Text Adventure Games: Player/Character Separation (Part Two)

text game character separation

By Lorien B. Hu and Naomi Susman

In part one of this article, we discussed the importance of IC/OOC distinction in text adventure games - what happens when it doesn't exist, as well as who it affects. In-character/out-of-character distinction (IC/OOC) is the establishment of a player and his or her character as separate entities in a text game. However, this distinction often doesn't come naturally - it should be practiced and honed. In this article, we will explore various ways with which you can create character-player distinction.

The first step is to create a character with different personality traits from you. If your text game character shares all of your likes, dislikes, mannerisms, and temperament, essentially there is no character - just you. The more radically different your character is from you, the more you will be forced to step out of yourself and think differently about how your character will react to different situations.

How do you create a character different from you in a text adventure game? First of all, define his or her goals. If you've just started playing a game and don't understand the world yet, it's alright - you have plenty of time. You don't have to know all about the world to understand that your character values family and harmony, or is opportunistic and would cut another's throat to gain power or resources. Knowing what your character prioritizes helps you distinguish your own goals from his or hers.

Secondly, as you continue to learn more about the text adventure game world, consider selecting ideologies that are different from what you would gravitate to. If you consider yourself a very nice person in real life, consider playing a character whose disposition is not as rosy. If there are opportunities for your character to declare devotion to a deity, consider playing a zealot who would torture or kill for that particular deity.

Thirdly, think about how your character would act as you play him or her. A particularly timid character will be soft-spoken or even silent in groups, while a character with confidence won't be afraid to assert him or herself. Remember, your character should be consistent - if your text game character tends to react to rejection with fury, he or she probably won't break down crying at the slightest insult.

As your character gains friendships or even romantic relationships in the text adventure game, the danger is that your character's "feelings" can bleed into yours. Your character may have fallen hopelessly in love with another character, but you do not know the player of the other character. Treating the other player with an unfounded amount of trust or respect can be dangerous. As the player, you need to distinguish between your text game character's intense feelings and your own. Likewise, if you feel that the other player's feelings are beginning to fixate on you, be warned. It may be safer in the long run to break off this relationship before it devolves into a dramatic mess.

An issue that plagues even the most experienced roleplayer is how to maintain in-character and out-of-character distinction in communication. Mistakes happen, but as you play the text adventure game, don't hesitate to remind your friends that out of character remarks should stay out of character. If there's an opportunity to bring information from in the text adventure game to an OOC venue, distinguish what information is in-character and out-of-character. When in doubt, don't share it at all. For example, if another character's player asks about a political situation in your guild or house over IM, because instant message is an OOC venue of discussion, any information you give him should not affect his character's actions. If you're not sure if he'll use the information in the game, don't give it to him there. An in-game conversation will suffice.

When communicating in the text adventure game, insistence on using OOC tags can help you remember to keep IC/OOC distinction - some people prefix tells with "OOC" or use parentheses to denote OOC conversation. Note - certain venues are always in-character (house channels, city/council channels, or IC clans), and even OOC tags, parentheses, or thinly disguised OOC talk will be viewed as unacceptable. Although it may seem trivial to let a few remarks slip by over party or in tells, these slip-ups can slowly wear away your reputation as a conscientious roleplayer. If you become too accustomed to bantering with your friends about the real world, or acting as your real self, then soon they will begin to treat you as you, the player, and not your character. This can be especially problematic if you find yourself beginning to act in ways that your character would never, or begin to respond in-character to things said over instant messaging, or an OOC clan.

This problem is especially common among combatants, who, even if interested in roleplay, may find themselves drawn into the world of 'lol, u griefer' or 'let's gank those noobs'. As the thin line between player and character is slowly erased, combatants may become overly emotionally invested in the text game, developing hate and rage for other characters that may affect them in an unhealthy manner in the real world.

Although focusing on keeping your character separate from yourself may seem like too much work at first, it pays off. Other players will notice and appreciate your efforts when care is taken to maintain IC/OOC distinction. When you draw the line between what is in-character and what is out-of-character, you make both your own and others' text adventure game experience more enjoyable, allowing for more engaged, immersive gameplay. Although this is hardly an exhaustive how-to on keeping you and your character separate, these tips can help you become a more respected roleplayer with a consistent character.


Character seperation is for newbs.

insert troll food here.

good read

By using some of those suggestions it would be easier for me to keep the two seperate.

to separate ooc/ic sometimes, because a lot of things you will not like ooc will apply ic :O

I completely agree with this. Every now and then a player needs to speak a few sentences in OOC. I get by with this by using parantheses. Works very well with friends.

This is one of the most difficult subjects in Achaea. It concerns not only you personally, but all the interaction with others as well.

Its difficult, but its a balance, and as long as its clear what you're saying is either in/out of character, I think its fine.

nice and true


I agree with the article. The best OCC is no OCC at all, and yes although the combat is quite fierce in Achaea, it should be roleplayed more.

Thought this was a good article. Trying to play an ideology that doesn't come naturally can be a bit difficult at times, though. I play an Evil character, which sometimes makes me uncomfortable.

A small amount of OOC conversation (on IM, or the forums, or even a clan) can be useful to lighten things up.

I have never crossed ooc into ic

Alot of times it can be difficult to make the seperation, but it is often for the best I've watched too many of my friends become too invested into it, even I catch myself and then I go dormant to find the real world and Achaea seperation and then come back for a while.

I do a similar thing - spending some more time in the real world helps me differentiate and realize that Vashner lives in a very different world with very different people.


I suppose it may also help to think of the games as one big masquerade ball - taking off your mask defeats the whole purpose.

I enjoyed this read, well written!


This is a good read and it makes me see things a bit differently than I have before. I believe it would be much healthier, emotionally, if I could achieve seperation. I have a new goal. :)

I suppose right now Haqikah is a little too similar to myself, even if she is slowly growing out of that. Thank you for the article!

I've had this issue myself on occasion, it's definitely good to learn how to maintain differences and keep yourself from becoming too attached. Especially as an avid PvPer, because people do so love to whine at me for responding to their IC trash talking with PK.

and ambiguate it from yourself. My character is straight laced, while I am not.


I suck at this part.

I have never had this problem, and I hope I never will.

Seperation for me is more not taking OOC IC, or vice versa. Sometimes one just has to remember the other person you're hacking to shreds is a real, living, breathing person.

Especially considering that one does not always /want/ to make too clear a distinction between fact and fiction.

Seperation is very important...but sometimes it's just so fun to make jokes at IC expense! /guiltypleasure

I think we've all shared OOC information at some point with friends in messengers. But, I think things actually become more fun when your character has to work for it, convince, cajole, bribe some other characterly in a complmetely IC way to part with information.  

We've all seen an arc or a story line ruined completely when too many people are telling trales out of character and it limits everyone's fun.


Now that's not to say that I don't chat or use (( )) with friends to make jokes in Tells or Messages, and at times about things IC - I just try to draw the line with not sharing privileged info because it has ramifications in RP other than mine.

which is why you don't ever be friends outside of the game. makes for strange bedfellows.

Total agreement!!

The only thing I hate is when people ask me to distinguish IC tell from an OOC tell, though that's not strictly enforced in Achaea. Playing another game with an Achaean point of view is wrong, though, I must admit. Everything else, I agree with.

Some good advice.

This is a good advice, especially when it comes to keeping RP relationships and friendships IC/OOC. The challenge is definitely when you're merrily going about your RP life and then you get these hints and nudges that the other person (or people) are taking things way too seriously and OOC. It's how to break it to them that everything you do is IC and you refuse to cross that 4th wall. Sadly though, on so many occasions it will go OOC for the other person. //end response by cold emotionless player here.


effort is what will separate IC from OOC.

This is a good article. The advice is actually useful compared to many of these articles.

Never trust those evil little devients behind the screen.

it's difficult to not fall into old habits