PlayerAgreement / ICandOOCSeparation

A strong separation between IC (your Character) and OOC (the Player) is critical to a healthy relationship between a Player and the Role Play environment. The saying goes, “I am not my character, and my character is not me.” In this strict Role Play environment, this concept is enforced as server policy, and violations of this are considered the breaking of server rules.

Appropriate IC and OOC separation is required for a healthy and fun experience in a Role Play environment. If you are not properly separated from your Character, you will become frustrated when things aren’t going well for them. If you are properly separated, things not going well for them will seem just like a part of their story- just like when something isn’t going well for a character in a book or movie. Identifying your character with yourself, “being” your character, can cause all kinds of problems not only for you but for the environment as a whole. But do not think for a moment that not “being” your character harms immersion- in fact if done right, immersion can -- and will be -- extremely enhanced.

The relationship should always be viewed very similar to an author writing a book about a character. In many ways, the author can feel the character’s emotions, and can relate to the character’s point of view. However, in no way is the author “being” the character by writing them. This is an extremely critical point to make, because in most gaming environments, immersion is considered to be at its height when the player “is” the character. This is actually dangerous within an open Role Play environment. This is because at some point, bad things will happen to a Player’s Character. The plot lines will cause them harm, they will fail at some of their attempts, other Characters will have IC disagreements with them. The more a Player “is” their character, the more the player will take these things personally, and feel them personally. A thwarted character means a thwarted Player. Instead, a Player should be writing their character, not “being” them. What may be surprising to most is that this form of Role Play can and will be even more immersive than “being” your Character because it is far less frustrating.

Similarly, a Player’s Character should not be a copy of the Player. Nor should the Character be influenced by the Player’s real life, to the greatest extent possible. The Character’s actions and reactions should always be defined by what is happening to the Character, not what is happening to the Player, or happening in the Player’s real life. Just because the Player is happy doesn’t mean the Character they are writing is. Just because the Character is upset, doesn’t mean the Player is. This is vital because even as the smallest nuance of the Character’s actions and reactions become based utterly on what is happening IC, the Character will begin to take on a life of his or her own. In fact when done right, at times the Character will refuse to even listen to the will of the Player, doing things that even the Player does not fully agree with, or understand until later on…. “Why is my character doing this and being so stupid?” And then later on: “Oh! Now I get it, now I see why my character was behaving that way. Even I as their player did not know why my character was doing that.” Don’t fight your Character, let them live. You’re just along for the ride.

The reverse is also true. Do not allow "you" to become too much your character. If you find yourself clinging to their point of view strongly, this can be a warning sign that this is happening. If you feel your character is, or needs to be, "correct" in all IC arguments, discussions or situations, it is a warning sign that this is happening. If you are not 100% ok with your character being in the wrong (even if your character won't admit it), it is a warning sign that this is happening. It's natural for you to identify at least somewhat with your own character's points of view, but if you find yourself OOCly arguing in favor of them, chances are things have already gone too far for multiple reasons: IC/OOC separation has broken down, and FOIC is being violated as these conversations should not be happening in the first place.

This same concept also extends to other's characters. If the behavior of other characters, who are being acted out in an IC manner, is frustrating you on an OOC level, this too is a major warning sign that the IC/OOC boundaries in your mind have broken down. Many characters are (and should be) RPd with character flaws, intentionally or unintentionally by the Player RPing them. Getting OOCly upset by this, or even overidentifying with your character's frustrations of another character, is highly destructive to the RP environment for both yourself and those around you- which is a major reason why proper IC/OOC separation is so vital and will be enforced. If you find yourself frustrated with the decisions, views or behaviors of another character, change how you look at it. It's the character, not the Player. Even if the Player has in fact crossed their own IC/OOC boundaries, it is still best for you to keep everything on your end utterly IC and assume everything from them is IC too.

As an Admin with three decades experience, I cannot even count how many times issues have happened when a Player -wrongly- assumes that another player is acting out a character in an OOC manner, usually because they don't understand why a character would behave a certain way. They then come to an incorrect conclusion that the character is acting that way for the Player's OOC reasons. They then make their own decisions based on that assumption, usually involving an OOC retaliation or OOC compensation for the perceived problem, which is in reality the point where the situation was "taken OOC" and breaks. NEVER assume that other Players are acting their characters OOCly. ALWAYS assume that they are completely, 100% IC. Do not even let yourself -consider- that they might have OOC motivations to their RP. Literally, stop yourself from even considering it. That is their concern, and Admin's. Your only concern is to make sure YOUR character is not being RPd with OOC motivations, regardless of the other Player. Anything else will either create an issue that wasn't really there, or compound an issue that really is there.

One of the best ways to ensure proper IC and OOC separation is rather simple. Many people will believe this is nitpicky, or unimportant- but I absolutely guarantee that if you practice this one simple thing, and mean it when you say it, your experience Role Playing will be greatly enhanced. Never refer to your character as “I,” or in the first person. Always refer to them as if they are someone else. It’s really that simple. “I” is the person behind the computer. Your character is someone else, refer to them in such a manner. Likewise, never refer to someone else’s character as if it is the player. “Where are you?” is appropriately answered with “Sitting in front of a computer.” Instead, ask “Where is your character?” This simple practice helps to solidify a proper and healthy separation of IC and OOC, and will greatly enhance your experience of immersion at the subconscious level. Even if this sounds counter-intuitive, it is absolutely true.

There will be times where a Player’s Character will have IC disputes, or even fights, with other Characters. It is very important to understand that these disputes are between Characters, and not between Players. If an IC dispute is upsetting you as a Player, be sure to re-examine your concept of “I am not my character, and my character is not me.” It is absolutely vital that other Players are free to Role Play their Characters in a manner that is In Character for them, which may mean their Character is at odds with yours, without the fear of upsetting you as a Player. This does not mean (and should not mean) that the Player is also mad at you, and nor should you be mad at them- it’s simply a part of the story.

Metagaming is a concept in which OOC knowledge is transferred to a Character. A simple example might be a Player having their Character know the name of another Character they have never met, simply because their name is above their head on the screen. Since the Character would not be able to see the name label, there is no way for that Character to know the name. You as a Player know the name of the other Character, but remember your Character does not. Your Character should ask their name. Perhaps the other Character will lie, or tell your Character a nickname instead, or not want to tell them at all. Transferring any OOC knowledge to a Character with no basis in Role Play is considered cheating.

Metagaming can get much more complex as well. Even the Player knowing things the Character would not know can lead to accidental and subconscious metagaming. This tends to happen most often between two Players whose characters are Role Played together often, and is an easy trap to fall into. Players cooperatively discussing their Characters with each other gives them unfair insights into each other’s characters that are not realistic, nor fair to other players- or to yourselves. It gives those two characters an unfair advantage. This is why the “Find Out In Character” concept is so important, and why IC information should never be discussed OOC. The sharing of information OOCly, even about your own character, is considered cheating.

There is another form of metagaming which may actually be called “Reverse Metagaming.” This is the character being designed, created or Role Played in such as way as to ICly meet specific goals of the Player. Many Players create a Character with the utter intention of meeting IC goals, such as who they are going to become, or who they are going to date. This in essence is forcing your will on other Players, who are then expected to bend or break their own Role Play based on your desires for your Character. This is against server rules, and is considered cheating. Characters should absolutely always be allowed to form naturally through the life they experience through Role Play. They should be fluid and dynamic, allowed to be molded by their experiences. Characters should have IC goals for themselves, and the Player can even have guesses or intentions on where they may end up in life- but a Character should always be fluid enough that the Player allows their experiences and interactions to change that course. Players should never expect other Players to alter or bend their Role Play of their own Characters to make room for your OOC goals and desires for your Character.

Another major reason “Reverse Metagaming” is very bad is because when your Character ends up not meeting your OOC goals and expectations, due to others legitimately Role Playing or simply the story unfolding differently, it will always end up with a frustrated Player due to these missed expectations. Having an idea for the character’s future is great, but absolutely always expect their life to naturally flow in a different direction if that’s what’s going to happen- because it always does. Always.

A similar Reverse-Metagaming concept is called “OOCly-motivated RP.” This is when a character does what they are doing for reasons motivated by OOC, even if the actions of the character could otherwise be considered IC. If the motivations are OOC, then it’s already broken RP. This is considered cheating. A Character’s motivations for doing something should always be utterly their own, and not the Player’s. The Player’s intention, and motivation, should always be simple: Be in character.

“Buddy Role Play” is a metagaming concept where the Player begins to believe that the only Role Play that is of any significant importance to them is Role Play with a specific Character, or set of Characters. This is considered cheating. Never should a Player consider Role Play with another specific Player as more important, simply because the interaction is more important to their Character. This is a breakdown of proper IC and OOC separation.

“Facechecking” is a similar metagaming concept in which a Player will log in to the server, check the player list, and log back out if their Role Play Buddies are not on. This is a symptom of Buddy Role Play, and it is considered cheating. This is because it is absolutely vital to OOCly give Characters which may not be ICly important to your character the opportunity to interact. Just because a Character is not important to your Character does not mean there is no possibility of meaningful interaction. Even very slight interaction in passing can produce unexpected results over time. Players should log in to Role Play their Character (which means to be in character), not to interact with one or two Players in particular. Doing so is unfair to your own Role Play, as well as the Role Play of every other Player on the server.

“Event Logging” is another similar metagaming concept in which a Player will only (or primarily) log in for Admin-sponsored events. This has a very similar effect to Facechecking. It is a form of metagaming, and it is considered cheating.

Some types of metagaming are not only allowed, but actually encouraged. This generally consists of metagaming that allows or encourages interaction when interaction might otherwise not happen, yet would likely be happening on a regular basis. For example, if only a few Players are logged in, it would be encouraged to OOCly orchestrate Characters accidentally bumping into each other, even though ICly there is no way the Characters would know where the other is. Any time this happens, all Players involved should agree to the metagaming.

Another form of allowed metagaming is called “nudging.” When your Character is headed in a direction that is going to cause them to be destroyed, or cause them to be unplayable due to damaged IC interactions with other Characters or for any other reason, or simply because they are becoming something so different from what you want to spend your time doing that you’re about to give up on the character, consider a “nudge.” It can be extremely damaging to force your character to do something they would not do, but sometimes it is required to come close to that in order to avoid permanently damaging situations. Even with a nudge, the result absolutely needs to be IC enough to be believable, and explainable. It’s often a tough call to make, because nudging a character too hard can break them beyond repair. Do it when needed, but do it as gently as possible. If a Character is being Role Played properly, sometimes even a nudge isn’t enough to stop them from destroying themself or burning IC bridges. This is the nature of being In Character.

Often in an attempt to be polite and not interrupt another Player’s Role Play, a Player will have their Character not contact another Character when they know that Character is already involved in Role Play. Do not do this, it is considered cheating, as it is OOC and unfair. If your Character would attempt to contact another Character, do it, even if you OOCly know they are ICly busy.

Often a Player will not bother attempting to Role Play their Character with another specific Character because of the assumption that nothing is going to happen. While it very well may prove to be true, acting (or not acting) based on this assumption is considered cheating, as it is OOC and unfair. This cheats not only the other Player out of possible unexpected interaction, but it cheats your own Character out of it as well.

When in Role Play, it is very important to put down other distractions and allow your mind to focus on your Character. Role Playing while distracted has a detrimental effect on the quality of anyone’s Role Play, without exception. This includes browsing Facebook or the web, playing another game, having the TV on in the background. These things pull your brain Out Of Character. I have been told over the years by many people that they can do it without negative effect, and without exception, they were -all- wrong. If you think you can do it, you are wrong too. A distracted Player’s Character will come across as disinterested. What’s more, when response times start to get long and drawn out, everyone involved in the interaction starts to become distracted while they wait for sometimes full minutes for a reply from a character. While it’s understandable that at times distractions are unavoidable, habitual distracted Role Play is strictly against the server rules. If a Player must be distracted, it is polite to announce it OOCly so that other players around are aware, and then return your full attention to your Role Play as soon as possible.

If distractions get bad enough, AFK (Away From Keyboard.) Do not AFK in public areas of the server for more than several minutes. If a Player is going to be AFK for more than several minutes, they should move their Avatar to an OOC area, or at least to a less public area.