Regardless how you think of a chat game or chat room, there is the fact that roleplaying is the key component. You're not the person you say you are and the Internet cannot create a perfect impression of who you are. You imagine and collaboratively conjure the world together in a series of texted or text-based formats.
It is not so dissimilar from a table-top atmosphere but online. Whatever it is, you are fantasising first, and imagining the reality second. You tacitly agree to share the same fantasy and provide, through roleplaying and creative writing, an avenue for your shared experience.
Every game and social or chat avenue for roleplayers has a function to talk and creatively expressive themselves. How important is that?
For some, it is the reason to be online; for others, it is a burden to write well and perhaps they cannot. Both wish to roleplay.
The problem is not irreconcilable.
The evidence of a chat-based environment is that you do not have many tools or systems around you to rely on. While the idea sounds wonderfully free, the average person is not going to fit your own idea of what that world is. There is a constantly shifting reality, that only with a handful of acquiescent individuals, will there be any consistency.
That means the chat gaming "world" is also inconsistent and fragile. If it depends on its contributors, then it will never reach a state of shared certainty. You need something to pin down that evanescent ether to a hard fact.
As a consequence, you have to give it meaning by saying there is; to chat and roleplay like you mean it, when in fact you do not care one iota.
It would take up many screens of explanation to really go into detail, which we will save for another time.
The best roleplayers are not those who fiendishly invent new situations or the ones that write exceptionally well. It is those who fit their environment yet are able to stand out in what they do as apposite and interesting.
These are some quick DOs and DON'Ts of an excellent roleplayer:
DO what is natural to you in real life
DO NOT invent new environmental factors without good reason
As it happens, these are the same rules a good dungeon master or tabletop game master would follow in preparing the scene for his fellow roleplayers.
Even roleplaying games now make the following mistake: enforced roleplay. Why, if that makes the world even more meaningless to each other, would that help?
Initially it may indeed help. It encourages everyone not to break immersion with idle chat and game mechanic banter. However, as you pull apart every situation for every person, there are many times where they are holding themselves back. They are throttling their natural impulses.
When the natural impulses die, you also kill all the motive to be present. There is little else left than to keep up the facade that everything is healthy and maintain this perspective of certitude (which often comes down harder to "correct" the failure to enforce roleplaying).
Not everyone is a writer and you aren't expected in Avalon to be one. You are surrounded by beautiful text, as though a world-class author came to host your own private party.
Pure roleplaying chat avenues, venues, and even tabletop "open" roleplaying, are missing a vital component: a baseline.
The baseline of quality is elusive but there is a true solution to the difference between players and members of a chat-based game that incorporates both roleplaying and game mechanics.
Avalon solved this issue, in fact, back in 1989 and 1990, with the systems of government, property ownership, persistent history, and amazing literary talent. Games like that did not exist before it; it was the first. Even today, there are few if any worlds out there -- in text, in graphical, or in novel formats -- that conjure so beautiful, so detailed, and so rich an experience as Avalon does.
It is the one area in which it stands out the most: it makes no demand whatsoever on a player to roleplay, realplay, or just enjoy the game side of things. The social aspect, the chat gaming, is always there; it does not have to be "in role" and "out of role". It is a reflection of you, more in the vein that modern graphical roleplaying games are.
By providing a huge part of the puzzle, the immersive and richly described world, even the most untalented in creative writing may enjoy an experience on par with their fellow roleplayers.
The baseline must be part of the world itself. It needs to provide quality fodder for the imagination, mechanics for meaningful encounters, and a reason to stay and create your own story within the great saga.
The chat avenues to express anything and everything should not be restricted but in fact accentuated to allow for varied expression.
Avalon originated as a real life social chat avenue in the late 80s and early 90s. It began in London and still resides there, but the Internet in 1994 brought it to the world.
The people who mingled in those early years were across the spectrum of age, gender, occupation, wealth, and fame; from people who were heirs to great fortunes and early computer scientists who contributed to creating the Internet, to the snotty brat in a block of flats nearby and the home-cook housewife from Derbyshire.
We are happy to report we are as cosmopolitan today as we were in the early days. There is uniqueness to be found in the richness of its world and the people who chat, play games, and linger there.
Avalon was not the only game out there in 1989 but it was the first to be a gaming cafe in 1990. It was and is a social venue centered around roleplaying a game of a single person's imagination. It married the ideas of tabletop gaming, chat, persistent history, and what later became the staples of game mechanics (cooldowns, property ownership, player versus player combat, government, warfare). Today, it may seem a little peculiar or quirky for not fitting the mainstream models of roleplaying games you see today, but that is because it remains an historic and contemporary innovation.
Who you meet is down to you. Nowhere else will the just and honourable knight vanquish the real life genius. Nowhere else will a millionaire gleefully cut the throat of an old hag, on an altar of bones devoted to the Diabolus.