When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

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When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#1 Post by Liathene » Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:33 pm

(Thank you Nomine and Syra for helping me with this. :) )

First off, this post is not meant to target anyone in particular, and I’m not claiming to be perfect in my own way of dealing with this – at all! This post is only meant to open a conversation on a topic that seems relevant right now.

It can be easy to say that roleplay should be "consequence-free". Meaning that what happens in the roleplay stays in the roleplay, and nothing spills between real life and the roleplay. Sometimes this is said to be the gold standard; "Pure roleplay".
But what if interactions between characters start to wear you down, and are experienced as very "not-fun"?

When feelings, thoughts etc. spill over from players to character or vice-versa, that is what is usually called “bleed”.

People often refer to bleed-in when it is the player's emotional state that affects the character. For example, a stressed or tired player may lead to a character that is aggressive, sarcastic, angry, or mean. Bleed-out is used to refer to bleed in the other direction (from character to player).
Bleed can be experienced as either positive or negative. We can seek out specific roleplay experiences because they help us deal with a real-life issue, teach us something, or because we consciously want to experience a situation. At other times or for other players, we erect strong barriers between roleplay and real life.

What is important is to recognize that this exists, and reflect over how it impacts you, and your roleplay. "It is all IC" is easy to say, but it is not always true. Sometimes, the truth is more "My character's anger towards yours is IC, but the roleplay helps me deal with my real-life frustration".

Lately, there has been a lot of tension between the characters IC. Many of you may either be involved or have noticed. Characters going through stuff is, of course, a part of roleplaying, and can be lots of fun as a player to take part in. However, sometimes it can be too much, or for too long, or you don't know how to solve it. That is when we need to start talking about bleed.

Sometimes, it's hard to know who to reach out to, in order to even begin finding a way to solve it.

Because of the level of character play that some (many) of us engage in, hurt and conflict and characters having very difficult experiences can be central. This reflects in their behavior towards others in the guild and can create further conflicts. This is often fun, but if it continues for too long, it can become very difficult to play, and difficult to resolve. The character may be feeling disliked or alone, that no one understands, etc. It can become a point of frustration, and you can end up not seeing your way out of the IC situation, which then leads to a negative "bleed-out".

So, what do you do when it isn't fun anymore?
The IC diaries and stories that are posted on the forums can be used with great success for you as a player to let other players know (and for them to see) when your character needs help, and to invite them to take part in helping your character. We can start having discussions around: "I would like to experience heartbreak, a kidnapping, healing from an injury, being a hero." Experiences that can help break a negative pattern or get our character out of a negative spiral, while also helping us as a player. It can also inspire you to reach out to another player to say “I saw that you wrote about this, and I wonder if you would like to brainstorm around it, or if my character can engage with yours in a way to move things forward in a way you would feel good about”.

It's okay to use OOC knowledge to twist your own character's actions to resolve an issue. Reach out to others, OOC, to talk about how your characters can resolve a conflict between them, or ask if they have ideas for how to nudge your character in a certain direction. This is a very positive use of "bleed-in". An example of this would be: "I have only had the chance to show the angry side of my character, but they really care for XYZ, can we come up with an idea to show this? - the other warmer side?"

In addition to this, another good practice is the use of "check-in."
Using OOC whispers, during a situation of conflict, to keep the other player informed, reassure them that the conflict is only IC, and to lighten the mood of an otherwise tense situation. A simple message saying: (I'm so sorry my character is being an ass to yours right now.) or (I hope this scene is okay for you?) ... can be so helpful in keeping conflicts from becoming as frustration OOC as they might otherwise be, especially between characters that don't know each other well.

Try to remember we're all in this together, and it's supposed to be fun. If it isn't, talk to someone you feel comfortable talking to about it. It's okay to ask for help.

Please, let this post be a starting point for discussion and comments! Your input is valued. Roleplay is a powerful tool for storytelling, like all stories it can impact us, but it is not always easy.

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#2 Post by Rey » Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:50 pm

Lovely piece of text and i wholeheartedly agree!

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#3 Post by Nomine » Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:54 am

"Hi, my name is Kai, and I bleed."

I started playing roleplaying games when I was 15 years old. I have done all the silly things like; falling in love with a character, sleeping with a player - high the game energy, calling in sick from work because I had to continue a scene. I have spent the day being mentally exhausted, crying because I felt all alone and hated by all - having just played a villain. I have had a player threaten to kill himself if his character did not survive, an incident serious enough that child protective services got involved.

Telling stories, being part of stories, it is powerful.

Over the years, I first got better at recognizing bleed; Pausing and asking myself, "why do I feel like this? Where does that feeling come from." Later I started to think about why I roleplay, what are the things with roleplay that are good for me.
What gives me energy and positive bleed-oit.
Being competent and having an impact.
Figuring out what makes characters "tick."
Being seen; the character matters and are welcomed.

What steals energy, and gives negative bleed-out.
Character being incompetent
Character not mattering, e.g., the actions are without consequences and impact on the storyline.
Not taking part in the story, just being a sideline character called upon for a minor action.

The things that steal energy can easily lead to negative bleed for me. I tackle it with trying to have up strong barriers. During such events, you will often find me half working, or watching a tv show, it reduces my immersion and helps me keep my distance.

I am also the guild master and fairly frequent event arranger. I found out that the best way for me to arrange events is through letting my character be sidelined, be focused on the event running. A well-executed event gives me energy. I also know that if I planned an event around Nomine being captured, weak, or has failed, then I risk having negative bleed-out.

Lately, there has been a couple of events, that for different reasons triggered bad bleed, knowing that my real-life situation is as challenging as it is. Knowing what I know about myself and how I bleed, I take steps to set up mental barriers and the storylines/RP.
Had I been a good and emotionally smart player, I would instead have gone to other players and said: "In event XYZ" can you give me a chance to do X?" Or "I want to run a series three events, but I need some play. Can I ask you to manage the second of those 3, I will give you the overall plot."

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#4 Post by Eileena » Sat Sep 21, 2019 9:55 am

As an active roleplayer for many years I know all about the giggly, bubbly happy place I am in as a player when things work out. This 'working out' can happen as a player ('oh my GOSH, I can't believe I actually managed to see through that!') or as a gm ('Yeeeeay! They figured out the story! This is so cool! They are following up!'). As a born optimist, I tend to take those moments and highlight them in relaying my experiences to other people.
I'm not much interested in keeping track of the moments where I felt awful.

Yet they are there, in the back of my mind, even if I don't talk about them much.

In fact, I only started being fully aware of this once I started playing World of Warcraft. One of my first experiences of this was in relation to Nomine and Eileena. They had had a horrible fight, full of misunderstandings, and decided to break things off because of it.
We both logged off, both exhausted.
And yet we both logged back on again, about half an hour later, hoping to catch the other. We talked ooc about it, decided this was ridiculous, it didn't feel right in any way. So we figured out an ic way to solve this and at least give them a chance to get back on track.
I still have a screenshot called 'together again' from that moment. That's how important it was.

It taught me to take it to ooc, to check with people if they are okay with this. So, if I've been pestering you too much behind the scenes, people, you know why :) If I haven't pestered you enough, feel free to poke me in those situations yourself! I can get pretty caught up in the character I am playing.

My characters are far from perfect. Of course I'd love to read in someone's diary (sorry Anomen, had to say it) how my pc has come across, how wonnnnnnnderful they were. More often I read about the mistakes they made, really, and that does make me a bit queasy, even if I'm aware it's the character and their circumstances. Not me doing something on purpose.
The fact that it is in a diary, helps me connect to the fact that it's ic, not ooc. If I am in doubt, I will ask people to ensure this is still just play and not turning into real life frustration.

Cause then it's time for catering.
I don't mind fudging a decision here or there as long as it is still in the character's keeping. Anything to keep the players happy, really. Yes, it's important to me. For this is a game and we love, we enjoy and we need this game.

This sounds more dramatic than it usually is, for mostly it's just misunderstandings ruling, as back with Nomine and Eileena. So then it's just a matter of talking things out behind the scenes, sharing a little ooc info and work from there :)

But yes, I will cater where necessary. The overall game and the connection between players matters more to me than 'having it my way'. I know my characters are very demanding. No good pushing that on other people's plates. And they are erratic enough to just about explain away anything I need to!
This is how I feel comfortable, by the way. Other people will have other means to solve tension, undoubtedly.

But then there is another kind of bleed...the other way around.
I don't know about you guys, but I desperately need this gameplay. Not the mechanics, but the interaction, the roleplay, the acting out. The last years have been hard on us here in real life. Most of you know about our daughter, who, thank the gods, is on her way to recovery. I needed, still need to be able to put my mind on zone-out and get in the game, making life difficult for my characters so I have a chance to DO something where in the real world I am out of control over the nasty situation we were in.

So, my characters will make mistakes because my head is fuzzy, I can't remember all the details, I forget agreements or get confused when too many people are talking.
Try to explain that one away when you're supposed to be this uber-patient, tolerant healer who excells at listening...good thing I found a way around that for the moment! It's more annoying when I try to be the gm.
I love stories, I love sharing stories. I love turning the weird dreams I have into adventures.
And in my enthusiasm, I forget other players might have other needs than me.

Time to start talking again, ey? Because when I throw out a framework that might hold a thousand little plotlines for people to hook up to in different ways, I kinda expect people to follow up on what they grabbed. I forgot not everyone is used to that, that in fact most people are used to the gm poking them and telling them what they were after or that they still need preparations for situation X.

Online gaming is not tabletop.
Gotta remind myself.

Question that remains is really: where do I draw the line between remedial roleplay, the need to act out, and ooc bleed from the real world into the game?

I think it all comes down to communication again. I think that in order to ensure people know where I stand, I need to keep telling them when I'm online after a bad day. "Guys, forgive character X for going berserk. I'm having an awful day and I'd LOVE to get into some real trouble. No offense."

And an important next step: "Who is up for a raging pc without taking it personal?" so I can avoid those people who just had a rough day themselves and would very much prefer a quiet social to get back energy instead of my hyperdrive. To each their own, after all!

Yeah, expectations. I think that's my word for the day: managing expectations :)

So, hello there. My name is Sanneke. I bleed...and have a tendency to go looking for the bandaids...
Last edited by Eileena on Sat Sep 21, 2019 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#5 Post by Tikál » Sat Sep 21, 2019 10:01 am

Hi, my name is Michael, and I bleed.

I Started roleplaying when I was about 20. I have done silly things; falling in love with a character, sleeping with a player, in another country. Have skipped out on eating properly, have been mentally exhausted, and have spent many a night sleepless after intense plotlines, or even just character development gone out of control.

In my first handful of years as a roleplayer, I actually knew nothing of bleed. I did not know how to recognise it, or even that it was a thing.
The result of this was a lot of situations I found myself getting into with Tikal, I did not know how to deal with and I ended up leaving the guild to get a step away from it. (Yes, that is an extreme measure of getting away from something you can’t deal with or understand why you feel so strongly.)
After having a talk with Kai on one of those times I left the guild he told me about bleed and the effects of it, and like anyone who did not know anything of bleed. I thought it did not affect me, he must have been wrong. (He was not wrong.)
But learning about bleed, I began to take a step back while I was roleplaying and looking at the way the RP was making me feel, when I was having a bad day lashing out often made me feel a little less frustrated.
So Tikal became a great tool to relieve stress, as a result the character developed strongly towards conflict and random acts of violence, that have resulted in the deaths of characters, that had real player emotions from both myself and the other players.
But Roleplay should never just be about venting out so I needed more ways to bleed.
So I made Ailu for my positive energy, a polar opposite of Tikal, she is bubbly and silly, she is against violence to the point she has vowed to be a pacifist.
There is a completely different aftermath feeling from playing these characters.
With Tikal, the end result is often a high on emotions both negative and good sometimes because the character is highly strung and there will most always be conflict. (Which is not always bad when there are set limits in place or boundaries.)
And when finishing RP with Aila, it is almost impossible to feel bad, because she has no inclination to be involved in conflict. But there is often a feeling of regret, because you got someone so drunk they fell asleep on a bag of flour which got a mysterious hole in it. (I think of that bleed as the morning after a night out.)

But enough of my babbling, what I should be saying is, bleed is a valuable tool in Roleplay.
But it is very important to recognise when bleed is happening, and knowing your limits and when to say I need a break.
Needing a break should not be a /guildquit. Instead it should be a “Sorry, I need to log off and take a few deep breaths and clear my head.” Or simply calling an end to the Roleplay with the player on ooc terms if you knkow the RP is going to go bad for you.
Knowing when bleed is happening also means you need to know yourself, to recognise that you are starting to feel frustrated before you actually become frustrated. (Which is a lot easier said than done and many of us fail.)
Also knowing when your bleeding is affecting others, people do not always know what is going on, and when they are being pulled into conflict or yelled at and don’t actually understand what is going on that can have a very negative effect on both players.
If you only ever do what you can do, you will never be more than what you already are.

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#6 Post by Liathene » Sat Sep 21, 2019 11:07 am

Hi, my name is Maja, and I bleed.

For me, bleed goes both ways, and usually takes the form of sadness, frustration, or happiness. It doesn't make me dislike players themselves, or love them, so I guess in some ways, there is a point where it stops.
Unfortunately, the sadness and frustration are often aimed at myself.

When I am tired, or sad, my own emotions bleed into the character, making them more difficult to deal with. Sometimes, I don't realize that I'm tired or sad before it starts happening, and then I watch it unfold, like a trainwreck that I can't stop.
Sometimes, I have hopes for where a story or relationship will go, and when it changes direction unexpectedly, as a player I can find it hard to see a new direction and become upset because I feel lost.

I try to be better at checking in with others ooc, and I sometimes find it hard to know how or when, so I know it's something I need to work on.
I really appreciate it when others help me to do this, because I know it isn't my greatest strength. I'm new to it, because I haven't been around many players that have done these things in the past.

And then an addition, which was brought up in a personal conversation: What is small to me, may be more significant to you, and vice versa.

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Re: When IC tension becomes OOC frustration, a conversation

#7 Post by Nomine » Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:11 am

I think it is worth spending a few moments thing about how events impact bleed. During an event, you often have elements of stress both IC and OOC (just keeping up with all emotes/say, and replying fast enough), strong emotions and there is a plot progression. Then, the plot progression is over - but what happens next?

In many LARPs - it is recognized that players need time and help to transition out of the character headspace, deal with the emotional impact of character actions, and transition into the player headspace. This formal assisted transition is called "Debrief." The debrief is a voluntary opt-in activity.
In Starlight we have been saying that the combat is the least important of any action event. What matters is what comes before and after.

I am suggesting that, the best chance for character development takes place after the active/action moment of an event. The pace slows down, offers the opportunity to reflect over things that took place. Others are around to support a character as they break down, struggling with having killed somebody, having failed, or praising them for heroic action.
Structurally, this can happen as people gather after having made their escape, performing healing: Dealing with the physical consequences of what their character has gone through.

Such a shared activity also helps cement the importance of what happened, how it impacted a character, and how they contributed — making individual character contributions a more widely understood part of the shared story in a guild.

I also think there is an "invisible" timer starting the moment after an event is over. Ticking down, to the point where the emotional impact of an event is no longer there, and it is hard to "use" the event to impact bleed, as well as character development. Simply from other players and characters have moved on, already having dealt with it.

So, take a few moments to think:
Is it benefits in joining into the aftermath RP?
How will it impact me and my character to log off immediately after the end of the official action is over?
And for arrangers: How do I facilitate an aftermath - Likely it will be enough to state: Where to do we meet, and set the expectations for players to do so. I do not need it has to be "GMed." in itself. After-maths seems to run best on their own, as soon as they get kicked off.

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