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    What does AFK mean in gaming?

    AFK stands for “Away From Keyboard.” In text-based roleplaying games, it means a player is temporarily unavailable or not actively participating in the game.

    Players use AFK to let others know they might not respond immediately. It’s a helpful way to manage expectations and ensure smooth gameplay. When a player returns, they usually indicate they are back, so the game can continue seamlessly.

    A brief history of the term

    The term AFK originated in the early days of internet chat and online gaming. Initially, AFK was heavily used in text-based roleplaying games where players needed to notify others of their temporary absence to avoid disrupting the game’s flow.

    As online gaming expanded to include MMORPGs and other multiplayer online games, AFK’s relevance and usage increased significantly.

    Over the years, the usage of AFK has expanded beyond gaming to include any online activity, although it remains highly relevant in gaming contexts. It has become a part of internet slang, widely recognized even outside gaming circles.

    Where it’s used

    Today, AFK is still used in many gaming communities to indicate a player’s temporary absence. Its simplicity and the universal understanding of its meaning have ensured its continued use.

    Types of games that use the term “AFK” include but are not limited to:

    MUD, MUSH, MMORPG, FPS, MOBA, Chat RPG, Social media RPG, PvE, PvP, and their respective communities.

    AFK examples

    • In a MUD, a player might type “AFK, need to answer the door” before stepping away from their computer.
    • During a play-by-post (PbP) game, a participant might post in the game thread, “Going AFK for the night, see you all tomorrow!”
    • In a team-based online game, a player might say “brb, AFK” before grabbing a snack.
    • In a game like Roblox, Fortnite, or Minecraft, a player could announce, “AFK for a bit, back in 10.”
    • In an MMORPG, players might see an AFK or “Away” tag next to a character’s name, indicating their temporary absence.

    Myths about going AFK

    One common misconception about going AFK in text-based RPGs is that it signals disinterest or disrespect. In reality, players often go AFK due to real-life necessities, not because they wish to ignore the game or disregard other players.

    Another myth is that players who go AFK frequently are unreliable. In reality, players might go AFK due to unforeseen circumstances and RL distractions. It doesn’t necessarily reflect their reliability or commitment to the game.

    Proper etiquette, such as notifying others before going AFK, helps maintain respect and understanding within the gaming community.

    AFK FAQs

    How do players indicate they are AFK?

    Players typically type “AFK” in the game’s chat window or use a status feature if available to let others know they are away from their keyboard.

    Some games will automatically flag players as away if they are inactive for a while. When this happens, the player will have <Away> or [AFK] or some similar tag next to their name.

    How do you remove or come back from AFK?

    Depending on the game, you can usually remove your AFK status in one of two ways: 1) by typing “afk” into the command line, or 2) by entering any other command.

    Screenshot showing: "You are now afk. AFK MODE. Type AFK to return! afk You are no longer afk."
    Example of going AFK and returning by typing “afk” into the command line.

    Some games require you to toggle AFK status on/off, while others simply remove the AFK flag when you do anything to indicate that you’re no longer AFK. For example, going west or dropping an item.

    What should I do if someone is AFK in a game?

    If someone is AFK, it’s usually best to wait for a reasonable amount of time for them to return, then proceed with the game if it does not depend on their participation.

    What is considered a reasonable amount of time will depend on the game’s etiquette or RP culture.

    For example, in a MUSH with async roleplay, players can be AFK or unresponsive for hours at a time without issue. In a real-time RP game, it’s usually reasonable to wait a few minutes before proceeding around the AFK player.

    How long is too long to be AFK in a game?

    The acceptable duration varies depending on the context of the game or chat and the player’s reason for going AFK.

    In fast-paced games, even a few minutes can be too long, while in more casual settings, players are usually willing to wait longer.

    It is common etiquette for players to give an approximate return time if they expect to be AFK for a longer period.

    Can going AFK affect game outcomes?

    Yes, going AFK can significantly impact the outcomes in team-based or multiplayer games where each player’s participation is crucial.

    For example, going AFK during a World of Warcraft raid or a match in a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) could have serious consequences for the rest of the team.

    Is it considered rude to go AFK in games?

    It can be considered rude in games requiring active participation and teamwork, especially if the player does not inform others or is absent for an extended period without a valid reason.

    In games with asynchronous play, however, it’s generally not considered rude to go AFK. Going AFK usually only impacts real-time communication or gameplay.

    What happens if a player is AFK for too long?

    In many games, being AFK for an extended period can lead to automatic disconnection to prevent disruption to gameplay. In text-based games, players will sometimes go linkdead before being logged off.

    To prevent from being logged out automatically, players of MU*s will often set up a timer in their MUD client that periodically sends text to the game to keep the connection active. This way, they can stay logged into the game indefinitely and read anything that may have happened while they were away. For example, conversations over faction chat or the OOC channel.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."