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    What is IRL?

    IRL stands for “in real life.” It’s a term used to differentiate between things that happen in the real, physical world from those that happen in a virtual world or game.

    IRL is often used in text-based gaming, online forums, and digital communications to draw a line between the digital persona and the actual person behind the screen.

    In the context of roleplaying games (RPGs), IRL refers to the players’ real-world context outside of their characters’ adventures and narratives.

    Initially, IRL emerged as internet slang and became widely used with the rise of online communities and virtual interactions. The distinction between online and offline life became significant as digital interactions grew more prevalent, prompting the need for a term like IRL.

    IRL FAQs

    What does IRL mean in gaming?

    In gaming, IRL is used to reference events or circumstances that occur in the player’s actual life, as opposed to those that happen within the game. It is a way to differentiate between the player’s character and the player themselves.

    How do you use IRL in a sentence?

    IRL can be used in a sentence to compare real-life scenarios with online or game scenarios. For example, “I’m a warrior in the game, but IRL, I’m a high school teacher.” Another example might be, “My character hates cuddly things, but IRL I have a huge stuffed animal collection.”

    Can IRL be used outside of gaming contexts?

    Yes, IRL is used broadly across various digital platforms and online contexts, not just in gaming. It helps differentiate between someone’s online presence or activities and their real-world actions or status.

    Is it important to differentiate between online and IRL?

    Yes, differentiating between online and IRL can help maintain clear boundaries and understandings of context, especially in environments where virtual personas and real-life identities can blur, such as roleplaying games or social media.

    Myths about IRL

    One myth is that IRL experiences are always separate from online experiences. In reality, the line between online and IRL can often blur, especially as digital interactions become a significant part of everyday life. Many people meet online and later become friends or significant others in real life.

    Another misconception is that using IRL implies a negative view of online interactions. This is not necessarily true; the term simply distinguishes between different types of experiences. For many people, their virtual persona is just as meaningful to them as their real-life persona.

    Lastly, some people may think that everyone understands and uses the term IRL the same way. However, interpretations can vary based on individual experiences and contexts. For some, “IRL” can signify a different type of persona, such as the mask they wear at work or in social situations, for example.

    IRL examples

    • During an RPG session, a player might say, “I need to take a break for dinner IRL, but my character will stay on watch.” This example shows that the character and the player live separate lives and the character can be doing one thing (going on watch) even while the player is doing something else (eating dinner).
    • In a gaming forum, a user might post, “IRL, I’m a quiet person, but in this online community, I feel free to express myself.”
    • A player discussing game strategies for an MMORPG might say, “This strategy works well in the game, but IRL, it would never be feasible.”
    • A player in a MUD might complain to their fellow roleplayers, “Stop joking about IRL so much, you’re breaking the immersion.”

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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."