Ready for a quest, his shield and sword are in hand. The chiseled gladiator stands with a determined face, framed by tousled brown hair and budding goatee. His journey is with a hodgepodge band, OP-Pirate Alliance. It is a pirate’s quest open to all.
Chibi Gladiator is on his first journey. He is also a graphic character online, created by Lydia Alejandro-Heather, a senior USF English major. Her eyes brightened and voice quickened as she spoke about her passion: creating characters and embarking in online role playing games with other global players. Her work is admired by many on DeviantArt, a leading website where users can store graphics and participate in forums and RPGs. Positive comments flood her gallery of artwork. Requests from other gamers to create their character are a high compliment to the self-taught artist.
“As a kid, I kind of liked doing silly doodles,” said Alejandro-Heather. “I didn’t take it as seriously until freshman year in high school.”
Alejandro-Heather loves developing the back stories of her characters as much as she enjoys creating them. Their identities and previous experiences determine the decisions of the characters, and new decisions continue to develop the character during game play. She, along with other players, writes the story as the game unfolds. It begins with a prompt, a quest created by an administrator.
Role playing has spilled into other avenues of life. She has participated in cosplay events. Cosplay is dressing up as characters from comic books, movies, cartoons, anime, and the likes. No game playing is involved. Alejandro-Heather created some costumes for the fun of it. She entered into a few contests, taking first prize at a small anime convention for one of her costume creations.
“Her Monkey D. Luffy cosplay was pretty outlandish,” said Laura F. Alejandro-Heather, Lydia Alejandro-Heather’s sister.
Monkey D. Luffy, a character from the anime and manga series One Piece, sports an unbuttoned, red sleeveless shirt exposing his lanky figure. His light blue pants are rolled up to his knees, with a yellow sash tied around his waist. Luffy’s straight black hair juts outward from a straw hat which emphasizes his devious smile and eyes that insinuate trouble. One Piece, featuring Luffy as its main character, first premiered in a Japanese anime magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump, in 1997.
Since the days of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970s, RPGs have changed. The format has grown in popularity and formats, and more people are connecting in fantasy worlds, embarking on quests and creating new friendships. Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop RPGs still exist, but now gamers have access to role playing on computers, gaming consoles, tablet devices and mobile phones.
Video games promote positive motivation, cognitive thinking, emotional and social skills, according to an article published in the American Psychology journal, January 2014 edition. The same article claims that 91 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 17 have played video games.
Some professionals theorize that role playing creates a safe environment for people to act out deviant behavior. They can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without real world consequences, according to snippets of a book review from the journal, Transformative Works.
No data is available on how many people participate in role playing games. A quick search on the Internet shows a plethora of gaming communities, RPGs and numerous choices in genres such as historical, horror, science fiction, and superhero.
For Alejandro-Heather, the community is a perk – the real appeal is more about the creative opportunities.
“Role playing very much involves art and writing, and those are two things I love so much,” said Alejandro-Heather. “Both of those combined into this little fun activity I can do. It’s heaven.”