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Why is no one talking? How do I get them to talk?

IRC and especially Darkmyst in particular (as well as other roleplaying networks) have an “idling culture”. This means that channels can appear conspicuously quiet if you enter them, which can be a bewildering experience if one’s measure of roleplay game activity is a bustle in the OOC room.

While it’s possible that the inhabitants of the channel may simply be in an unflattering timezone for you to catch them online, there are some things you can do to draw attention to yourself:

1) Say something

Unfortunately, simply joining a channel and waiting for chat to happen is an easy way to get overlooked. IRC allows people to change their nickname, so people may not necessarily recognise a new face in the nick list. Additionally, much of recruitment is done by word of mouth - even if someone recognises you’re new, they may not realise you need an introduction!

2) Volunteer information about yourself

Generic phrases like “Hi”, “I’m new here” and “Anyone here?” are valid ways to begin a conversation, but may not yield results.

On IRC, it’s very frequent that people join a channel, say “Hi”, and then leave before someone’s managed to type an introductory response, so many people have ‘learnt’ not to respond at all (saving themselves the effort of a then-useless post). This can be true even if you sit in the channel for a long time after your statement.

This effect is especially prominent in roleplaying communities. These have often grown around long-term time investments and often have a loyal core of players that have known each other for years. Additionally, since actual roleplay posts take time and effort to write (enjoyable effort but nonetheless a non-zero effort), many roleplayers associate IRC with a paragraph or more of text rather than short, conversational posts.

In any case, by visibly investing a little more time into your first post(s), you can show you’re genuinely interested in the community, that you’re not about to leave at the drop of a hat, and that it makes sense to welcome and guide you along.

3) Give the community something to engage with

“Hi! I’m Neike. Found you guys through the DarkMyst website. I like roleplaying and I like sci-fi, so I thought I’d check you out,” is a really good way to get into a conversation, and usually should work.

However, if you want to maximise your chance of getting into a conversation, sprinkling in a question or a friendly opinion can help break the ice - anything that inspires others to respond to you. Some examples are:

“I really like the logo you’ve got on the website!”
“Your setting reminded me a bit of this other franchise I know of and enjoy.”
“Is it possible to have a vampire character in your setting? I wasn’t sure from the website.”

4) (Optionally) show what you know about the community

“Can I play a unicorn?” when you’re in the OOC channel of a hard sci-fi roleplaying game may not get you responses - or if it does, the responses may not necessarily be friendly. Many channels tend to have a URL in their channel topic, their RPGServ INFO blurb (/msg RPGServ INFO #channel) or on the DarkMyst website where you can explore additional information about their setting.

The site might help you eliminate some of your basic questions and leave you with those that are more interesting for the regulars to answer, e.g. “I see you’re based on the Mass Effect universe. I never actually played those games; do you think I can still join you? What material should I definitely read?”

5) Wait

Sometimes even the best crafted introductory message can appear to be ignored if no one’s at keyboard at the time. Even in the absence of the timezone problem, that could be because people slipped into the kitchen to make some food, got surprised by a phone call in real life, or any number of distractions. Waiting for half an hour is a good ballpark to aim for.

If you still haven’t gotten a response after half an hour, it serves to say a few more things in the vein of #2, #3 or #4.

Avoid saying things like “Hello?” or “Why is no one talking?”. Even if you are impatient, broadcasting that so early in the process of getting to know a community may cause disgruntlement - to the regulars it feels a bit like going to a party and asking “Why is there no dessert yet?” when the caterers haven’t even finished cooking.

Also, avoid simply ‘flooding’ the chat with comment after comment, even if they’re friendly comments:

<NewUser> So I found you on the DarkMyst website, right?
<NewUser> And I told myself, sweet!
<NewUser> This is really the kind of setting I’m looking for.
<NewUser> I actually ran a very similar one for a while, back on Yahoo! Chat.
<NewUser> Gosh, I feel old.
<NewUser> We ended up doing a crazy time travel arc back then, haha.
<NewUser> Not that time travel can’t be tastefully done.
<NewUser> We just didn’t do it tastefully, it was pretty arbitrary. XD
<NewUser> But I think I might be able to salvage some fragments of an old character for this setting!
<NewUser> She was a kind of shape-shifter.
<NewUser> Mind, I don’t think that works here!
<NewUser> But all her other attributes, personality first and foremost, ought to be usable. :-)

If this kind of stream of consciousness goes on for too long, it can be off-putting. One message every half an hour is a good pacing for a channel currently quiet.

6) Move on

Sometimes, no matter how polite or patient you are, a channel just won’t stir. That’s a good time to move on to a different target. If you’re still interested in the setting, it might still be good to leave a message before you leave:

“Hey guys, I’m headed off! Looks like our time zones aren't really meshing, so I’m probably not a good addition to this game as a player. Feel free to get in touch if you think I got the wrong impression, as I’m still interested! My nick is Amdijefri and you can just memo me any time. Bye for now!”