Avatars are a commonly used mechanism for representing the player within the world of a game. The avatar forms the main point of interaction between the player and the game, and thus the avatar is an important game design feature. Character-based games combine the concept of an avatar with that of a character, enhancing the avatar with specific features that commonly are changeable, and which can be defined within or outside the framework of the game rules. Within digital games, the rules-based features have received comparatively more attention than, for example, the personalities and background histories of game characters. This article presents results from a comprehensive empirical study of the way complex game characters are utilized by players in multiplayer role-playing games across two different media platforms. The results indicate that adult players are capable of comprehending and utilizing game characters with well-defined personalities and backgrounds, as well as rules-based components. Furthermore, that the game format plays a significant role in the pattern of usage of the character elements. This pattern appears directly linked with variations in the way that the different game formats handle player characters and activate or promote the activation of, different forms of character elements. The degree to which different character elements are activated also has implications for the degree of player engagement in the character.