I've casually mentioned I am a roleplayer here and there, and I've done it in several games/venues so far. Lately, in terms of my venues of choice (WoW, City of Heroes) I have gotten myself into a rut. I love the process of character creating, I have more alts with character ideas than I know what to do with. The problem isn't with plot ideas either, as most of those ideas end up being written down and saved for the time when they can actually be used in a D&D campaign or RP event. No, I believe the problem is with the games I choose. And for the life of me I can't find a game that can supply what I would like to see.
I've made a previous post on how I'd like to see an MMO with Minecraft style functionality, but this desire of mine is a bit more specific. For example, a good measure of RP that exists in games like WoW falls into two catagories: Romance plots, or tavern meet and greets. There are no rules in place for those who wish an experience closer to a simulation rather than a game, and for good reason. A game within a game would not do. So characters cannot actually affect one another in any meaningful fashion. Sure, you can emote throwing punches and shooting them and throwing them into a pit of crocodiles, but at the end of the day nothing has really happened other than text.
I guess you could say this knowledge has put a damper on my desire to seek out roleplay lately. Collaborative storytelling is fun, but has its limits when any sort of event turns competitive. Your evil needs to either be supplied by an enemy mob, in which victory can be easily ascertained, or diplomatically won through out of character reasoning and agreement. Often these discussions turn to arguments and then both parties decide to take their balls and go home. This leaves holy orders full of Paladins, Priests and other dignitaries nothing to do other than kill NPC's and talk about how pious they are. Evil organizations are stuck in the same spot as well.
Stepping back for a moment, Nils and Gilded have a variety of interesting posts on simulation and games, Gilded being in the middle of his at the time of this writing. Many aspects of the simulation that would be deemed unfit for a game find themselves in a better light when presented to people who wish to portray a character's life in a fantasy setting. Even so, these qualities must have an element of control to them. For example, the topic of character level is one frequently debated. Should a level 20 warrior who has a backstory of being a veteran of several wars be able to best a level 70 young mage? If they were using the game mechanics rules, no. That mage would obliterate him in a humiliating heartbeat. In terms of the story that the players may want to create though, it may end differently.
Let's use a larger scale example. Given our hypothetical simulation game, a guild decides to set up a crafting fair to gather up a server's crafters to offer their services in one place to trade contacts, gain money, and what have you. The server's notorious bandit organization hears of this, sneaks their people into the fair and send in attackers on horses to cover the theft of some very expensive items and materials. Because this is a game, those bandits "ruined" the fair. The NPC guards were only able to take out a few of them before they got away, and scavengers grabbed some of the items off the corpses. The positive reaction to this would be to gather up your friends and chase after them, taking back what was yours and possibly earning a reward for the bounty on their heads. A fantastic immersive experience. But not the one you'd be guaranteed to get. More likely you'd get a lot of whining on the forums because that's not what the storytellers of the fair wanted it to turn out.
Partly what I'm trying to say here is that players love to build stories and plots, but despise it if anyone gets involved without their permission. Yes, my post did start with me complaining that the roleplay I've been finding is not exciting at all for me. To add on to that, I know many people who have quit WoW for that reason. In my last guild in particular, I could get one member on a tangent about how immersive EVE Online was at the drop of a hat. He was one of the reasons I tried the game actually. And most of us are aware that the best stories that come from that game are from things that actually happened.
But strangely enough all of those roleplayers did not immediately jump ship to join a more immersive game. Why? Because roleplayers are writers first and gamers second. The safe environment, though not exciting, is the one they truly want because then they can decide what happens to their characters and not some roving bandits. In the MMORPG culture we have cultivated, those bandits are griefers and a nuisance that the GM's should do something about, stealing from other players is an exploit that the developers should fix, and PvP without being able to opt out is a terrible feature.
Simulation has its place, but unfortunately that place is a niche, and is not the place that the roleplayers I know would want to play in, despite their and my claims to the contrary.