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Forums » Smalltalk » Roleplay and shortening attention spans

Hello, I hope all is well with you. I have been part of the roleplay community for a long time if one considers ten years a long time, and I've taken notice of how the quality and longevity of roleplay seem to have taken a downward turn. It seems that people lose interest in roleplays a whole lot quicker nowadays than they used to. Even in just a short period of five years, it is noticeable as you hear less and less about consistent long-term rps.

Has anybody noticed this trend as well or am I possibly misreading things?
I remember having plenty of RPs in the past that barely even got started. I feel like I've had longer RPs more in recent years, but that might be because I've become so much more selective about games and partners, and have learned more ways to help keep things going by now.

The population has shifted. Those of us who are older tend to be busier and more worn out than we once were; and while I think the issue is more complicated than most make it out to be, the younger generations are often criticized for having ever-shorter attention spans, and they seem to more often be favoring spurts of rapid-pace RP via chats rather than how forums tend to run.

I think there's been cultural shifts, too, both in RP spaces and in general, as to how things are prioritized.
Like Zelphyr said, it's the cultural shifts.

Also, I think it was because during Covid-19 when mostly people are restricted to go out so online activities are increasing, and when it was over and the restriction was lifted, we go back to our daily routines that mostly takes out time, and when we go home, feel worn out already and directly goes to sleep.
Mina Moderator

There are a lot of contributing factors that may color someone's experience this way. While the shortening of attention spans is notable*, there is also a present economic issue for many, many people. This means working longer hours and not having the time or energy necessary for creative endeavors. Many of us veterans (21 years RPing here, yikes.) are now parents. I don't have children, but they require a lot of dedicated care and attention.
*Link to: Shrinking Attention Spans, Gloria Mark, PhD.

Then there's selectivity. I don't open roleplay anymore, because I feel as though I have found my people for the time being. My longest ongoing universes are over 10 years old, with the shortest being about 4, maybe 5? With each of these writers, I formed great rapport and bonded over shared interests, existing chemistry, mutual preferences in storytelling, and just respectful communication concerning what we like, what we want, etc. While I don't get to write with some of these people consistently, because of life, it's always a thing I'll make time for when we can link up and make stories, brainstorm, or simply reminisce.

"Quality" is subjective, and what the word means for you in terms of roleplay may mean something entirely different for another. Some people favor florid posts with lots of exposition via internal monologue, working toward a long-term goal, and using structured arcs. Some people prefer posts containing only things that their characters can react to or perceive in some way, and letting everything happen spur of the moment or spontaneously.

Those are just two examples of many valid methods of cooperative writing. Back when I was first getting started my posts looked like -=Takes action=- says words. It was still valid and counted as RP. I had partners who liked it and played similarly! Looking back now, I can't imagine enjoying it- but I enjoyed it enough to stick with the hobby.

Finding someone who shares similar interests and styles to your own is the way. Communicating through things and negotiating happens to be super valuable if things aren't a total match but feel like they really could be. Refining your approach when seeking RP can also be vital. For instance, I find a lot of good can come from having a tiny pre-game chat to discuss roleplay before getting started. If someone is also interested in talking about why they think a fit is good or what qualities about my characters could be interesting opposite theirs, it's a good sign! This can not only help you get started with a better understanding of one another but open an avenue for later communication that'll help you avoid potential disconnects based on discomfort around discussing when someone might want more or less of something from a story. :) We can all be a little sensitive about our craft, so those things can be hard to broach with one another unless it's made possible earlier on than later on. I hope that makes sense.
I definitely feel like my attention span's gone out the window as I've gotten older, but I've also run into the same problems others have pointed out. People are just too busy.

I've also mostly moved to Discord because the communication side of things is much easier there. I carry Discord around in my phone. I don't carry a forum. Plus, people tend to make shorter posts, which are easier for me to read and respond to. I've currently found a group to play tabletop RPGs with twice a week (different games) and have been considering finding a partner for one of my characters here, but forums/PMs just can't work for me like they could when I was 16 and had nothing better to do than post multiple times a day.

I miss having that energy, to be honest.
Most of my thoughts were already touched on in one way or another by others before me, so I won't bother rehashing most of them. I'll only reiterate that the new writers from this incoming generation are seeking out stories with Discord as their major platform. Not only does this limit content from a quantity level (Discord only has a 450 character limit without paying for premium), but then the instantaneous method of replies has another layer of pressure to only make concise, short responses. Most also access the internet on phones and tablets rather than computers, which makes typing long form posts more difficult.

Those that do seek out forum based, play-by-post style RP platforms seem to take this mentality with them. Which, on that note, there appears to be far less of than there used to be. I'd even argue there's less bulletin style forums than there used to be in general. The vastness of the internet has become woefully centralized over time.

I also have a personal theory about both the short, harried nature of modern RP AND the lack of it on today's internet being tied into the country's deleterious and fastly decreasing literacy rates. A 2019 survey of 12th grade students found that a third of them Never read any sort of literary material outside of school. Another third indicating only 'Once or Twice a year'. So more than half of America's students read (and potentially write) for enjoyment MAYBE one time in a calendar year. (Source: https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2019/g12/)

Literacy levels have only taken a more intense nose dive since Covid. I have no sources to cite for this, but from my time on r/teachers and from anecdotes of my own teacher friends, there are scores of high school kids that are graduating with barely 4th or 5th grade levels of reading and reading comprehension. Add this in with the sources cited above of declining attention spans, I don't imagine those that do manage to RP or collaborative write for fun are invested enough to make long-term or far spanning stories.

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