Why I hate the term “literate roleplayer”.

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Diana, Oct 17, 2011.

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  1. AN EXCERPT FROM Why do I hate the term “literate roleplayer”?
    Literate Roleplayers Only. This is a huge trend across roleplay forums. They put this up in their site description and in their rules. What does that even mean? What are you asking for? How is a roleplayer supposed to know if they have met your lofty "literate" expectations? What makes a person literate enough to participate?

    And when a roleplayer is not "literate" enough for you? Do you turn them away? Do you say, "I'm sorry but you're too stupid to play with me."?

    That is what you are saying when you request "literate roleplayers only." You are telling everyone that they need to smart enough to play with you. Without even giving them standards to adhere by.

    The "Literate Only" trend has run rampart across many popular roleplay sites.

    When you see phrases like "literate roleplayers only" how does it make YOU feel? Does it make you feel confident that the quality of posts on the site will be high? Or does it make you feel insecure and wary about your own posting skill?

    What are some ways YOU would better explain to potential players what you're seeking for your roleplays?
    #1 Diana, Oct 17, 2011
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
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  2. The term "literate" annoys the crap out of me, especially when I see it paired with terms like "semi-literate" and "advanced-literate". If I see you use it, I will make certain assumptions about the type of player you are, and you will be hard-pressed to get me to go near your roleplays with a ten-foot pole. It's the same with other, similar terms; "advanced" or "elite" or what have you inspire the same feeling of revulsion. However, "literate" and "semi-literate" do especially bother me... both because they are so rampant, and because the word "literate" is being used incorrectly.

    It's not that I don't have standards. There are people I will never play with one-on-one, and there are general expectations I have for players in my games. HOWEVER, most of the time, I really only want three things:

    1. Coherency. Yeah, I'm a grammar Nazi at heart, and I'll sit there wincing at any spelling or grammar errors that I can find. But as far as whether or not you can play with me, I don't give a FUCK about your spelling and grammar as long as it's readable and I don't need to spend five minutes working out what you're trying to say.

    2. Content. I really, REALLY do not give a fuck about post length. You can write one-liners to your heart's content as long as you're giving enough content in that one line for everyone else to work with. Is your post altering the situation with any significance from your last post? If so, we're good. If the changes are cosmetic or really make no difference to the scene, then it's a problem. Doing a one-off action like sighing, smirking, smiling, or nodding is rude and puts the onus for pushing the scene forward on your partner(s). (It can be just as rude to write novel-length posts describing inner thoughts/physical appearance/etc. when it has nothing for anyone to work from, too.)

    3. Consideration. Really, 1 and 2 both stem from this one rule. If you're being a dick to me or my players- in any way- I don't want you playing.

    I usually don't set any kind of rules about this stuff up-front, though. It's more my style to deal with problems as they happen, because I don't want to scare away people who worry they won't be up to snuff or bog everyone down with a bunch of rules about common sense and common courtesy. I'm more concerned with whether they are making a character that fits the tone of the game or making sure my world info is clear and concise. If someone's posts are hard to read or low-content, I'll politely let them know and give them a friendly nudge toward a spellcheck program or the Institute. If someone is being a jerk, I'll tell them to knock it off. If they straighten out or at least TRY to improve, it's all good. If they don't, it's my right as GM or partner to give them the boot.
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  3. I'll admit, I judge people on their writing ability. I judge them a lot. And I cringe when I see posts so basic a five-year-old would laugh at them.
    But, unless their posts are bad enough to be considered complete abominations, and a merciless butchery of the English language, then I'm willing to at least try and help guide them and improve their skills. After all, I was a terrible player at one point. But I didn't improve because people shunned me - I improved because they guided me. And, while I've still got heaps to learn, I've advanced greatly because people didn't slam rules down to block my progress.
    So yeah, I have standards, and I'm quite a judgemental person. But I'll help where I can.

    Of course, I still get a laugh out of things like this.
    What? Deluded writers make me giggle.
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  4. Hey, some of them can be pretty epic. Look at Full Life Consequences!

    But we understand the matter at hand, and have personally been in one before.

    It was not the best of times.

    But we trudged through, and here we are.

    Writing doubles.

    That is all you, parasite.

    I have a say in this too.
  5. When you started writing, you were fucking terrible.

    That right there is a fact. No-one picks up a pen or starts tapping away at a keyboard only to immediately become a master of crafting narratives. It's a learning process, and each of us it at a different stage of it. Some people have been doing it longer, some do have that enviable natural talent for the whole thing, and then others are pretty new to it all.

    Here's the thing.

    It's okay to suck at writing when you start out. It's okay if you don't find your voice and pick up your style as quickly as others do. Writing's not a fucking science: it's an art. And art takes time to learn. I've found that one of the best ways to learn how to write, aside from reading as many books as you can possibly lay hands upon, is by writing alongside others who might be further along the learning curve to you. It's sure as shit worked for me: I wouldn't even be interested in this whole RPing thing if a couple guys hadn't taken me under their wing when I first started, and following the examples given by a lot of the crazy talented motherfuckers we have on this forum has really added to my ability to tell stories.

    When you start slapping bullshit restrictions like 'literate only' on your RPs, however, you destroy any opportunity to inspire someone who might not have learned as much about writing as you. They won't get the chance to tell a story alongside you, to garner experience from crafting a narrative alongside guys who've been doing this shit longer than they have. You're also implying that they're not good enough to RP with you, that just because they don't have quite as much experience or as solid a grasp of the English language they can't come play in your fucking clubhouse.

    This is bullshit. Writing is an awesome experience, and you should want to share it with as many people as you can even if they might not be as good at it as you are.

    So fuck you if you use terms like 'literate only' in your games. You're an asshole, and you're hindering others' chance to learn just how brilliant writing can be.
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  6. Having some requests is fine.
    However, if you think that you're really great... help someone out. That's my opinion.
    They say that one has only truly mastered something when they can also teach it. I think it's a good philosophy.
    But don't be condescending. Don't be an ass. Lead by example. Teach by expecting greatness.
  7. I like people who understand storytelling. That has nothing to do with how you arrange letters and symbols. But I suppose it's a certain level of experience that leads to that awareness. Or maybe it's just an understanding of characters and how they interplay.

    Sometimes a person who has not read any books can still understand great characters from watching TV and movies.

    However, someone with a good grasp of the English language is better able to get across the story they are telling. So being literate is not a question of smartness, but a question of communication.

    I think a good GM can read a post and understand what the writer is trying to communicate. So when a GM asks for people to be literate means they are lazy and don't have the imagination to see what their players are implying.

    In my writing development I've moved from Noobish sparsity to purple prose then back to tightly-edited clarity. It's kinda come full circle. I think true art is about finding the most universal way of saying something.

    So yeah. Literate roleplayers are just at a lesser stage of development.

    They are mid-level artists, lost in the nether-regions of their own buttholes.
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  8. I’ve been roleplaying for a long time – fourteen years for those that care – in the history of me roleplaying I’ve seen the literate craze start and flourish with devastating effects to the community. It eviscerates the hope from younger – often less mature – players. It annihilates the joy and magic from the play that’s present. Moreover it whores itself to paranoia, doubt, insecurity, and larger mundane posts that are so boring you want to slaughter a baby and use its bones for tooth picks! How do I handle this term and what do I do? Firstly I see it and I say “I fit that description” I meet it like a challenge and watch their heads roll when I “out post them”. This isn’t me tooting my horn it’s me telling you to meet that stupid phrase with courage and confidence! The second thing I do is I say “let me get on my toes” that is to say I start checking my spelling more. I watch my homophones - and I think about it. I don’t want a bad RP ever. Lastly I avoid those people! The moment I see that I leave you and all that you do alone! You are a pompous arrogant douchebag. However, I’ve been in communities where that’s all I was surrounded with and it was frustrating. I eventually had to hold my head up and do what I knew I could!


  9. ^ This is how I feel, too!

    During my time on Gaia, all I saw was "literate", "semi-lit", "advanced-lit", and it was really really frustrating because I didn't know where I quite fit in. I'd see the "adv-lit" roleplays with about four page long posts and tons and tons of size-1 text. Made me nervous, joining a roleplay like that. I think those terms exist on Gaia simply because of the levels in community. I think their "literate" implies a serious player as well, since most of the other roleplays are chat-style.

    If it wasn't for Iwaku's kind atmosphere, I probably would't have gotten better at writing over time. I came here in middle school with the writing ability of a high-schooler, but compared to the most active players here, my English was poor. I remember looking at my history of posts on old Iwaku and feeling embarrassed. Everyone improves in a positive environment and I think that words that imply some kind of exclusivity and push others away aren't going to be helpful to anyone willing to improve:(
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  10. I have been roleplaying for years in numerous roleplays and so far only once I was judged unsatisfactory writing and only by one of the GMs of the RP. One had mixed feelings and the last one was OK with it. Even after putting in a lot of effort to polish all the mistakes it was not accepted. It was one of the rare cases in which I gave up on an RP for having crazy high writing standards.

    I consider myself an above average writer in English and considering that English is my second language I consider myself quite good for my country and generation. I am a far better reader of English and I always like to see quality posts and stories on roleplaying forums.

    As for the "literate roleplayers" bullshit - ignore such people and threads. After all most of us come to have fun so instead of waisting time on such things search for roleplays which only ask that you be as creative as possible, stay active and have fun while respecting the RP's setting, idea and fellow players.
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  11. I often feel mary-sueish and overdramatic, but I'm getting better slowly and when I see literate roleplayers only, a lot of the times I'll move past that roleplay because I feel my writing skills and/or post length are not quite up to par, depending on who's hosting it.
  12. If you're not literate, that means you can't read or write. In other words; you're unable to participate in play by post roleplaying. So using it to say "You need to be smart enough to RP with me." is a pretty hard self-diss... 'cause well, it's a message board. You're communicating to someone they can't read through written text. That's kinda ironic.

    However, I will argue that GM's have a right to reject people on every ground they like. Same way, a player has every right to drop for whatever reason they feel like. That doesn't mean there won't be consequences, I mean if you're unfair as a GM, chances are more people will drop from your roleplay. If you have a reputation for dropping everything you join, chances are your next application won't be accepted. It's pretty much a free market out there.

    Also, rejection doesn't always mean "You're dumb and you should feel bad." Quite the opposite, actually. I've rejected a fair amount of sheets and my message is moreso "Hey, maybe this roleplay isn't the best match with your playing style." I've dropped a number of games for the same reason, I'm not having fun in a game where posts are dominantly one-liners or, on the other side of the spectrum, entire novella with minimal interactive elements. That's just not my style. It doesn't mean the roleplay is bad, if you enjoy it; more power to you, go wild. There are plenty roleplayers who enjoy the rapid pace of one-liner roleplay or the amount of prose you typically find in roleplays with 2k+ words per post. It just means that different people are looking for different things. It's personal preference.

    For similar reasons, some people prefer... 'literate' partners. They are looking for people with a similar mindset, but as it turns out, a lot of people feel it's tricky to communicate this. Therein lies the problem; people being dicks in how they communicate what they want. Well, that and a horrible grasp of semantics. Usually though, the only thing anyone using the term 'literate' is asking, is for you to use a spell check and write at least two paragraphs (assume 10-15 lines) per post.

    I'd like to axe the term just as much as you do, though.
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  13. I used to use the 'Literacy' terminology back in my ancient Neopets days (about 9 or 10 years ago now O.O).

    Nowadays I usually describe my preferences something like this:

    I don't mind short posts - sometimes it's hard to avoid if we're in an action or conversational scene - but I need material to work off of. Please try to tell me more than just what's happening; I'm interested in what's in your characters' head while it's happening, how it affects the scene, and why it happened, too. Proof-reading is easy, and I'm never so impatient that you won't have time to do a spelling and grammar check before you post, I'll always extend this courtesy to you, so please Proof before you Post. Insofar as story development goes I have no problem doing most of the plot directing, but I'd like to not be coming up with ALL the twists and developments; if you have an idea please shoot it at me or just implement it and let me be surprised!

    Basically I try to tell my potential partners that I need quality, fleshed-out posts (what I would have called 'Literate' before) but try to be encouraging instead of pretentious about it. When someone wants to roleplay but it's clear that our styles clash (ie: they're a fan of one-liners, or are too rarin' to go to bother with any proofreading) I try to gently tell them that I don't think our styles would combine well, and link to a few threads/forums where they can find other takers.
  14. If I can understand them and their content is creative, I really don't give a duck. One of my childhood friends, they aren't too good with grammar and spelling. But I found their writing such a pleasure to read! It was only just about comprehensible, but I wanted to read her English book every time she had it with her. :3
  15. Considering the literal definition of 'literate' is simply being 'able to read and write', posting [Literate Players Only] is just a matter of redundancy. This is a role-playing site. The ability to both read AND write in order to participate in these stories is a given requirement.

    But to be honest, such tags might also be applied because the GM may have had a bad run with players who do not speak English as their first language. Others may have wound up with players who are at a far lower reading level than they expected. Or the GM might not have the patience for newer players and wind up forgetting that "Veteran" can easily replace "Literate" in the above tag.

    It's all semantics, really. But to be honest... you guys aren't really helping to end that 'trend', either.

    Instead of attempting to correct the GM and remind them what 'Literate' really means, you treat it as taboo. C'mon now. We were all children at some point or another. Everyone knows if you make something taboo, the kids are going to be that much more interested in it and thus, more likely to do it.

    Besides, if you let the world know that it irks you, it only gives the trolls one more thing to bother you with. ;)
  16. Vague description insufficient. Unless it gets further extrapolated within thread, which would imply redundancy. If anything, it displays the person wielding language incorrectly and presuming others to understand their intentions through some kind of profound, universal standard/clairvoyance.

    Which would imply that the person has no clue what they're asking for, I find this is usually the case. Not necessarily malicious as they simply do not know better.

    Spend no more than one paragraph explaining what it is you want from your co-conspirators players. Be clear on length if it matters to you, be clear on grammar. Example: "I would like one paragraph per post as a minimum, and expect high school level grammar. Mistakes are fine, just be clear and make sure to proofread!" There. Now prospective players know exactly what you are asking for, and you know exactly what you are asking for. Most importantly, however, reflect your request. If you want four paragraphs or more per post, you better deliver on that. Don't ask for that which you cannot yourself provide.

    Beyond that? Do what is most comfortable to you. Just ensure to be as open as you can, because it increases the total number of players you might receive.
  17. I would have to say that my main issue with using literate in this sense is that by definition, it doesn't apply. As Shenorai already pointed out, literate refers to the ability to read and write and that by virtue of we, as a collective group of members, have the literacy to be here, all of us are literate. However, being an RPer on the higher end of writing skill, I also understand where some people come from when they place that label on their RP. They seek to find players with a skill level that is close to theirs and who can contribute to the plot and to character development. The problem is that they fail to find better ways to communicate this and that is why I particularly like Iwaku's Writing Level Guide. The guide gives a standard set of levels which you can use to define yourself and to tell others what you're looking for.

    On the other hand, and I truly don't mean to be rude to the non-English as a first language members, literacy also can refer to being able to understand the GM's native language or whichever they are choosing to run the RP in. From the looks of things everyone here speaks English but not everyone speaks it as a first language and therefore miss out on a number of the nuances of English. While those that I have interacted with have made very minour, if any, mistakes at all, I'm sure there are some that English is a very poor subject for. Therefore, I think that literacy should be synonymous with being proficient with the GM's chosen language for RP and nothing more. In fact, it shouldn't even be an issue in the first place.

    For myself, I generally refer to the Iwaku Writing Level Guide as a way to show what I'm after. If I want more, generally in my 1x1s, then I'll flat out say it. I had one request awhile back where I outlined exactly what I expected post length and otherwise from my partner. It's really a situational thing, but the Writing Level Guide is an excellent place to start.
  18. Hmm... I do have some expectations for my partners, but literate, is not a term I would use to describe these expectations.

    I, unfortunately, was raised by an English teacher. Though, I love my mother, dearly, I wouldn't wish that childhood on anybody. I was reading her college texts to her by first grade, and when I was two I often used words such as 'redundant'. I was raised to be a Grammar Nazi, and I often find myself editing things as I read them, and verbally correcting people speaking to me without realizing I am doing it. It can be a blessing and a curse.

    I haven't been a member of this site for very long, but I've noticed that there are things that make a partner good or bad. Level of skill isn't necessarily the only thing the determines this.

    English language learners often have issues forming proper syntax. English is a complicated language, full of ridiculous rules that other languages don't have an equivalent to, and such it's understandable to have some grammatical errors. I've been reading an writing English since I was 4 and I still make mistakes.

    I'm rambling, and just realized this, so I apologize. Literate is an ugly term for roleplaying. It doesn't allow for those who are actively trying to improve, and that is not okay. (Now I personally cannot handle the 'I don't care' approach. If you're going to do something: do it well, try to improve, show some initiative. Otherwise, you're wasting both of our time.)
  19. AS GM, I am irked to no end by the term. Literate implies, if I am not mistaken, that you can read and write. This is the age of the bloody internet, Its a sea of information. And on this sea, we are on a forum for people who like to WRITE and READ. YOu would not be here if you were not literate.

    Now do I have standards? Yes, I do, of course I do. I myself always strive to improve, and my rps are generally character heavy and I welcome a extra paragraphs of insight to a character and his actions. "Joel looked upon his hands, a mad glint to his eyes as he remembered what he just did. It had happened again, he could feel it in his very bones." is so much more pleasant for me to read then. "Joels hands were shaking, he stared at them madly."

    But before that, I need consistency and I need to see that my players can comprehend and participate in the world I as a GM is setting for them. Internal logic is to me more important that detailed writing. All to often, I see people grab a concept that while neat, might need some more polish. It might have to do with me not liking rule of cool approach to writing. But to many go with "This is cool" and end there line of thought there. I'll pick a one paragraph player who can get the point across and make sense out of characters motivations and background over someone who writes six of them about how awesome he is.

    So when I get a player, I have stopped outright telling them "no" and instead try and work with them to understand how I see and do things. And really, even someone who is still learning might have a kickass, fitting idea. Many times, players leave becouse they simply will not put that much effort into something like a character. That is fine, atleast I gave them a chance. Others I find, become returning players in my RPs.

    I am a massive fan of authors like Terry Pratchett, who weaves in back story and anecdotes about every character, no matter how small. It's essential to have a vibrant world full of people, not cardboard cutouts. On that note, I adore people who describe a surrounding trough it's history and personal notices. It gives weight to the place, turns it from a set piece to a living place. A practice I think more should apply, but I think I am straying off topic.

    As many other will say, I do not like when a post is all introspection and nothing to carry the rp forward. Other players need something to go by, something to act upon.
  20. "Literate" was a trend, and I can say this first-hand, that was caused because a significant portion of people treated all role-plays like chat role-plays, with one liners spoken in broken English.
    It's original definition was in regards to people that could communicate properly in the chosen language of the story (typically English) and use a spell-checker either in Word or built-in to their browser to make their text resemble coherent language.
    Back then, it was desperately needed. They ignored the fact that all computers (and now, all internet browsers on their computer) came with some form of spell-checking tool.

    I still stick by the old definition, because it's a somewhat accurate usage of the word. On some websites, it is entirely necessary because younger people with a poor grasp of language might frequent it; I don't write on those sites, and a quick check with my old haunts confirms this for me.
    People treating this as a derogatory term are just as bad as the people that used to report and yell at each other on Runescape or Maplestory for the word 'noob.' Really, people? You're the ones interpreting it as an insult, ironically throwing profanity about in reference to the users of the word.

    Rating systems as a whole (Like Literate and its various prefixes and suffixes) are an exercise in futility, and ultimately, you will need to rely on your gut instinct; no matter what you call them, you'll find someone has no idea how the hell to craft a narrative or a characters personality. Your standards are your own, and only you can tell if someone/something meets your standards.

    Does it make me feel insecure or worried about a potential thread because someone used the word 'Literate'? Even as someone who's put up with it for six years, no. It would be silly for me to get that upset.
    Alternatives? As above, explain in a couple of sentences what is expected of your fellow writers, as well as their posting frequency. Be strict, don't fiddle around with tenth chances, and genuinely strive to help your fellow writers excel. It's really that simple.
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