I’m Surrounded by Assholes! Or: On Playing Jerks

A common phenomenon among World of Warcraft roleplayers is that several of them do not understand why their character, who happens to be a complete jerk, isn’t liked. It’s not fair! What’s the problem!? When it’s pointed out that their characters is an asshole, the response tends to be, “So?!”

As with everything, there is an inspiration for this post.

Once upon a time, a roleplayer in World of Warcraft expressed frustration that their character was surrounded by characters that were jerks, and yet those characters were generally liked by other people while theirs was not (an exaggeration, I’m sure).

It was pointed out that this person’s character was in a bar full of Worgen and decided to play the “Gilneans are cowards” card, so it was only natural that this person would run into issues. Why would a bunch of Gilneans, all with differing backgrounds, be completely hunky-dory with a son of Lordaeron that was telling them they were cowards when they, too, are shedding blood for the Alliance?

It was a question that demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the situation the player had put their character in, but aside from that, it also created some discussion fodder.

Why are some assholish characters liked, even adored, while others are not?

It’s all in the level of character development – and the maturity level of the player.

The answer has to do with two things: the character’s depth and the player’s maturity level.

Creating a roleplaying character in World of Warcraft is about the same as creating a character for a story; the character needs to be fleshed out, their background established, their motivations understood by the creator, all that fun stuff. A character with no development is flat and unbelievable – not very fun to play with.

Meanwhile, a player that’s immature and doesn’t understand that the actions of a character are not the actions of the player – also not very fun to play with.

What does a well-rounded jerk look like?

Let’s look at Marvel’s Wolverine. Wolverine is prone to bouts of assholishness, but he’s well-liked by the audience (and his friends) because he displays other personality attributes beyond “jerk”. He’s protective of those he cares about, good to people that deserve it, and he does have a sense of humour. He has motivations beyond “be a jerk to everyone”. He has a well-documented background – even though, in typical Marvel style, it’s rather convoluted and bizarre.

In other words: Wolverine is a well-rounded jerk because he’s not a cardboard cut-out.

Why are some jerks liked while others aren’t?

Whereas some characters that are jerks are completely cardboard, two-dimensional and badly developed, others are just so well-developed that they are meant to be unlikeable.

Honestly, though? Nobody should be asking this question. It doesn’t actually matter.

If one is concerned about how likeable their character is, they are in the wrong hobby.

I know, I know, “That’s awfully mean, Matojo”. Think about it, though.

Generally, if someone is an asshole, people do not like them. Therefore, if one plays a character that is an asshole, it’s common sense to assume that other characters will not like that character. Other players may not like that character.

This is perfectly fine.

It is fine for other players and other characters to not like a character – regardless of that character’s personality.

Roleplay would be awfully boring if everyone adored one another. There would be no conflict, and part of interesting roleplay – and character development – is conflict.

Don’t worry about how likeable your jerk is – it doesn’t matter. Worry about how well-developed they are, or how realistic. Worry about how interesting they are. That’s the part that matters.

The last word: my advice to people that play jerks.

I play several characters that are jerks: Matojo Furiey, Phaedra Osbourne, Krensythe Manashaper, and more. They are more than just that archetype, however, and have lots of development. If you ask me any question about those characters, whether it’s information that I’ve published or not, I should be able to answer you.

Krensythe’s favourite colour is blue, because it doesn’t clash with his skin tone and because he’s a freaking blue dragon, so why are you concerned with his favourite colour, why aren’t you running away, seriously, go.

If you are going to play a jerk, understand that in-character does not equal out of character. The characters that don’t like your character are not out to get you. They may actually be quite fine with you as a person – it is your character that they do not like. If, however, they do not like you because of your character (I know of a few people that hate me because Matojo is a gigantic asshole), that’s their problem, not yours.

You should probably be happy because your character most likely saved you a hell of a lot of headache, since somebody that hates the player because of the character’s attitudes is incapable of separating in-character from out-of-character and is most likely a harbinger of drama. Nobody likes OOC drama. Some of us like watching it, but nobody likes dealing with it.

Next, accept that your character is going to be disliked. Your character is going to have others pick fights with them, or get upset with them, or actively avoid them – it’s fine.

If any of the above is a problem for you, don’t play an asshole. You aren’t ready. That’s fine, not everyone can play an asshole, and by not doing it yourself you save yourself a lot of trouble.

Resources

If you need help developing a realistic character, take a look at this About.com list of questions that relate to character backgrounds.

Do you play a character that’s a jerk? How long have you played that character, and how much development have they had? Do you enjoy that character? What advice do you have for other roleplayers that want to try playing this particular archetype?