Posted by: Jess Riley | September 25, 2008

Questions Answered: IC =/= OOC

David Di Muro writes:

As an RPG gamer how would you know if someone is in character as a terrorist or is actually a real terrorist acting normal? This becomes interesting when someone is talking/acting suicidal and you can’t actaully ask them hey are you in character, and they might reply “stop ruining the illusion of course i am!” but if you don’t ask and……you get the gist

To be quite honest, my advice in this situation is really simple: we have OOC communication in the game and, if you’re genuinely concerned about how the person you’re RPing with is acting, ask them about it. Even if you suspect that they are just RPing and that asking them is a potential immersion-breaker… well, if you’re concerned, it’s probably better to ask. Besides, OOC communication should be in place anyway – if nothing else, for things like, “When are you free to do this instance?” and “BRB, cooking dinner”. As I have mentioned before, when you start to play with someone you should reach some kind of agreement about what is IC communication and what is OOC communication. For starters, what channel they’re using to express their concerning thoughts could give you hints on whether it’s RP or real, and secondly, it gives you an avenue to ask about whether they’re doing OK.

This leads on to a different but intrinsically related point, in my mind: if you want to play a character who is suicidal, or who is involved in IC terrorist activity, or who is just plain bitchy, how do you get that across as a purely IC activity without either breaking immersion or risking concerning or offending people OOCly?

First of all, I think that you should make sure you make use of both IC and OOC channels in this case – if you and your RP partner have agreed that Party chat is OOC, then perhaps drop them a line OOCly to let them know that this is just IC stuff and that they shouldn’t be concerned. Sure, it’s potentially immersion breaking, but that’s the quickest way to make sure they’re aware of exactly what is in-character and what is out-of-character.

How do you establish this while not breaking immersion – or, for that matter, character? Honestly, step one is to establish your character as being a certain way as clearly as possible. As Sean observed, it’s not uncommon for people to misinterpret quirks altogether and misread them. Sometimes this just carries with it a certain in-character actions, in-character consequences idea, but sometimes it carries into out-of-character interpretations, too. If another character misinterprets a quirk, that’s just an RP issue – but if a player misinterprets your quirk, that could have bad consequences. For instance, if your IC quirk is ‘bitchy’ and a player misinterprets that as ‘man, that player is bitchy’, something has gone wrong.

The best way to stop this from being a problem is to make sure that all your OOC communication is in the way that you would like to be perceived, and that it is very clear that your IC communication is, in fact, IC. Making sure your speech patterns are appropriate to your character or identifiable as being your character and not you; make use of emotes to back up what you’re saying and to make it clear what you’re going for, and don’t ever be afraid to touch base OOCly to make sure things are coming across OK. To do this in the least immersion-breaking way, do this via whispers or Party, rather than by ((putting your words behind double-brackets in say)).



  1. Being a filmmaker I find role-playing completely fascinating. I am interested by the fact that if you are RPGing with someone and they are acting ‘bitchy’ that a player could even consider the ‘person’ to be bitchy. Surely when you RPG you think of everyone as their character and do not let their ‘real’ personas even enter your mind. To me the fact that you have an OOC channel disqualifies RPG as true role-playing. I don’t mean this as an insult but an academic question.

    I take the example of a movie set. The director tells the actors what their motivations are (their backstory and character traits) and the actors then interpret that and roleply with one another in front of the camera. They do not for one second think, “man Brad is being bitchy today” they actually get caught up in the fantasy and forget their real identities and become the character.

    So my question is, that once you login to WoW, shouldn’t all your dialogue should be IC for it to be a true fantasym, a true escapism, for you to be truly role-playing?

    You might argue that it is also a comms tool for OOC conversation, but if you are constantly breaking the immersion it just seems un-RPG like to me. Maybe each person can take turns at the role of a ‘director’ on a rotating basis and that is the only person who is allowed to have OOC conversations with guild/team members.

    Just throwing that out there 🙂

  2. I agree with you, David, up to a certain point.
    I enjoy full IC communications most. I find the introduction of OOC talk a bit of a breaking of the magic, so to speak. And I try to avoid that as much as possible.

    The difference between a movie set and an RPG, though, is that actors have a script to cling to, and know the other character’s motivations.

    RPG-players, though, take turns at storytelling, adding elements to the plot in turn. And they’re not making a movie, but trying to enjoy themselves in a game.

    Introducing a dramatic plot-element, I think, comes with some responsibility for the well-being of the other players, behind the screen. And that may be hard to check if you only interact with the character, not its player.

    So, personally, while I prefer to have as little OOC talk as possible, I do make a point of sending one OOC line, before logging off, saying my goodbye to the other players and thanking for the fun. That also makes it a bit easier for the others to start OOC communications if they feel it is needed.
    And as a self-protecting emergency break, I also fire up the OOC talk if I am not having fun, and do not see an IC way of improving things.

    Finally, I’m not the only one playing and I think it’s important to adapt to others. If they prefer more OOC, I immediately agree, on priniciple.

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