DarkRP is a multiplayer game mode in Garry’s Mod which holds lofty ambitions. The general idea is that you join a multiplayer server which takes place in a map resembling a town, or a business district, or whatever, and choose a job to work: ranging from policeman to gangster, to chef, to gundealer, to scientist, etc. The hope is that in the process of carrying out your job, roleplay will occur (although hopefully not THAT kind of roleplay), stories will evolve and you’ll engage in player-created scenarios and drama in a way few games can even come close to reaching.
Well, you’ve probably already guessed that this almost never happens. Such a set-up is fragile in nature, and would be unlikely to occur among a group of close friends, so it won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that a group of random people with a great deal of anonymity lack the co-ordination required to achieve this online.
If there’s one game that’s shown me how goal-oriented players are, Dark RP is it. Roleplay and the creation of stories is an intangible kind of reward – many players would probably ask themselves why they’d even want to do it in the first place, and it’s difficult to blame them, given the shudder-inducing examples of Sonic fans playing out fan-fiction over Facebook or some other social network. Instead, many players focus on gaining power and influence in the server they frequent, as progress is usually saved even when you’ve logged out. For many players, this is money – either gained from working your job for an inordinately long amount of time, or from selling drugs, or laundering money (both of which are much less legal). The more money you have, the greater the amount of access you have to guns – the most concrete form of power in any online FPS. However, some players go one step further completely and transcend the systems of the game itself. Many servers grant admin status (and associated powers) to those who are generous enough to donate to the monetary upkeep of the server. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find a roleplay server ruled by the iron fist of a screaming 12-year old, as he stockpiles weapons and money in his secret off-map lair, accessible only through the magical powers of no-clip.
What many of these players fail to realise, however, is that the money is practically worthless anyway. Yes, you can buy guns or property, but neither are worth a huge amount in terms of gameplay value – property is abundant, rarely used for long periods of time and can be broken into by a simple thug with a lockpick, and guns are relatively cheap (in fact, one map features a machine that spits out handguns and ammo, and the building which houses it is broken into so often it might as well not have doors).
Dreams of starting sinister cults led by evil priests, jail-house raids to rescue comrades in crime, or playing a sewer-dwelling serial killer are quickly dashed by the reality of the game in most servers. Players are more likely to argue over server rules and gameplay semantics than to try to weave a narrative with one another, and murder is generally an offence worthy of a ban and is likely to frustrate and enrage the victim (although to be fair, mass killing sprees by random players are not an uncommon occurrence, and the rules are in place to punish such dudes). While playing as a policeman, I once caught a gangster picking the lock to the police station. Upon seeing me, he turned around and drew his weapon, and was for all intents and purposes about to pull the trigger and blast my ass straight to the grave. Thankfully, I managed to arrest him in the nick of time, but the player started to protest that he had done nothing wrong, as he had not yet pulled the trigger or committed any crime, and would have me reported and banned. This kind of thing is commonplace unfortunately, and is somewhat representative of the wider community to a certain degree.
Instead, DarkRP is at its best when all notions of roleplay are discarded and the game is allowed to devolve into a kind of running team-deathmatch, where there are no clearly defined teams or classes, just rag-tag factions of players who control various properties on the map, fighting over gun-dealers and money-laundering machines in a bid to increase the stocks of their armory. My fondest memories of the game include transforming a bar into a bandit stronghold as we held out against a police siege, using the game’s trademark physgun to barricade the windows with steel doors, and having a gullible gun dealer provide us with a literal pile of weapons – before betraying him, as he tried to construct a gating system to protect the arsenal, insisting that he be the only one to know the pass-code.
I remember investigating a hide-out of somewhat secretive and suspicious scientists (mmm, alliteration) who had bought out a series of homes and barricaded all of the entrances – except for one of the first floor windows. Spying the chink in their otherwise impenetrable armour, I spawned a video camera, turned it invisible using the colour tool, and then sent it in through the window with my physgun, allowing me to peek into their base, which turned out to be the site of a comically expansive money laundering operation; rooms upon rooms filled with money printers and drug-synthesizing equipment. They would later detect my invisible spy-cam and block its viewpoint with a shitload of watermelons.
I remember protecting the Mayor in his office as we watched the local mob-boss try to pick the lock on his door from the transparent side of a one-way window. About 20 minutes later, I was fighting on the side of the mob, as we tried to snipe the mayor and a horde of police protectors in the very same office from an adjacent apartment complex. I later broke in through his skylight/trapdoor and bludgeoned him to death with my crowbar (the most effective methods are sometimes the most blunt).
DarkRP is still going strong to this day, with numerous variants and twists on the standard formula, ranging from post-apocalyptic wasteland settings to Silent Hill, to jailhouses. If you’re interested, it’s worth a shot, but be sure to leave your high-fallootin’ notions at the door to have the most dumb, stupid fun.