Even the most engrossing and exciting role-play can get jaded over time. The feeling can creep up on you that you’ve seen everything, met everyone, been everywhere in the role-playing setting and you’re ready for a change. Online prison role-play in Second Life is no different and perhaps, with the close physical confines of a prison in mind, it’s a setting which is more prone than usual to players getting burnt-out.
There are a few solutions to this. Of course, there’s the very obvious one of powering down the PC or laptop and leaving the SIM or, less drastically, joining another SIM with a different setting. There’s another, very sensible, approach of cooling off and leaving the SIM for a while – things tend to look different when you’ve been away a few weeks. And there’s always the option to use an Alt alongside your main character – a pragmatic solution which helps the realism and immersion of the prison setting, while perhaps diluting the immersion of the player into their characters.
But what if you’re keen to continue your character’s roleplaying in a prison SIM without using an Alt but feel that, rather than the SIM being the problem the difficulty is that your character’s ‘story arc’ has come, or is coming, to a dead end? Is there something you can do to extend the life of a character you’ve played for a while, perhaps in a different role within the same SIM?
In a prison SIM, there’s a possible route which might answer this question for you. Switching sides is not easy, but it can create enormous depth of roleplay and re-invigorate a character who you think has come to the end of his or her story line.
By “switching”, I’m talking about a change of role. Perhaps the first which comes to mind is the fairly well-worn route (at least in films and online roleplay) of a prison guard or police officer who transitions into an inmate through a variety of disastrous circumstances. The guard might have assisted an inmate’s escape. Perhaps he or she has been caught supplying drugs or contraband in a prison. Or perhaps there was a moment in her life when the world fell apart, in my own character’s history the point when I killed an inmate in a riot when serving as a prison officer.
This isn’t the only switch which is possible however. It’s just as viable for an inmate to be paroled and continue in the SIM, perhaps working in the prison or another related SIM elsewhere in Second Life. In one memorable occasion, one of the Terminal Island inmates was released and turned up at a “halfway house” for paroled women. These transitions help to ground a SIM in a viable background reality and help continue the life of characters long after they leave their initial role.
Whatever the point of transition is going to be, it’s a good idea that your co-players are aware and supportive of the change. The transitions are inevitably key moments in the history of the character making the transition, and that focus and excitement is something which is easy to spread to other players in the SIM.
I think it also helps to try and look ahead as far as you can in your character’s future when you’re considering the switch. Is this a change you are likely to want to reverse? Is it just temporary, or intended to be permanent? How will it affect your character, and your relationships with other characters? Having a feel for these ideas will help you navigate the transition in a way which both gives you a great moment in the spotlight, but also brings other players into center-stage.
The actual point of transition is something which can be carefully planned, and again its good idea to try and use this as a focus of a role-play in which other players can participate. It’s certainly a lot easier to precisely plan the day, or time, when the transition happens than it is to plan what comes afterwards. Your switch may be the parole hearing if you’re playing an inmate, with you listening nervously to the arguments made for, and against, your release. You might even want to track your switch to the gates of the prison, with a taxi waiting for you containing your ecstatic partner. Scenes like this can the arranged and choreographed well in advance and provide a perfect focus to a long period of role-play leading up to the moment of switching.
Whatever the switch you plan, it’s worthwhile making sure you think about the timing and what comes next. The switch from controller to controlled, such as a prison guard to an inmate, is more than just a switch of setting. Once your intake is complete, you’ll pass from a world where you’re in charge to one in which your character can’t simply walk out of the prison block, and (in my experience) quite possibly can’t leave your locked-down cell. Just as it should be, this transition is a huge change. It takes a lot of time online to work through those changes. As long as you realize this in advance, you’ll be golden. Or, as I found, light blue.