I have this dilemma when designing games.
All of my current (and probably future) WIPs are set in detailed fictional worlds. The characters were not existing in a void until the player dropped in for a visit; they all have their own backgrounds and lives and way of seeing the world.
Personally, I don’t have any real problems with slipping into a well-defined character’s head and roleplaying a bit, even if they’re written with a strong personality that is most definitely not mine. But a lot of players do seem to find it off-putting.
When a character referred to “you” does things you wouldn’t do, or in a way you wouldn’t do them, or has an opinion or feeling that doesn’t match yours, does it take you out of the game? And what is the alternative? A silent, personality-less cipher? The more emphasis you have on plot and characters the harder that is to pull off. Amnesia? A good chunk of the plot’s focus would then have to be on how and why they wound up in that condition, instead of the story you wanted to tell.
In the CYOA I’m working on I get around this by switching to a third person point of view and just straight up telling the player that while they get to influence the character’s life, she’s her own individual and not meant to represent the person reading the story. But I think this works primarily because the way that particular adventure is set up is closer to reading and influencing a novel than playing a game.
But I personally have never been able to stand POV switching in IF. I know first person’s been done, but I can’t think of any example where third has been effective. It’s just too distancing and distracting. And so I’m right back where I started: Distancing the player from the character is bad, but involving them too closely with the character’s thoughts and feelings can backfire. Yet soulless husks with no previous life or personality is bad too, for obvious reasons.
What would be the ideal middle ground here?