Text Adventure Games: Player/Character Distinction (Part 1)

By Lorien B. Hu and Naomi Susman

It is a Saturday night. You are logged onto your favorite online text game, camped outside an enemy city as you wait for the battle to begin. The defenders are sitting just a room away, picking out some easy targets. You announce their names to your citymates, who promptly slaughter them. As you pat yourself on the back for a job well done, an instant message pops up. "WTF," the player behind your in-game husband sends, "That was my alt." A bucket of angst is then poured onto you in text format: "I can't believe you did that, you griefer. I thought our relationship meant something to you."

Despite your efforts to explain that your character has no relationship with the other player's second character and that you, the player, have no amorous feelings for the other player, he signs off in an explosion of rage. Well, you think, as you sit back in your chair, another painful example of someone with no IC/OOC distinction.

In any text-based roleplaying game, players often overlook the important concept of "playing a role" - keeping the character separate from themselves. This is called in-character/out-of-character (often shortened as IC/OOC) distinction. If the player of your character's husband had had a firm grasp of this, he would have understood that your in-game actions were perfectly justified.

Without IC/OOC distinction, it is easy to become too emotionally invested in a text game. Your goals, feelings and personalities begin to mesh with that of your character's until they are one and the same. This not only hinders your enjoyment of the game, but can make it even worse for everyone else who interacts with you and your character.

When you are your character (instead of simply playing him or her), obstacles and pitfalls that occur to your character in-game can cause you unreasonable emotional upset. A good roleplayer may view a negative event such as a divorce as an opportunity for character development and roleplay. However, someone who does not distinguish between character and self may take on the character's negative emotions - hurt and anger towards the other character or player.

As you become more and more attached to your text game character, you allow minor events to affect you more than they should. Combatants may become insanely sensitive as they start throwing fits and demanding administrative attention after every single attack, talking smack about everyone on the opposing team, or even throwing their computers out of the window upon losing a duel.

Even more dangerous, however, are the emotional attachments formed between the players of characters in a relationship. Characters may certainly harbor deep feelings for each other, but the danger lies in the possibility of those feelings being transferred to the player as well. In extreme cases, these often-unreciprocated feelings can spark irrational possessiveness, manipulation, and melodrama both in-game and in real life. Sometimes a player's emotional investment in the game can seriously damage his or her relationships in real life.

In-character and out-of-character distinction can clear these muddy waters. Your character's feelings should not be your own. When you start thinking of your character as a participant in a story instead of simply an extension of yourself, you can begin to enjoy the game from the outside. This distinction not only increases your enjoyment of the game, but that of others as well - who wants their leisure activities to be spoiled by unnecessary drama? When you know where your feelings stop and your character's feelings begin, a richer roleplay atmosphere is developed.

In the upcoming part two of this article, we'll discuss how you as a player can create IC/OOC distinction.

Try out some online text RPGs for yourself today, and see what all the fuss is about!

Lorien B. Hu and Naomi Susman are text game enthusiasts and currently play games from http://www.IronRealms.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Lorien_B._Hu


A well written post that many people should read!

well done!

I concur.


Thanks for writing this article.

Agreed, a very good post post. Why haven't more people read this? Let's raise it from the grave!

Raising it!!

Great points, I'll look for part 2, or look forward to it. I don't generally get upset by things that happen to my character so much as things that happen to other people's.

It really is much more fun when you keep an IC/OCC distinction.

I've been guilty of this myself (bluring the distinction, not having an alt).


When you don't have alts, it's very easy to think that you ARE your character, and start taking things personally.

Guilty as charged! lol It's hard to think of these as just games need a lot of time devotion.


Why? even without alts it shouldn't be OOC.




you never know!


it's hard. you are your character, after all. no matter how hard you try not to be.

It's easier when you think of your character as a separate person, with their own thoughts and opinions that might be contrary to your own... but it's not necessarily a bad thing to be emotionally affected by roleplay. As long as you don't let it get out of hand, it's part of the fun!

Who their alts are, I get a little cranky. Or when they start telling me a whole bunch about their lives as players, especially over a ring or something like that, it makes me feel ... almost a desolate irritation. Nine times out of ten, they then start to expect some sort of preferrential treatment because of it. I've had characters come out of nowehre and interact with Ais, only to have things not go their way, and then they message me OOC and ask why I did that, didn't I know it was them, they were trying to send me hints! Chances are, if you do that, since I'm stubborn, I'm likely to turn the character against you just for the principle of the thing. Don't be a brat. Knock it off.

I had that sort of happen to me once. It was mostly just for arena stuff rather than anything too in-depth and roleplay-ish, and i don't think they expected anything like in the situations you're describing, but that doesn't make it any less awkward. D:

Nice article!



credit comment, and this needs a bump as it is so true.


Yeah, I can kind of relate to something like this. Some can laugh and say, "Oh, lulz, some idiot is getting dramatic." Some people take it way, way, WAY too far. And as an objective observer, it does merit ridicule.

I'm looking forward to Part II of this, mostly because while I haven't been overly dramatic (I don't think!), I've exhibited symptoms of being emotionally attached to my character. My character and I have different personalities, mind you - in this case, I tend to be humorous and good-natured. Bron, on the other hand, tends to be serious, selfish, and while he's a good person...Damned if he's going to admit as much!

However, there've been times with other characters where loved ones have completely stabbed my character in the back - and it hurts, in-character and out of character. ESPECIALLY if the other player acted as if it would never happen. I don't throw a dramatic fit, but I do sulk! And rightfully so, it sometimes feels! Putting a part of yourself (Just a part!) sometimes makes the game more thrilling, but I understand how it would cause problems firsthand.

So~, like I said: looking forward to Part II! :D

agree completely.