Role playing is the act of assuming a character in order to act out a story. It is often done with other people, all assuming the role of their own characters, and can be carried out across a variety of mediums including real life, over the phone, web cams, voice, chat, forums, profiles, and in picture form. There are also a variety of graphical games, and social networking sites, which facilitate these activities.
One of the most important aspects of role playing is that it is an act of storytelling. You are a character, acting out a story. Whether it’s a pre written script, or an ad-libbed event, the bottom line is that you are engaging in this activity as a way of actually interacting with the story that’s being told; you become a part of it, you actively engage in the action, allowing you to understand the character and the tale in an even more intimate way than if you were passively receiving the information.
The act of writing is very similar, in that it is a process of story telling, of creation. However, when writing you’re completely alone, with the only source of action and characters being your own head. By contrast roleplaying provides a variety of people to help come up with what happens next. In fact, role playing is such a congruous act that you really have to give up control of the story, in order to give it the freedom to grow and expand as the various players see fit.
This can be a great exercise in group thinking that can teach a writer valuable lessons about the way people see stories developing. It can also expand the way a creative person views stories, giving them access to thoughts outside of their own heads, and ways of thinking about the world.
In the case of something like a role playing chat room, the writer can actually get direct access to writing practice and storytelling, without having to engage in the often solitary and lonely act of writing based entirely on their own engagement. It’s a social situation that can be quite enjoyable, and as such provides a writer with a place to relax and enjoy themselves, while still engaging in practice of their chosen craft.