be that person who works a 9-to-5 job when you can be something far superior in another world?

An up-and-coming Twitch streamer, AsterinBlossom, shared a bit of insight into what it is to separate the natural world from the one she has created on her online platform for her followers and her to experience.

“I would never say that life online would ever be better than my life in person. I am fortunate enough to have a great job and a wonderful time just being myself, ” she shared. “Everything else online is a helpful way to explore entertainment and grow creatively. Still, I would never go to the extent of placing that over the one I live every day.”

As Asterin explains, it’s about creating a healthy boundary in one’s life, separating what is fantasy from what is real.

Nathan Smith, 24, from Orlando has played video games since he was six. He’s a current role play online gamer and a former active-duty military member now serving in the National Guard.

Smith went into detail about how online life can be unhealthy for a few who delve too deeply into the world of fantasy and what thoughts can occur deep into the role play of one’s character.

“I find many people who fit the term of chronically online players. They let the game and stories consume them, which is not good in that specific sense,” he explained. “We have bills to pay, friends, family, and a whole bunch of other stuff that needs to be handled, and RP’ing can take that away in a blink.”

“There have been times when I have spent twelve hours straight on a game, and I wake up feeling that I just did that! I just spent my entire day on a game,” exclaimed Smith. “While that is a bad thing in nature, if I have the time and I am otherwise healthy, I find it to be a euphoric experience letting my brain roam free in another world for a bit because, yes, sometimes the one we experience every day can be a bit stressful.”

According to an article from Scientific American, “Concerns persist about whether games foster aggression or addictive play.”

The authors, psychologists Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green, have found that video games foster aggression and an addictive trait to keep the player involved. On the other hand, they also perceive the positives.

“A range of mental skills appears to benefit from gameplay, including attention, faster processing of information, flexibility of switching from one task to another and visualizing,” the article explains.

The authors expect that video games, in general, can affect the brain in many ways, leaving the question of how online multiplayer play and role play expand on the already significant benefits gaming regularly provides in mind.

The initial discovery of online role-play games is here to stay. It includes the expression and beautiful art from a fascinating world created by players of different walks of life who channel that same energy into the one they create online.

“Honestly, the way I view it is that it is more of a hobby of mine,” shared AsterinBlossom. “I get involved with many people daily, allowing me to branch out creatively and nurture my writing.”

Andres Rivera is a senior and veteran FIU student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Digital Journalism with a minor in political science attached. Before FIU, he obtained an associate degree in Psychology from Miami Dade College. He served as a sergeant in the United States Army for seven years, with a deployment to the middle east that broadened his knowledge of culture and foreign affairs. He is also an FIU Panther Now staff writer and photographer with experience in keeping up with quotas and media content creation. After graduation, he plans to become a reporter on foreign politics outside of the united states.