Player character

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A player character named "Contar Stoneskull" in Legend of Grimrock . The squares contain icons representing items he is wearing and items he is carrying on his adventure. Statistics such as his health and experience are also listed. Legend of Grimrock screenshot 01-cropped.jpg
A player character named "Contar Stoneskull" in Legend of Grimrock . The squares contain icons representing items he is wearing and items he is carrying on his adventure. Statistics such as his health and experience are also listed.

A player character (also known as PC and playable character) is a fictional character in a role-playing game or video game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character. [1] [2] [3]

A character is a person or other being in a narrative. The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinction of a "fictional" versus "real" character may be made. Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person". In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.

Role-playing game Game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting

A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making regarding character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.


Video games typically have one player character for each person playing the game. Some games offer a group of player characters for the player to choose from, allowing the player to control one of them at a time. Where more than one player character is available, the characters may have different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses to make the game play style different.

An attribute is a piece of data that describes to what extent a fictional character in a role-playing game possesses a specific natural, in-born characteristic common to all characters in the game. That piece of data is usually an abstract number or, in some cases, a set of dice. Some games use different terms to refer to an attribute, such as statistic, (primary) characteristic or ability. A number of role-playing games like Fate do not use attributes at all.



A player character may sometimes be based on a real person, especially in sports games that use the names and likenesses of real sports people. Historical people and leaders may sometimes appear as characters too, particularly in strategy or empire building games such as in Sid Meier's Civilization series. Curiously, in the case of Civilization, a player's chosen historical character is the same throughout the course of the game despite the fact that a campaign can last several hundred years before and after the lifetime of the real historical persona.[ relevant? ] Such a player character is more properly an avatar as the player character's name and image typically have little bearing on the game itself. Avatars are also commonly seen in casino game simulations.

A sports game is a video game genre that simulates the practice of sports. Most sports have been recreated with a game, including team sports, track and field, extreme sports and combat sports. Some games emphasize actually playing the sport, whilst others emphasize strategy and sport management. Some, such as Need for Speed, Arch Rivals and Punch-Out!!, satirize the sport for comic effect. This genre has been popular throughout the history of video games and is competitive, just like real-world sports. A number of game series feature the names and characteristics of real teams and players, and are updated annually to reflect real-world changes. Sports genre is one of the oldest genres in gaming history.

Strategy game type of game in which the players decision-making skills have high significance in the outcome

A strategy game or strategic game is a game in which the players' uncoerced, and often autonomous decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome. Almost all strategy games require internal decision tree style thinking, and typically very high situational awareness.

4X genre of strategy video game

4X is a genre of strategy-based video and board games in which players control an empire and "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate". The term was coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World. Since then, others have adopted the term to describe games of similar scope and design.

Blank characters

In many video games, and especially first-person shooters, the player character is a "blank slate" without any notable characteristics or even backstory. Pac-Man, Crono, Link and Chell are examples of such characters. These characters are generally silent protagonists.

First-person shooter Action video game genre

First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered around gun and other weapon-based combat in a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist. The genre shares common traits with other shooter games, which in turn makes it fall under the heading action game. Since the genre's inception, advanced 3D and pseudo-3D graphics have challenged hardware development, and multiplayer gaming has been integral.

A backstory, background story, back-story, or background is a set of events invented for a plot, presented as preceding and leading up to that plot. It is a literary device of a narrative history all chronologically earlier than the narrative of primary interest.

Pac-Man (character) protagonist character of the franchise of the same name by Namco

Pac-Man is the protagonist fictional character of the game franchise of the same name by Namco, who was first introduced in the Japanese arcade game Pac-Man on May 22, 1980, in Japan, and released in the United States in October the same year. He has since appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs, as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs, spawned a variety of Pac-Man merchandise with his image, as well as a television series. Pac-Man has become a worldwide social phenomenon and Bandai Namco's mascot.

Some games will go even further, never showing or naming the player-character at all. This is somewhat common in first-person videogames, such as in Myst , but is more often done in strategy video games such as Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune . In such games, the only real indication that the player has a character (instead of an omnipresent status), is from the cutscenes during which the character is being given a mission briefing or debriefing; the player is usually addressed as "general", "commander", or another military rank.

<i>Myst</i> video game

Myst is a graphic adventure puzzle video game designed by the Miller brothers, Robyn and Rand. It was developed by Cyan, Inc., published by Brøderbund, and released as a PC game for the Macintosh platform in 1993. In the game, players are told that a special book has caused them to travel to Myst Island. There, players solve puzzles and, by doing so, travel to four other worlds, known as Ages, which reveal the backstory of the game's characters.

<i>Dune 2000</i> real-time strategy game

Dune 2000 is a real-time strategy video game, developed by Intelligent Games and released by Westwood Studios in 1998 for Microsoft Windows. It was later ported to the PlayStation in 1999. It is a partial remake of Dune II, which is loosely based on Frank Herbert's Dune universe. The story of the game is similar to Dune II, and is continued in Emperor: Battle for Dune. The game uses a similar game engine to Westwood's Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Although Dune 2000 was originally intended to be a remake of Dune II, the plotline differs completely and makes a reference to the execution of Mentat Amon of House Ordos and the replacement of the Harkonnen Mentat from Dune II, Radnor, by Hayt De Vries. The story is told with full motion video.

<i>Emperor: Battle for Dune</i> video game

Emperor: Battle for Dune is a Dune video game, released by Westwood Studios on June 12, 2001. It is based in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune universe. It is the third real-time strategy game set in the Dune universe, following its predecessors, Dune II and Dune 2000. While Dune II was a totally distinct story to that of Dune, and Dune 2000 was a remake of Dune II, Emperor is a direct sequel to the previous games. In particular, it is a sequel to Dune 2000, carrying on from where it left off, with several of the characters and actors returning. Like Dune 2000 and many of the other Westwood games that came before it, Emperor features cut scenes filmed with live actors.

In gaming culture, such a character was called Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person, abbreviated as AFGNCAAP; a term that originated in Zork: Grand Inquisitor where it is used satirically to refer to the player. [4]

<i>Zork: Grand Inquisitor</i> 1997 video game

Zork: Grand Inquisitor is a graphic adventure game developed by Activision and released for Windows in 1997, and for Macintosh in 2001. It builds upon the Zork and Enchanter series of interactive fiction video games originally released by Infocom, and sees players attempting to restore magic to Zork, solving puzzles and using spells. The game stars Erick Avari, Michael McKean, Amy D. Jacobson, Marty Ingels, Earl Boen, Jordana Capra, Dirk Benedict, and Rip Taylor. Zork: The Undiscovered Underground was written and released as a promotional prequel to the game.

Fighting games

Fighting games typically have a larger number of player characters to choose from, with some basic moves available to all or most characters and some unique moves only available to one or a few characters. Having many different characters to play as and against, all possessing different moves and abilities, is necessary to create a larger gameplay variety in such games.

Role-playing games

In role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons or Final Fantasy, a player typically creates or takes on the identity of a character that may have nothing in common with the player. The character is often of a certain (usually fictional) race and class (such as zombie, berserker, rifleman, elf, or cleric), each with strengths and weaknesses. The attributes of the characters (such as magic and fighting ability) are given as numerical values which can be increased as the gamer progresses and gains rank and experience points through accomplishing goals or fighting enemies.

Secret characters

A secret or unlockable character is a playable character in a video game available only after completing the game or meeting another requirement. In some video games, characters that are not secret but appear only as non-player characters like bosses or enemies become playable characters after completing certain requirements, or sometimes cheating. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

A gamemaster is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer role-playing game. They are more common in co-operative games in which players work together than in competitive games in which players oppose each other. The act performed by a gamemaster is sometimes referred to as "Gamemastering" or simply "GM-ing".

Live action role-playing game form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters actions

A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically portray their characters. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction-time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games and platform games. Some multiplayer online battle arena and real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

Avatar (<i>Ultima</i>) Ultima series of video games

The Avatar is the main player character and protagonist in the Ultima series of video games by Origin Systems. The character was first introduced as "The Stranger" in the 1981 role-playing video game Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness.

Cooperative gameplay is a feature in video games that allows players to work together as teammates, usually against one or more AI opponents. It is distinct from other multiplayer modes, such as competitive multiplayer modes like player versus player or deathmatch. Playing simultaneously allows players to assist one another in many ways: passing weapons or items, healing, providing covering fire in a firefight, and performing cooperative maneuvers such as boosting a teammate up and over obstacles.

<i>Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom</i> 1993 video game

Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, published in 1993, is the first of two arcade games created by Capcom based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game and set in the Mystara campaign setting. It is a side scrolling beat 'em up with some role-playing video game elements mixed in. The game was also released on the Sega Saturn, packaged with its sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, under the title Dungeons & Dragons Collection, although the Saturn version limited the gameplay to only two players. In 2013, both games were re-released for modern platforms as Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.

<i>Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol</i> 1995 video game

Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol is a role-playing video game released in 1995 for Microsoft Windows. It was game designer David Allen's first release. Mordor inspired a sequel, Demise: Rise of the Ku'tan, released in 2000.

The fighter is one of the standard playable character classes in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. A fighter is a versatile, weapons-oriented warrior who fights using skill, strategy and tactics.

Character creation process of defining a game character

Character creation is the process of defining a game character or other character. Typically, a character's individual strengths and weaknesses are represented by a set of statistics. Games with a largely fictional setting may include traits such as race and class. Games with a more contemporary or narrower setting may limit customization to physical and personality traits.

<i>SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars</i> 2006 video game

SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars is a 2006 video game which employs both real time strategy and role-playing elements created by Phenomic and published by JoWooD Productions. It is the second full entry of the SpellForce series, following 2003's SpellForce: The Order of Dawn. Three expansion packs were released: SpellForce 2: Dragon Storm (2007), SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny (2012) and SpellForce 2: Demons of the Past (2014). A version of the game and the first expansion pack, Dragon Storm, with updated engine and widescreen support was released in April 2017. In December 2017, a full sequel, SpellForce 3, was released.

<i>Warlords Battlecry II</i> video game

Warlords Battlecry II is a real-time strategy and role-playing game, developed by Strategic Studies Group (SSG) as the sequel to Warlords Battlecry. It was released on March 12, 2002. The game requires the player to build buildings and create units in order to defeat the enemy, whilst sending their hero on optional quests.

An overworld is, in a broad sense, an area within a video game that interconnects all its levels or locations. They are mostly common in role-playing games, though this does not exclude other video game genres.

A strategy video game is a video game that focuses on skillful thinking and planning to achieve victory. It emphasizes strategic, tactical, and sometimes logistical challenges. Many games also offer economic challenges and exploration. They are generally categorized into four sub-types, depending on whether the game is turn-based or real-time, and whether the game focuses on strategy or tactics.

A variety of computer graphic techniques have been used to display video game content throughout the history of video games. The predominance of individual techniques have evolved over time, primarily due to hardware advances and restrictions such as the processing power of central or graphics processing units.

A non-player character (NPC), also known as a non-playable character, is any character in a game which is not controlled by a player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer via algorithmic, predetermined or responsive behavior, but not necessarily true artificial intelligence. In traditional tabletop role-playing games, the term applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee, rather than another player.

This is a glossary of video game terms which lists the general terms as commonly used in Wikipedia articles related to video games and its industry.


  1. La Farge, Paul (September 2006). "Destroy All Monsters". The Believer Magazine . Archived from the original on 2008-10-04.
  2. TSR Hobbies, Understanding Dungeons & Dragons, 1979. Quoted in Gary Alan Fine, Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds (Chicago: U Chicago Press, 1983)
  3. Waggoner, Zack (2009). My Avatar, My Self: Identity in Video Role-Playing Games. University of Michigan. p. 8. ISBN   978-0-7864-4109-9 . Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  4. Douglas, Jeremy (December 2007). Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media. ProQuest Information and Learning Company. p. 199. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  5. "Secret Character". TV Tropes. Retrieved 26 December 2018.