Misconceptions About Application-less Games

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First, some terminology!

There are a few different kinds of application-less games, but the ones I can think of are thus:

  • Mandatory profiles
A character profile which must be submitted upon joining the game. Differs from an application in that it does not have to be filled out entirely upon joining (though players can fill out the whole thing up front and make it as detailed as they like, if they want to) and players do not have to wait for it to be accepted before they can play the game. Can be updated and fleshed out as the player plays the game and develops their character; players do not need to have detailed knowledge of their character before they begin, but can learn about them through play.
  • Completely app-less
There are no joining forms at all. Just hop into the game and start playing. Might have an optional section for profiles, but players are not required to fill any out unless they want to and are free to fill it out as they play or, if it's their style, they can fill the whole thing out before they play. Can be edited as the player sees fit.

These are the types of games I am talking about here, whereas an application game is thus:

  • Applications
Like a character profile, only you must fill it out in its entirety (however much the admin asks for, long or short) and wait to be accepted, sometimes with revisions, before you are allowed to play in the game. Players are generally allowed to update their app as they play their character, but applications also generally expect players to know their character before they begin playing.

And now, onto the write-up!

I've seen a lot of misconceptions all over the place about games that have no application process, such as this game, so it's time to shed some light on these misconceptions!

1.) Applications weed out the "Mary Sues" and bad players. Without them, they'd be all over the place and the game will fall apart!

Not true! While applications may help in this, it's not true that an application-less game will be overrun with Mary Sues and bad players. Not by a long shot!

Besides, any character can look like a "Sue" when broken down into application/profile form. Sue's are played, not made.

What many people who have never played in such a game don't realize is that, while lacking an application process, application-less games do still have an unwritten acceptance process that is built right into the game. They are self-regulating games in that if a truly horrid player/character is brought into the game, one doesn't even need an application process to weed them out.

Why? Because if they are truly horrid, no one will want to play with them (and no one has to play with anyone they don't want to). If no one plays with them, they will either get bored and leave, or they will step up, tough it out, and work to improve. Either way, the game benefits: it either loses a bad player, or it gains a wonderful new member who works hard to get better. I've seen a lot of people start out shakily and grow into wonderful writers because they were just that determined. <3

Sink or swim, that is the weeding out process of application-less games.

As for games without applications falling apart...Spirits of the Earth has never had an application process (only mandatory profiles) and it's been going since December 13th, 2000. Remnants of the Earth uses the same process and has been going strong since September 5th, 2007. Likewise, the first game I was on lasted over 5 years and it didn't even have a joining form. You jumped in, and you either got with the program or you weeded yourself out.

2. Without applications, there will be chaos and a horrible lack of structure. Who knows what you're letting into the game!

Also not true. Just because there are no applications, it doesn't mean there aren't rules and setting information that needs to be adhered to, and having no applications does not suddenly make the player immune to these things.

Similarly, it has been my personal experience that the more freedom you give members, the more responsibility they feel. There is trust involved here, and a great deal of respect. I have always, from the very start of running a game that has been around for over 10 years, put a lot of trust into my members and given them a great deal of respect, and I've always received the same in return. I don't need to babysit them; I know they'll make the right decisions, and they haven't failed me.

Rather than try and abuse their freedoms, they instead step up and feel more pride in their contributions to the game. Again, it's a mutual trust thing. Rather than chaos, there is a great deal of order; before we ever even had any moderators (which we only got to fight a rather stubborn troll) I could feel confident in going on vacation for a few weeks with no computer access and come back to a game that was still running as smoothly as ever. The members have always taken care of each other--and the game. It is not my game; it is ours.

The same was true for the first game I ever joined, in which there weren't even admins. The game was self-regulated, and everyone looked out for each other, trusted and respected each other, and felt immense pride in the game. You don't abuse something that you are proud of.

Sure, once in a while there may be a bad egg, but isn't that true for any site, application or no application?

3. But applications help me get to know my character! I enjoy filling them out, and I enjoy keeping one to keep track of my character's growth. I can't do that in an application-less game.

Yes you can!

Most application-less games still have a joining form or a profile, where members may fill out a profile about their character and include as much or as little information as they want. They tend to be formatted just like an application only there's no approval process; you fill out as much or as little as you like and you're good to go. If you figure your characters out by filling out an application, if you enjoy them, and if you also use them to keep track of your character's development, that is exactly what the profiles are for.

4. Forget Mary Sues! What about setting-breaking characters, like a scene kid in Victorian England?

If the character breaks the setting, it breaks the setting. Just because there are no applications doesn't mean people can join any character they wish--that is what the rules and setting information of the game is for.

If someone joins a character inappropriate to one of my games (which is really hard to do, but it's happened), then I send them a PM and get things cleared up. Simple solution right there!

5. Applications are a sign of advanced RPing, as they ensure quality writing and encourage applicants to try their hardest to get accepted. Only n00b games don't have applications, and they attract lazy members who don't make an effort.

Things couldn't be further from the truth.

For some people, applications help them figure out their characters. That's awesome! Use what works for you, right? But some people may not be able to do that; some people figure their characters out as they play them, everything from history to personality to even appearance. This does not mean they'll end up with a disjointed character or pull random things out of nowhere, either. It's all a matter of each individual doing what works for them when it comes to getting to know their character.

Neither method is better or worse, nor is it a measure of laziness. I've seen a lot of application-less games aside from my own, and the lack of an application is by no means a reflection of the quality of writing any more than an application is. Just because a game doesn't have applications, it doesn't mean the players don't work their bums off or put their all into their writing, and it isn't a sign of laziness just because someone doesn't want to jump through hoops to be accepted into a game.

6. No applications means no joining process.

Wrong again!

SotE and RotE have a profile that people can fill out in as much or as little detail as possible (that is, if people just wanna put down a name, species, and gender, that's enough for me, though a lot of people write a ton more which is also fine). This profile serves a couple of purposes. It's there so I can make sure no one has joined any book/movie/video game characters, though people do not have to wait to be accepted or anything. Its main function, however, is to keep track of all the characters in the game and provide a place where people can chart their characters' growth, keep track of threads, and write about their character.

Other games may not have a joining process at all, but if there are issues with a character or player, that is still what communication is for! Still, most application-less games I have seen still have profiles and joining forms.

7. But I like to know what characters are in the game. Without applications, I can't look over the other characters. Without applications, players cannot really be grounded because no one will be able to get a hold of the player, since there's no way to keep track of anything!

Again, this is assuming that application-less = no joining form at all, which, as stated above, is not necessarily true.

Just because a game has no applications, it doesn't mean it doesn't have a joining form. I wouldn't be able to run my games without a joining form; I like knowing who is playing who and having all the characters listed. It makes everything more grounded to me.

8. Applications ensure commitment. Players are more likely to stick with a game if they've put in all the work of filling out an application, whereas without an application, people are more likely to post a few times and then leave, since they didn't have to do a lot of work to get into the game.

If only that were true. Look on any game that has applications, and you will find a great deal of completed applications that have been totally abandoned. The player finished the lengthy process, wrote a well fleshed out application, submitted it, and...vanished off the face of the game. Applications do not ensure commitment; with or without an application, players will still be just as flaky.

Besides, it's easy to copy and paste an application into a game and just alter a few details to make it fit the new setting.

The point is, application or no application, there are going to be just as many people who post a few times and then just poof. It's a sad fact of RPing.

9. But I want to make sure I get quality writers from the start. Applications let me screen the writing for quality, and I don't want to hold anyone's hand.

Then don't hold their hand. As I mentioned before: sink or swim. People will either figure it out, or they will leave (though for me personally, I enjoy coaching players).

If you want quality writers (and this goes for any game, application or no application) then set up a quality game and lead by example. In other words, don't just say your game is high quality--show it. Live it. Plaster your game with little snippets of information that openly encourages players to do their darnedest, make an effort, and write their hearts out. That is a great way to attract like-minded individuals. Don't make it snooty sounding, make it sound fun! Encourage good writing as opposed to complaining about bad writing. Use more positive language than negative.

Just saying your game is all about the quality writing or whatever doesn't mean a darned thing. You need to show it.

I really don't think it's hard to start out a game with a high level of quality. When I opened up RotE over a year ago as an application-less game right from the start, I immediately got great players. The trick is, as mentioned, to make sure the game information reflects the level of quality you want to see in the game and its writers. If your game information is riddled with spelling errors and stuff, then, well...the writers you attract may reflect that. With SotE and RotE, the games are pretty information heavy. Just based on their very nature, I'm pretty sure they weed out a lot of players I wouldn't want before they ever reach the forums.

Remember (and this is very important!) that just because a game has no applications, it does NOT mean the players are untouchable! If you set your game up in a certain way (as, say, intermediate/advanced and discourage blatant Mary Sues and stuff) and a player comes in that writes in chatspeak or plays the Sue to end all Sues...it is YOUR game. You created the rules. And if they are not abiding by those rules, it is your job/choice to enforce them. I have contacted players in the past about things like that.

It's really nothing that you wouldn't do on a game with applications. People can submit a gorgeous application, yet their character suddenly morphs into a monster when the person starts to play the character. If you saw this happen as the admin, would you just let that slide because hey, the player had already been accepted? Or would you address the problem? I, personally, would address the issue.

10. No application = no rules.

This is a rather silly one, but I've seen it pop up a lot. People seem to assume that just because there is no application, once a member gets in, they become untouchable. When people think no applications, for some reason they also think "no rules". A player gets in, and they can make posts filled with mangled spelling, setting-breaking, unrealistic stuff, anything they want!

No no no. Just because a game has no application, it does not mean there aren't still rules and standards; no application does not mean a free pass to do whatever! Most games have rules regarding proper spelling and grammar. If a player gets into an application-less game and abuses the rules or is just all around terrible, the lack of an application does not mean the admin can't contact the player and tell them to shape up.

So this is a faulty line of logic, if anything.

11. Without applications, there is no character building.

Now this one is just ridiculous.

Believe it or not, not everyone's brain works the same way. Thus, not everyone builds their characters using the same method. It's not a one size fits all deal. Some people need to work out their characters in advance--and that's fine! But other people (me as an example) can't do that. We create our characters as we play them--that's what works for us. I may not know a character's personality or past in the beginning, but I will eventually. No rush. It'll all come together in time. That's how we do our character building.

In any case, character building should happen during play, anyway!

Even if you create a character right at the beginning and have all their details worked out, that is just a starting point anyway, a foundation. Any character will grow and develop through play, and you will build upon the character as you play them. Just because someone doesn't have all the details worked out in advance doesn't mean their character is flat and two-dimensional. Just because you don't know everything yet doesn't mean you don't know your character. There are some characters of mine who I've been playing for years, and while I know them like the back of my hand, I may not know their history yet--or at least not the full picture. Doesn't bother me. It's not always immediately relevant, and I figure I'll get it figured out eventually, anyway. Doesn't mean the character's flat.

Just because you don't know everything about someone IRL, it doesn't mean they're 2D, now does it? Same diff.

It's just different ways of doing things. That's all.

12. I want to play with people of the same skill level as me. I don't want to play with people who will only write a couple lines back to my 5+ paragraph post.

Well, avoiding the quality over quantity debate, since this is about applications...just because a game is application-less, it doesn't mean the writing is low quality. Remember, application-less does not equal standard-less. Many application-less games stress quality writing, and it is up to them to enforce whatever standards they set up--just like in any other game.

If you do not want to write with someone who is not up to your standards, then don't. No one is forcing anyone to thread with anyone they don't want to thread with. :3 If someone's style doesn't mesh with yours, don't play with them. You have a choice! That goes for any game.

The bottom line is, application or no application, the most important elements are communication and respect.

Applications do not ensure that there will be structure, good players, and no "Mary Sues" in a game. Neither does the lack of an application.

What does?

Communication and respect. Communicate with your members. Respect them. If something goes wrong, talk to them. It is not applications or a lack of applications that make or break a game--it is how the admin treats the players, how the players treat each other, and how the game is run that does it.