Dear One Geek,
I have an In Character relationship with a fellow player. That is to say, their character and mine have a romantic (and sexual) relationship in the game we’re playing. It’s an aspect of the game I’m enjoying, and we always “fade to black” (saying things like “and they go and have their fun” and then picking the role play back up after the encounter) rather than detailing out our character’s intimate interactions.
Lately, however, the other player has been trying to push that boundary to be Out of Character as well. I’m not interested in a “real life” relationship with this person, but I also don’t want to cause huge issues with our gaming group or offend this person who I consider a friend.
How do I deal with that?
Keeping It In Character
Dear In Character,
The same sorts of intense and evocative experiences that make roleplay such a wonderful recreation also can lead to the temptation to recreate those kinds of emotions in a more “real life” setting. Your friend is not the first person to try to take In Character (IC) relationships Out of Character (OOC) with someone who isn’t interested in extending the situation into real life.
The best way to handle the situation depends, in part, on how direct or subtle of pressure you’re being given. If the “push” so far has been just mildly flirtatious, rather than overt, you’ve got a lot of options on how to react.
Your first action should be, of course, to be sure that you aren’t giving the other person mixed messages. If you continue to flirt with them after the game is over, or if you engage in “I might be interested” type activities when you’re not in character, you really need to either stop doing so, or at least clarify very succinctly what those signals do and don’t mean outside of the game. It’s unfair to anyone to put out “come hither” words or deeds when you’re being you (not your characters) and then take exception to the fact that the person might interpret your actions as real life interest. It’s not inappropriate to assume that a real time flirtation might equal real time interest.
That being said, if you are either being utterly platonic with them OOC, or have explained clearly that your friendly flirting is only flirting, you have several options on how to proceed to dissuade your admirer.
One way to deal with the situation discretely is to put a positive spin on the situation, while not acknowledging any potential pressure that has already been applied. This allows the other person to save face, but still gives them a clear statement of your feelings about the matter. After a good game, say something like:
“You know, I’m so glad that we’re such good friends and can have these kind of IC relationships without any awkward OOC pressure. Because, that would be really uncomfortable, wouldn’t it? Having someone put pressure on you in real life based on game interactions?”
Alternately, you could introduce a situation you’ve heard or read about (and you’re hearing about it here, so it’s not a fib) where someone made inappropriate assumptions about IC relationships meaning the person was interested in an OOC one by saying something like:
“I was reading online the other day, and this gamer was talking about how he/she was considering dropping out of his/her regular gaming group because one of the other gamers kept trying to take their character’s relationship into real life. Isn’t that horrible? I mean, that someone couldn’t just enjoy the character interactions without thinking that it meant the other gamer was looking for a hook up? I’m so grateful that we’re all more mature than that, here.”
If your fellow gamer has half a clue, they’ll take this kind of statement as the warning it is intended as.
Another way to deal with the “push” is to make a little joke out of it. Laughing, while holding up your hands in a “Back up” fashion and saying “Whoa up, I’m not (insert your character’s name) and you’re no (insert their character’s name)” gives a humorous but clear message that you’re not mistaking IC interactions for OOC ones, and you expect them not to, either.
If, however, none of these more indirect approaches work (or if you just prefer a more up-front angle) there are more clear avenues. I’m a firm advocate of no-drama, simple and straightforward conversation. The statements below (or those like them) are hard to misinterpret, and deal with the matter diplomatically but firmly.
“I really enjoy our roleplay interactions, but I wanted to reiterate to you that I’m not interested in a real life relationship with you.” – This can be used at any time, to highlight your feelings about the matter.
“I’m sorry, I’m not interested in anything other than friendship with you.” – This is a clear and concise response to an invitation (verbal or otherwise) to take your relationship into a more intimate arena.
“I get the feeling that our IC interaction is leading you to believe that I’m looking for something more than friendship OOC. Do we need to talk about that?” – By expressing this in an obviously concerned (rather than flirty) tone, you are likely going to make it clear that you’re not interested, but if they want to discuss the matter further, you can go on to clarify your lack of interest in the conversation.
If they’ve already made overt invitations on dates, or attempted physical interactions (trying to hug or kiss you in ways you’re not comfortable with) then a very straightforward approach, such as those above, is probably best.
If, however, they still refuse to take a clear “NO” for an answer, or if you’re feeling physically intimidated by their attentions, you may want to consider either discussing the matter with the person who is organizing the game group and asking them to give the person an ultimatum (“Knock it off, or leave the group.”) or considering leaving the group yourself. No recreational activity is worth putting yourself into a situation where your physical or emotional well-being is being put in danger.
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!