On the difference between creativity and "special snowflakes" - Myth-Weavers

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On the difference between creativity and "special snowflakes"

On the difference between creativity and "special snowflakes"

So, for as long as roleplaying on the internet has been a thing, so has the debate on what constitutes "being creative" and what constitutes "being a special snowflake". As it often is the case on the internet, what has started as a discussion full of clever points and literacy soon degenerated into an excuse for trolling and flaming others, with people being quick to call a "special snowflake" every creation they don't like, and other people being just as quick to defend even the lamest, most mono-dimensional Sues (often of their own creation) as "just wanting to express one's ideas". One side soon became all about using an out-of-context term as an insult (much like those who use the word "gay" as a derogatory term), while the other became all about unconditional defense of everything on the account of being the product of effort: a person put time, imagination and effort into crafting this thing, they argue, so who are you to judge it?

So, earlier today a person who shall remain undisclosed sent me a private message, whose title was "special snow flakes" (sic). Notice that THEY sent ME that message, and that we'd never interacted before, so they weren't addressing a line of mine or anything like that: they literally introduced themselves to me by proclaiming that they were, in fact, a special snowflake. You see, I'm running a 5e game set in the MtG-inspired world of Ravnica: despite the fact that, in said world, angels are beings of pure mana who are fundamentally incapable of understanding the feelings of humans, much less reciprocating them, MUCH LESS interbreeding with them, this person demanded to be allowed to play an Aasimar. Wouldn't it be cool, they reasoned, to play a character who's so devoted to the angels they've been blessed to be, at least partially, just like them? And then after death I could ascend into an actual angel!

What follows was my response to that:

For completeness' sake, this is the topic I linked in the message (and it just occurred to me that, as I did, I misspelled Coldhearth's name). So why should you, the fine people of MW, care? What was the reason that compelled me to write such a long-winded, elaborate response, and then to post this topic?

The reason is that I truly believe that being a roleplayer is the hardest thing in the world: you're equal parts actor, writer and bard, reciting on an imaginary stage, in front of an imaginary audience, the imaginary deeds of an imaginary hero, with the deeds having been written by yourself and the hero being your own avatar in an imaginary world. When doing that, indulging in wish-fulfillment is a tempting and, let's be honest, harmless enough temptation: if I'm going to make a hobby out of imagining myself as a hero of another world, might as well imagine myself as the greatest hero who ever lived, right?
However, I've found that creating a character, for ANY purpose (I for example do so for videogames, being a game designer in training), is much like parenting: you're giving life to an entirely new person, and you're responsible for what they do with this gift you've given them. Now there ARE some parents who project their own selfish desires, their unfulfilled ambitions, on their children... But you wouldn't call that good parenting, would you?

I guess what I'm trying to say is: be more respectful of the characters you create. See them as people, and not just as tools to satisfy your own delusions. This will have the nice side effect of making the stories you craft more interesting to read, because they'll be about people and not about yourself.

What to do? Don't feed the trolls. Ban them, block them, get them out of your life. Life is too short to respond to nasty people.

Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
What to do? Don't feed the trolls. Ban them, block them, get them out of your life. Life is too short to respond to nasty people.
Uh, no. This person was in no way trolling nor being rude. They were displaying the mindset that marks one as a Sue creator and a bad roleplayer... But they definitely weren't being nasty or toxic. So rather than dismiss them, I felt that clarifying this whole deal would be a much more worthwhile endeavor: I really do feel that a lot of people fall into the traps of special snowflake-ness and Mary Sue-ness because they really don't know better.

Your arguments have merit, but if this is the first time that this person contacted you, and if they weren't being nasty to you, you come off as disproportionately harsh, even if they self-identified as a special snowflake. You've probably only convinced them that you're a jerk instead of convincing them to do better.

I actually tend to agree with you but I have to admit some of my characters are a bit stale in their backstory as I find a concept I like but try to build a backstory that fits the concept as opposed to the other way around.

Well, it's the case for me too... confronted with a concept of a ranger with some thieving experience, I just decided he had started his life as a street urchin (background), before being taken as an apprentice by a ranger he failed to rob.

Like others have said, you've made some strong points in helping this player reconsider how they make a character. However, like others have said you went pretty hard straight off the bat. A couple of considerations the next time someone wants a "special lego brick":

-Don't assume people intentions: Fewer things can upset people than having someone else claim their intentions, whether right or wrong. You told this player that they don't love their character only the idea of it. There's a good chance you're correct, but you could've made the same point with talking about their impact instead. Instead of "you don't love your character", "this character won't flourish as much as you want them to" says the same thing while giving them the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions, without accusing them of wrongdoing.

-Don't back people into a corner: The whole thing, as detailed and well-thought-out as it is boils down to "I'm right and you're wrong". You've put this player in a position that the only way they can move forward is to admit that they're wrong, which is another thing people don't like to do. To play devil's advocate, why do people need to be amazing roleplayers? As you say, it's hard. Does everyone who plays basketball need to be a pro athlete? No, people can have plenty of fun missing the basket, and stumbling, and so forth.

-Don't equate people's worth to their roleplaying ability: I don't know if it was your intent, but that last sentence came across as if the value of this person is less because of their request. That's a bit far over a roleplaying game.

Originally Posted by Peacemonger View Post
-Don't equate people's worth to their roleplaying ability: I don't know if it was your intent, but that last sentence came across as if the value of this person is less because of their request. That's a bit far over a roleplaying game.
You've made a few valid points, I'm only going to address this one because... Well, because you're absolutely right. By saying "you might become a better person", I simply meant that, by learning how to best convey one's creativity, one might find more enjoyment in a number of things in life, which will make them feel better with themselves. It didn't occur to me that the line might have sounded as though I was ridiculing their worth until you pointed it out o.O

So yeah, a lot of people have stated that I was being too harsh, but to be frank, that was intentional: I'm not planning to have any future interactions with this person, so I wanted to get the message through as clearly as possible, even at the cost of being brutal. If they take my words to heart and think about their positive meaning, then it's a victory for me, but if they only see the harsh exterior and remain convinced of their position, then honestly I don't care. You say that "the only way they can move forward is by admitting that they're wrong", but there's no moving forward planned here, what they end up doing as they proceed with their life is none of my business: they'll either understand the message I was trying to convey, or they won't.
That said, I do admit that the "a better person" comment was way out of line. I sincerely thank you for pointing that out.

I do maintain my position on the "creativity vs special snowflake" debate. And I hope that my Lego examples, of which I must confess I'm particularly proud, managed to get it across. If even one person, by looking at this whole topic, goes "well damn, I should try and improve my mindset when creating characters", then it will be a victory for me.
It's just that I love roleplaying so much, I wish more and more people were better at it. Ultimately that's all this topi boils down to.

DM: We're going to play a game where insanity and corruption will feature heavily.
PLAYER: I've built a character immune to insanity and that's incorruptible!
DM: Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay.


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