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