Or “Tumblr Roleplay As Joeysluna Knew It To Be From The Years 2011~ To About 2018”, but that’s too long of a name! So, we’ll just go with the first option.
For many years now, I’ve thought about the world and community of roleplay. I’ve done it basically everywhere for most of my life. In private messaging, through text, chatrooms, forums.. I’ve even roleplayed in the comments of youtube profiles (very special shoutout if you remember the earlier layout of a youtube channel). I’m not sure when I first started to roleplay…maybe 2006? 2007? Many years ago now, it seems.
But, even through all of those…nothing has ever felt like the tumblr roleplay community. I’m not quite sure what the magical difference is. Possibly the formatting? Maybe the general ease? Or perhaps the chaos of it all. Either way, I’ve always wanted a place to talk about this and, well, I realize…there’s no better place than the website I created myself!
Now, the general assumption is that, if you clicked here, you probably already know what roleplaying online is. But, if you’re anything like me, you very well could’ve just clicked on here out of pure curiosity. So, I’d like to take some time to tackle, not only what it means, but some keywords that will fool any seasoned roleplayer into thinking you’re a professional.
To start this all off, we should probably go over what ‘online roleplaying’ is. How I’ve always thought of it is like that game some of us might have played in classrooms. The one where one person will start off the beginning of a story and then you’d pick on someone else to continue it and so on and so forth. Or, alternatively, it’s like writing a fanfiction with other people where you handle one character’s dialogue and actions and the other person handles the other character.
If you’ve ever seen this image:
This is basically a parody version of roleplaying. While writing this, I realized also saying “like DND but it’s all written and has farless math”, probably was a much easier way to describe it too… regardless, you are playing a role.
And, now that’s out of the way, I’d like to take a rapid fire crash course through some of those “keywords” I mentioned earlier. These won’t be all of them, really just the basics of them!
Now, for some words that are even more specific, but again are the basics!
I believe that covers the basics. Or, at least, will give you a point of reference as I start this topsy-turvy deep dive into my own experience as a roleplayer on tumblr dot com. I have a sort of passion for this kind of creative writing and for the community and, for better or for worse and for the good and the bad, it has left its mark on me.
I’d also like to make a note that, yes I was technically within the space during 2018 - 2020, but my time there was starting to dwindle. Those final three years, I ended up really finding a group of roleplayers that really transcended past being people I’d just discuss roleplaying with. They’re my friends. And, okay, yes! We still roleplay, but it’s on Discord and it’s more private. I’ll explain later why this ends up feeling and being more healthy for me. But for now? Let’s dive on in!
Every person in the Tumblr RPing community during the years of 2011 - 2013 should know exactly what the title of this section means. This is one of the Tumblr RP’s community most, well, white and straight era. And as a Hispanic minor at the time, I have to admit that I hadn’t completely caught onto that sort of thing until about 2012.
If you’re wondering “why break it up between those years?” Well, it’s because that was when I started roleplaying on Tumblr.. And trying to find my place is how I ultimately ended up finding myself in an RPG that, honestly? Till this day, I had some of my most fun in. Granted, I was also a minor at the time. So, the thought of “being cringe” did not hold me back. I was a free birdie.
Now, before I get into the things that I did enjoy, I very much want to crack right on through to what would be “the bad” during this time. Which…honestly? If we were to stack it up to the sort of accountability we expect people to uphold in today’s society? It’d get absolutely torn to shreds. And, rightfully so! It was like the wild west during these times! There were like, no rules! You could get away with quite a bit.
To put it briefly, and because I don’t want to get too much into this particular part of the topic: minors and adults intermingled quite often. This is, in my opinion, a rather slippery slope. It’s later on in the years when I start noticing (and appreciating) RPGs that have restrictions on which age groups can join, but it took some time to get that to be the norm. There were some things that, of course at the time, I didn’t bat an eye at. But now as an adult, I’m like, “oh yeah…that should NOT have been happening”.
Tumblr roleplay etiquette was still in its infancy. When I had ultimately left in early 2020, there were just ways you would clean up your posts or certain actions you wouldn’t take. Back then? Those didn’t exist. If you were writing a thread with someone, you didn’t have to crop it. It can get as long and as dashboard filling as you wanted it to. It would lead to people complaining and asking others to please please crop the posts.
There was also tagging your threads and roleplays. Not a singular soul would really use the tagging system past just tagging the thread with the url of the other person you’re writing with. So, if your thread featured some heavy and/or triggering content? Too bad! There was absolutely no move to warn your fellow roleplayers. And if you were writing smut? It was just out there! No warning! That’s absolutely bonkers to me now but, again…those were the times. It wasn’t good at all, but I’m glad these sorts of kinks were straightened out of the community eventually.
And, finally, as I mentioned above…this was the time where every face claim was a white and/or white passing celebrity. If there was a POC celebrity being used, they were going to be light skin. And if your face claim wasn’t anything that matched that description? You weren’t going to get a lot of attention, unfortunately. It was a massive sea of Taylor Swifts, Demi Lovatos, Selena Gomezes, Every member of One Direction…These people had a chokehold on the community. Hell, even I had a Taylor Swift face claim. And a Demi Lovato one! Oh goodness, Ariana Grande as well…ah…the sign of the times (Harry Styles pun, eh?)
It’s also worth mentioning that, yes, it was extremely straight too. Very heterosexual within the community. But, that topic doesn’t get touched on until later on. Or, should I say, doesn’t start to get proper traction yet. And by now you may be thinking “alright soooo, what were the goods? How could this have been your most fun?” Well, because back then it was so damn simple. And I had the most crucial thing anyone needs to make a shit time, a good time: A group of fun and creative people.
This was the time before we all figured out that JK was a massive transphobic twat, so I was in a Disney-HP Hybrid RPG. Basically, it was Disney characters that had been anthropomorphized and then assigned into HP houses. Simple enough, eh? The sort of weird shit that fit right in in those times. It gave a sort of “cringe but free” energy that I aspire to reach again someday. But here, in this group, I was able to make some friends that really brought our characters and stories to life. And they were really fun to speak to OOC. But let’s take it one step at a time.
Above I’ve attached a photo of my profile at the time and, as you can see, it’s pretty simple. It’s not so bad to look at but it doesn’t hold a lot of personality either. At the time, I thought this was the prettiest theme I’ve ever seen. I’d like to mention that I had no way to go to the next page. Like, seriously. I searched all throughout that page and I ended up having to bite the bullet and manually type ‘page/2’ onto the url to keep exploring.
I think, though, you can’t really appreciate the simplicity of this theme without seeing what ended up becoming popular during 2014 - 2017~. Here’s an example of, yes, a real life blog I had during this time!
Absolute killer to the eyes, yes? Absolutely dreadful, right? And, later on in about 2018, the topic of this style of theme being ableist props up. Which, again, is totally right! The text is absolutely tiny! Not to mention, everything being so condensed into one area? Again, back then I thought this was worth total cool points but, looking back at it now? It’s dreadful. I don’t mind a little condensed container action, I mean you’ve seen my website! But this? Oh past me…dreadful…
But 2011 - 2013 blogs? There was no hip way to have your blog. You just chose whatever theme you wanted. And, because of that, it felt a lot less like a competition. Later on, your graphics start to be just as important as your writing. And, in some cases, even more important! But during this time? It didn’t matter at all. Being able to be fancy on photoshop was just an added cool skill someone had. But it was never what was expected.
I’d like to bring your attention back to the first blog. As you can see, there are two large gifs of Kat Dennings and Taylor Swift. (Yes, 26-at-the-time Kat Dennings was a face claim for a high schooler, essentially.) During this time, people would roleplay by simply writing their responses and adding a gif of the face claim “saying” the words. It was to help with imagery and, if the face claim also matched the energy you wanted to give in your response? Even better! In this example both gifs are the same size, but during this time, no one really cared about the size of the gif.
It could be super large, small, medium…as long as it was a moving image? That’s all it needed to be. And for those who were in the RP community after these times, they know that this style of roleplaying will end up being highly highly unfavored after. This ties in with the “graphics start being just as or more important than your writing” thing I mentioned. An honest to god shame, really, because when no one cared for how “pretty” it looked? It really was just all about the writing. Not to mention, up until the day I left, roleplayers have to edit the style of their replies as well. Not like, oh make sure the grammar and spelling is correct. No, no! They have to make their reply look pretty too! It was honestly so exhausting! People will get seriously ostracized for not making your blog and replies pretty. Isn’t that absolutely nuts?!
I have to admit, if I were to go back to Tumblr RP right now? I’d also not want to do huge gifs (they were really distracting), but all the bows and sparkles and decorations you need to add? Ugh… no thank you.
This specific experience really made the RPing experience for me. I want to say right now that, if any minors are reading this, do not hop onto video chat with people you don’t know. I mostly followed every single internet safety rule, but this one I broke a little. It worked out for me because I didn’t do it right away but, it still doesn’t mean it couldn’t have gone south. Thankfully it never did.
One of the biggest things about roleplaying is plotting. In fact, the general main goal of roleplaying is to have good enough chemistry with another writer so that you can go into the plotting stage. Plotting is exactly what it sounds like, when you and the other person plot out the…well…story you want to tell with your characters. This is where you two decided whether or not you will be shipping romantically or if your characters are friends or even enemies! It’s like the absolute high of roleplaying.
Now imagine that with a group of people. It is quite uncommon for everyone in an RPG to be invested in the plotlines that everyone is doing. Everyone is typically focused on themselves. Which, in truth, I don’t blame them! RPGs can get pretty big and so it’s hard to keep up with every interaction going on. But in this space, it was like everyone genuinely wanted to be in the know.
I had a lot of great plotlines. I also had a lot of ships I still think of fondly to this day. But, there were two things that were done that really was the icing on the cake. The roleplaying events in chatrooms instead of the dashboard and video chatting.
Sometimes, RPGs will drum up excitement and interactions by hosting events for their RPG members. Because this was a high school setting, most of the events were like a school dance or a holiday party or a random camping trip. You know, things like that. And they would designate one evening where we would all log on and go into the chatroom and commence in the most chaotic but fun style of roleplaying I’ve ever done. It really mimic’d that “in a party” vibe of characters talking in real time, at that moment. And, if something dramatic was going on? We were all literally there to watch! And it was just another really great feeling when you were involved.
I remember when my character was in this dramatic and emotional disagreement with another and the whole chat literally stopped. Everyone was just commenting on the side, yelling at our muses to fix things like they would movie characters as they toss popcorn at the screen. It was nice to be able to write something that really brought out emotions in others. The plotline became more than just us, it was beyond us now and people kept paying attention even after that.
And that was just sort of the norm! Others would have these sort of eye catching moments and we would find ourselves pausing to watch along–to see where the climax leads. I’ve never had anything like that again.
And then, the video calls? They were a lot of fun! Not only was it a space for us to be able to get to know each other, but it was a great way to plot. Typically now-a-days, my plotting is done via writing. Which, honestly? I’m not mad or upset about. It keeps a written log and, if I forget something, I can just search for it again. But, I can’t deny that it was still fun.
I used to have a little notebook where I would write down notes, make connections and write down suggestions to bring up the next time we spoke. We would create blueprints for houses and rooms. And then? We’d just talk. It’d teeter us over from writing partners to actual friends. Granted, I haven’t spoken to any of them in many years now but I think if any of them suddenly cropped up today? I’d accept them with open arms. I’ll always have a soft spot for the group of people that made my time fun.
I’d only end up finding a really great group of friends like that again in my adulthood.
It’s late 2013 to about 2015~ and I’m going through changes. The RPG I was in prior had closed it’s doors and we’ve all gone our separate ways. This sort of thing is very common and sort of is just the way of life for RPGs. It’s very, very lucky if a Tumblr RPG makes it for longer than a year. Even luckier if it’s longer than two! This space is different from say jcink or proboards where those sorts of spaces can really last.
So, I found myself completely lost. I’m in and out of RPGs like it’s no one’s business. They don’t seem to get a lot of attention and/or I just get completely lost in the shuffle. I’ve just been given the creme de la creme of RPG experiences and now all the impersonal ones just feel…wrong.
Nothing really happens here, except for my first ever totally sexist roleplay partner. He tried to completely slutshame my character and other women. And also sent a DM to me privately to complain when our characters were having a bit of friction and telling me to back off. I wasn’t going to bend my character just to meet your needs buddy!
But after that? Not much. The only real highlight of this time is that I decided to become an admin to my own RPG groups. And, really, only one of them really made it for some time but it was a lot of fun! Fun and challenging.
See, in 2010 I had been a co-admin to a knockoff HP group in proboards. So, I had a bit of experience there. My first group was a WWE (this will be an on-going theme. I was a big wrestling fan at the time) x zombie apocalypse themed RPG. A very weird, very niche thing to do. I got, maybe a handful of people joining? But not much. The second one I did was a wrestling x small town au. This got more traction for about a couple of months!
Here are some things a mod/admin has to do to run an RPG:
Thankfully, some of the harder stuff like confronting writers who are going against the guidelines and/or were bullying others wasn’t something I had to do. Just once did I need to make a general post about manners and engaging with others.
Eventually, that had lost steam and I had to shut it down. It bummed me out and I was lost again… So, logically, I made yet another RPG about a private boarding school. These were fairly popular during the time. Quite frankly, this one never did lift off the ground like I would’ve hoped but it is also the first time I had seen a confessions blog where people can talk negatively about other RPGs!
Now, I don’t believe my RPG had been brought up but it was…really nasty. There was a mildly “mean era” in the RPG world and I had caught wind of it then. Of course, people complained about this kind of blog! It was meanspirited and didn’t actually offer any constructive criticism. But, I do have to admit, when people would write in about how groups were treating minorities poorly, it was when I would look the other way on the morality of these kinds of blogs. Half because I wanted to hear the gossip and the other half is because finally, finally they were discussing these things!
I truly think it’s around this time where people started to show more diversity in their RPG casts. This was about the time where there were rumblings of a call for adding, specifically, more POC in your cast. Sexuality and gender still didn’t make it to the mainstream, but there were definitely rumblings of these sorts of criticism as well. Well, there was one gender issue that, in retrospect, was handled…well not the best.
During this time, there started to be some serious push back in a genuine issue that did exist at the time. In the RPG, there was a complete imbalance between ciswomen and cismen muses. It was rare to run into any muses that weren’t cis. And any muses that weren’t straight. Either way, people were gravitating towards writing ciswomen more than cismen. But, they only wanted to have ships with the cismen.
I’m not being a hater about this here, it was sincerely that bad. I remember seeing such thoroughly fleshed out women muse that wouldn’t get even half the interaction that a man muse would. And if the guy muse is a freshly new character? Not yet tied to a ship? God, it was like you dropped a piece of meat in a piranha tank. It was so lame, honestly. The women wouldn’t even interact much with each other, either. In fact, threads were more likely to be dropped (which means that they’d go unfinished) because people would just value their threads with men more.
I remember being in another boarding school style RPG for a brief month that was fairly big and easy to get lost in the shuffle. This was my Demi Lovato face claim! I believe that specific RPG actually had two of their handful of men muses actually dating each other. I remember thinking how rare that was at the time for this style of RP. This, of course, doesn’t count like anime RP where you’d see that sort of thing more often. Though, that’s also my own assumption and hearing RP stories from my friends. I didn’t join anime RP until much later. But, regardless, for this “real life face claim” RP, it wasn’t.
So, because there were always way more ciswomen than cismen and because interactions between the members would suffer because of these biases, RPG’s started integrating the “female ban”. It’s exactly what it sounds like, RPG’s would ban people from sending in applications for women muses until either a certain date or until they reach a more equal number between the genders. Now, I don’t really get to be that critical because I ended up doing it for my more successful RPG. At the time it did feel like a good idea. But, looking back at it now, all that did was continue to feed the same toxic behavior of believing that men muses were like the creme de la creme and woman muses were nothing without them.
This time was the last time I was in RPGs, so I’m not really sure if they don’t do it anymore. But, I think the pushback on it was great enough to stop that practice. Or, at the very least, made it happen a lot less. I did recently hear about a Discord RPG that did implement no women muses at all, but that’s Discord.
What was kind of sick about this was that RPers were mostly women themselves. Looking back at it now, it feels very…self hating? I absolutely love writing ladies. I love it! And I love writing threads with other lady muses. In my friend group, I’m kind of especially known for just being a “girl’s girl”. And honestly? This specific timeframe really made me up my appreciation and love for these neglected characters. Whether they be original or canon, I more or less made it my mission to make sure that I would be a safe place for people who were fed up with their muses being pushed aside for Zayn Malik face claim #2849.
This is absolutely no hate for men muses! I have a few myself that I love very dearly and hold to my bosom like a mother bird with her little hatched babies. But it was just…the worst. And the thing that’s especially ass is that, this bias never actually leaves. Up to my very last day on Tumblr RP, this sort of treatment was still going on. There was a lot more talk and fight against it, but well…fiction mimics real life in this regard.
Now, I know in the previous section I wrote 2011 to 2015, but actually I ended up taking a few months break in 2015. I was kind of tired of being all over the place in RPGs, nothing really stuck. I will again, briefly, join a Twilight RPG for nostalgia’s sake in 2018 that very specifically made better/got rid of all the things that were fucked about the entire series. But, that was for a short amount of time because the group would eventually meet it’s end. A real shame, really, because there were some very talented writers and I genuinely enjoyed myself and enjoyed the practice of absolutely shitting on Twilight with others who decided to take the characters into their arms and make things better.
That’s like, the best thing. Taking a canon character and going, “shh, shh. It’s okay, little one, you’re my character now”.
But, regardless, there really isn’t much to talk about with that specifically. Instead, I want to talk about what it was like in the new scene of: Independent Roleplaying.
Now, for those who don’t know what that is, I’ll use the definition written by rphelper on tumblr: “independent roleplaying (indie rp): portraying a character independently of any particular group, plot, and/or universe”. Basically, it’s like being your own boss. In this sort of setting, you can do whatever you want with your characters and, even, mix with other universes and create AUs. Going back to the Sharpay and Sasuke meme, honestly, that’s a pretty good example of independent roleplay. Only like this can Sharpay and Sasuke talk and interact because there are no rules. Well, except for the rules you implement yourself. Which was absolutely vital.
Just like with RPG, you had to establish your own rules and post them onto the blog for others to see. Typically you’d write what you were and weren’t okay with. And you can get as specific as you wanted because you had to take care of your own comfort. Sometimes people used to leave little codewords in their rules. Right in the middle they’d have something along the lines of like “send ‘pineapple’ to my DMs if you read these”, just so they’d know that the other person actually took the time to do what is basic roleplay etiquette.
I spent about 2016 onto my last day in the independent roleplay scene. I found a lot more success here and made a lot of friends during this time. I have two from 2016 that I still talk to now! There’s just something about going through the pure…weird free-for-all land that is independent roleplay that makes you create some serious bonds. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t a watchful eye? Or because you have to curate your own roleplay experience? There isn’t a group of people that you are essentially limited to only writing and interacting with, you had the whole entire independent roleplay scene! It’s just like curating your own dashboard in your own personal Tumblr blog, except your main goal was to interact with people as much as possible.
As I mentioned, I was a big WWE fan. So, naturally, that’s where I started! Despite the freedom of being able to roleplay with anybody, I kept my general circle small to just following other WWE roleplayers. It made it simpler at the time. Of course, as the years go on, I expand and soon enough leave WWE roleplay for the next natural progression. That’s right…anime RP! There was also a brief time I had Twilight and HP muses (again, pre-massive cunt knowledge) and a really kickass seven heavenly virtues roleplay blog that I was sad I never got off the ground but, I recognize that I didn’t give her too much of a fighting chance.
Regardless, like before, I just want to talk about the bigger things I remember during this time. The good and the bad and the big conversations that were happening. And then end it off with how I was feeling during this time, because my mental state ultimately led me to leave.
Aesthetics were rapidly changing. No longer were we dealing with huge gifs. In fact, you were mostly ostracized if you were. Not to mention, the themes got more compact. Aesthetics were such a big deal (and still were when I left), that it needs to be its own section entirely. It was like a weird elitism. You had to have the best graphics but also the best format in replying. This gets challenged eventually, when this sort of style hits its peak, but I’ll go back to that.
First, I’d like to show a sort of visual timeline of how the aesthetics have changed. This is my first blog, a blog I had in between the years (I have had many) and my very last blog.
You’ll have to excuse any weird formatting, my current screen didn’t quite match the dimensions all that well in the first one. But, as you can see, it starts off compact but still sort of big. The standard was maybe 500 to 600px wide and about maybe 500 to 400 px height. Then, in the middle there, it’s all about making everything as small as possible. Looking back now I’m like, what is this? A blog for ants? It was horrendous. But, it was the sort of thing people did so they wouldn’t be othered. Which sounds totally dramatic now, but when you’re in it? It felt like, pretty scary. The last thing you wanted was to be someone who didn’t get any interaction. It’s why my mental health went to proper shit by the end of it all.
Regardless, as you can tell by the last one, we were starting to get back on track. Bigger themes where you can actually tell what you’re looking at but there were still problems. For one thing, the themes may have gotten bigger but the text size had gotten smaller. In fact, it was normal to have 8 pt font. Eight. Point. Font. It was still like that when I left!
I think this is a good segway to talking about replying format. This pretty much stays the same the entire time and, from the quick scan I did of modern times as I was writing this, it still seems to be the “standard” today. Here’s an example of one of my own from 2016:
Now, I marked up the things that were done purely for the aesthetic. Right from the jump, you can see that the text is extremely small. Another “what is this? For ants?” moment. Small text was like the surefire way to reach this continued “compact, small” aesthetic. And going on with that, you can see the space between the words and the edge of the textbox. I had to manually make it like that, because Tumblr didn’t have a way to just stylize your text posts like that. That meant pressing “enter” and making sure it looked like it was in it’s own container. An extremely tedious act that I did for every. Single. One of my replies. Later on I would come to ditch that but, again, that’s really all I ended up ditching.
Next it was the accompanying image to the replies. As you can see, it was no longer a gif. This will end up changing later on! Before I left there was an even divide between those using gifs and those using static images, but the size of them had to be small like that. During this time my icons were 100 px to 100 px. But, before I left they were as small as 25 px to 25 px. I’ve seen even smaller! And by now, you may be thinking that this was 1. absolutely unnecessary and 2. pretty ableist. But, I bet you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a lot of us weren’t thinking that second part.
It’s one of those things where we didn’t look outside of ourselves and, in turn, ended up abandoning our fellow disabled roleplayers in the dust. In fact this ended up starting a very real, very big conversation about casual ableism in this sort of format. I’d like to say around 2017-2018 was when I started seeing it crop up more and more. I honestly think that’s what ended up changing the theme styles at least. But, people just wouldn’t let go of their posting aesthetics.
Around this time, I had also created and ran my own RP memes blog where I ended up switching from small text to regular text, because I wanted the RP memes to be as inclusive as possible. I remember the day I announced I’d be making that change, I got a few people thanking me for doing it. I didn’t do it to recieve gratitude but it was the first time I became that much more acutely aware that I wasn’t as intouch as I thought I was.
But, along with that, that exact sort of formatting was what got people noticed. Writing like that put people in the “good” roleplayer list. To this day, I don’t know why, but it just mattered. A lot. I remember obsessing about how everything looked, making sure it was “presentable” for the dashboard, and then caring about the words second. You know? The actual roleplaying?
This was a big time for this, especially during the 2017 - 2018. In fact, before I left, this was still an on-going topic. The gender issues I mentioned before was back in the fight and this time, it was joined by friends. As people started to write and give women more of a chance (albeit, not very much but still better than before), there was a call for more WOC characters. RP Resource blogs, or blogs that were specifically made to be a hub of information and help to the roleplay community, started posting their own gif and static image icons of more POC to help with this.
MOC were also uplifted during this time, as back then they were also pushed to the side for their white counterparts. And then, that discussion opened doors for the LGBT community to discuss the lack of trans and gay muses. White cis gay men muses, though obviously not getting the attention of their straight counterparts, didn’t get ignored the way POC trans gay muses did. And if your muse was a lesbian transwoman? Even less. Again, I’d like to note that this sort of community really did have a favor for cis straight men. And, again, this community housed a lot of women writers. And yet?
Again, this was a fight that was still slow moving but it was making traction. It did run into it’s bumps. White writers mentioned fears of writing POC and not wanting to “get it wrong or offend anyone”, but POC writers tried to reassure them that they did not have to think so hard about it. And, that RP resource blogs were posting helpful information about this every day. Not to mention, it was worse that instead of educating themselves (and seeing POC as like, “others” that the idea of writing them was like telling them to write an alien) that they would much rather just avoid it all together.
On the other side, CIS people were worried about writing trans characters offensively on accident. Which, much like the POC incident, was just a matter of educating themselves. And, also, not overthinking it. And, again, the RP resource blogs had information written by actual trans people. Though, there was a big debate for a while there on whether or not CIS people should’ve been writing trans characters at all. I’d imagine, even now, people might still be divided on that.
Regardless, these issues allowed for even more to be brought to light. And these actually introduced some new ground rules or “roleplay etiquettes” that have become the new standard. The first was an even deeper dive into race and ethnicity. But, more specifically, making sure to match the face claims race/ethnicity with the character you were writing. Back then, you would choose a face claim based on their appearance alone. An example of this is the late Naya Rivera. At the time, she was very popularly used for Native American characters despite not actually being Native American. (I have to apologize for that example, it was one of the biggest offenses at the time so it was the one I remember the most. But, this does remind me of the other etiquette that became standard–not using actors/musicians/celebrities that have passed as face claims. Thankfully, this had very, very little pushback.)
But, people were starting to challenge and call that sort of thing out. If this sounds familiar to you, it was in time with the rise in people demanding that actors matched the race/ethnicity of their characters they were playing on screen. I personally always thought this was a good idea. And it was quite specific too. It wasn’t like you could make Selena Gomez your Dominican character’s face claim just because she’s also hispanic. No, if you had a Dominican character, then you needed to use a Dominican face claim. Granted, in the beginning this was a bit harder to do because the general norm was light skinned and/or white face claims, so everyone needed to actually make the resources themselves. But that very much ended up fixing itself rather quickly, once again the backbone of the RP community, RP resources blogs, were posting gifsets and icon dumps of celebrities from all over the world to be used.
But, of course, not all celebrities.
Continuing on with accuracy, this was also when people started pointing to age. Again, early on the RP community was the wild west. You can make Channing Tatum your face claim for your 17 year old muse and not a singular person would bat an eyelash. Alternatively, you could also make a face claim that’s actually 18 in real life, be your 25 year old character. Again, at the time it was all about the appearance of the face claim. All they needed to do was have the right hair and eye color and that was pretty much all it took.
Strange, yes? Odd, right?
Everyone else thought so too and so began the push to start paying attention to age. One of the rules that sort of solidified itself quickly was to not use anyone underage. And, if your face claim is 18+ but was in showbiz as a teen, you weren’t allowed to use gifs or images of when they were a teen. This was placed basically because, well, NSFW roleplaying existed. And this didn’t just mean smut, but things like drug use and violence were also a thing. And, well…it was pretty icky to attach someone underage to that. (This also stopped the practice of people writing NSFW content with their underage muses as well. Though, this is a fuzzy rule since you could still have drug and alcohol use. It was just very clearly made to stop people from writing smut with their 16 year old muses.)
Aging people up and down was also a touchy subject. Relatively, it was more okay to age a character down than it was to age them up. But, it really depended on where they landed. If your face claim is 25 years old, you could age them down to about 21 years old. And if you wanted to age them up, 27 was probably your limit. But, if your face claim is 18-19, it was pretty much frowned upon to have them be your face claim for characters that are older than that. Basically, the further away from 18 they were, the more leeway you were given. For the first time, getting a face claim became more difficult than it was before. But, honestly? I think it was for the better.
These sorts of rules needed to be placed. This came in time with other sorts of different rules too, ones that were made to protect both adult roleplayers and underaged roleplayers. Sometimes it created some friction but it was necessary. I wish I had these sorts of measures when I was a minor myself. Though I, thankfully, never found myself in a harmful environment.
Officially in 2020 I ultimately made my final post and said goodbye. Granted, I hadn’t really been around the year prior and was losing a lot of steam. The truth of the matter is that, indie (independent) roleplay is…quite lonely. I spend a lot of days not really speaking to anyone I wrote with and waiting around to have interactions between characters. People were busy or would lose the stamina to write, threads would get dropped every day…you would reblog an rp meme in hopes of people sending it to you but everyone else was also reblogging and waiting for others to come to them.
Most of the time people were too shy to take initiative. You didn’t want to seem annoying or like you were crowding, so you’d stay in your corner of the internet. But, how are you supposed to get plots going like that? Not to mention, the grass always seemed greener on the other side. It always felt like everyone else was doing better than me or were having a ton more interactions. And then add that allll together with the push for better aesthetics? To make sure everything was pretty? And then the ignoring of my ladies in favor of my men? It just felt…all so, so bad. My mental health hit rock bottom, I never felt like I was enough. It’s really exhausting to constantly have to try and impress everyone. Or to get attention. Or, if someone else was writing the same canon character as you but all of their aesthetic was prettier, even get totally replaced!
I’m really happy I met the people I did. Leaving was amazing for me. Now-a-days, I RP privately in a discord server with just my friends and I’ve loved it so much. I don’t have to put on airs or focus on anything that isn’t my actual writing. Not to mention, I just have more fun with people I feel genuinely comfortable with. This is my best time in roleplaying.
Would I recommend RPing on Tumblr to people? Really, despite my own mental state towards the end there, I actually genuinely would. Tumblr led me to my friends now and, also, taught me a lot along the way! I needed to go through all nearly 10 years of this to be the person I am right now at this moment. And, not to mention, some people do very well on Tumblr! It’s all a matter of thick skin.
My skin’s kind of paper thin now. But, it’s handled with so much care.
I’m not sure how to end this… but, here’s to you Tumblr RP community. You weird, weird mess… cheers!