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 a playable character or PC) is a fictional character in a video game or tabletop role-playing game whose actions are controlled by a player 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]


Video games typically have one player character for each person playing the game. Some games, such as multiplayer online battle arena, hero shooter, and fighting 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 distinctive abilities and differing styles of play.



A player character may sometimes be based on a real person, especially in sports games that use the names and likenesses of real athletes. Historical figures and leaders may sometimes appear as characters too, particularly in strategy or empire building games such as in Sid Meier's Civilization series. 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.

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.

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, Emperor: Battle for Dune, and Command & Conquer series. 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.

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]

Character action games

Character action games (also called "character-driven" games, "character games" or just "action games") are a broad category of action games, referring to a variety of games that are driven by the physical actions of player characters. The term dates back to the golden age of arcade video games in the early 1980s, when the terms "action games" and "character games" began being used to distinguish a new emerging genre of character-driven action games from the space shoot 'em ups that had previously dominated the arcades in the late 1970s. Classic examples of character action games from that period include maze games like Pac-Man , platformers like Donkey Kong , and Frogger . [5] [6]

Side-scrolling character action games (also called "side-scrolling action games" or "side-scrollers") are a broad category of character action games that were popular from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, which involve player characters defeating large groups of weaker enemies along a side-scrolling playfield. [6] Examples include beat 'em ups like Kung-Fu Master and Double Dragon , ninja action games like The Legend of Kage and Shinobi , [6] scrolling platformers like Super Mario Bros. [7] and Sonic the Hedgehog , [8] and run-and-gun shooters like Rolling Thunder [6] and Gunstar Heroes . [9]

"Character action games" is also a term used for 3D hack and slash games modelled after Devil May Cry , which represent an evolution of arcade character action games. Other examples of this sub-genre include Ninja Gaiden , God of War , and Bayonetta . [10]

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 distinctive characters to play as and against, all possessing different moves and abilities, is necessary to create a larger gameplay variety in such games.

Hero shooters

Similarly to MOBAs, hero shooters emphasize pre-designed "hero" characters with distinctive abilities and weapons that are not available to the other characters. [11] Hero shooters strongly encourage teamwork between players on a team, guiding players to select effective combinations of hero characters and coordinate the use of hero abilities during a match. [12]

Multiplayer online battle arena

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games offer a large group of viable player characters for the player to choose from, each of which having distinctive abilities, strengths, and weaknesses to make the game play style different. Characters can learn new abilities or augment existing ones over the course of a match by collecting experience points. Choosing a character who complements player's teammates and counters his opponents, opens up a strategy before the beginning of the match itself. [13] Playable characters blend a variety of fantasy tropes, featuring numerous references to popular culture and mythology. [14] [15] [16]

Role-playing games

In both tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing video games such as 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.

Sports games

In many sports games, player characters are often modelled after real-life athletes, as opposed to fictional characters. This is particularly the case for sports simulation games, whereas many arcade-style sports games often have fictional characters instead.

Secret characters

A secret or unlockable character is a playable character in a video game available only after either 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.

See also

Related Research Articles

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.

An experience point is a unit of measurement used in tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's life experience and progression through the game. Experience points are generally awarded for the completion of missions, overcoming obstacles and opponents, and for successful role-playing.

Boss (video games) Significant and especially strong enemy in video games

In video games, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy. A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Bosses are generally far stronger than other opponents the player has faced up to that point and winning requires a greater knowledge of the game's mechanics. Boss battles are generally seen at climax points of particular sections of games, such as at the end of a level or stage or guarding a specific objective. A miniboss is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level, though more powerful than the standard enemies and often fought alongside them. A superboss is generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot and often an optional encounter. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story and the defeat of that character provides a positive conclusion to the game. A boss rush is a stage where the player faces multiple previous bosses again in succession.

Role-playing video game Role-playing video game genre

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, usually involving some form of character development by way of recording statistics. 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 replay value 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.

Action game Action video game genre

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. Multiplayer online battle arena and some real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

Action-adventure game Action-adventure video game genre

Action-adventure is a video game genre that combines core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.

Shooter game Action video game genre

Shooter video games or shooters are a subgenre of action video games where the focus is almost entirely on the defeat of the character's enemies using the weapons given to the player. Usually these weapons are firearms or some other long-range weapons, and can be used in combination with other tools such as grenades for indirect offense, armor for additional defense, or accessories such as telescopic sights to modify the behavior of the weapons. A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition, armor or health, or upgrades which augment the player character's weapons.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to video games:

Cooperative video game is a video game that allows players to work together as teammates, usually against one or more non-player character opponents. This feature is often abbreviated as co-op.

<i>Spider-Man: The Video Game</i> 1991 video game

Spider-Man: The Video Game is a 1991 arcade video game developed by Sega based on the Marvel Comics comic book character Spider-Man.

Side-scrolling video game Video game genre

A side-scrolling game or side-scroller is a video game in which the gameplay action is viewed from a side-view camera angle, and as the player's character moves left or right, the screen scrolls with them. These games make use of scrolling computer display technology. The move from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, during the golden age of video arcade games and during third-generation consoles, would prove to be a pivotal leap in game design, comparable to the move to 3D graphics during the fifth generation.

A strategy video game is a video game genre 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) is any character in a game that is not controlled by a player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee rather than by another player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer that has a predetermined set of behaviors that potentially will impact gameplay, but will not necessarily be the product of true artificial intelligence.

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) is a subgenre of strategy video games in which two teams of players compete against each other on a predefined battlefield. Each player controls a single character with a set of distinctive abilities that improve over the course of a game and which contribute to the team's overall strategy. The ultimate objective is for each team to destroy their opponents' main structure, located at the opposite corner of the battlefield. However, MOBA games can have other victory conditions, such as defeating every player on the enemy team. Players are assisted by computer-controlled units that periodically spawn in groups and march forward along set paths toward their enemy's base, which is heavily guarded by defensive structures. This type of multiplayer online video games originated as a subgenre of real-time strategy, though MOBA players usually do not construct buildings or units. Moreover, there are examples of MOBA games that are not considered real-time strategy games, such as Smite (2014), and Paragon. The genre is seen as a fusion of real-time strategy, role-playing and action games.

This list includes terms used in video games and the video game industry, as well as slang used by players.

<i>Vainglory</i> (video game) Multiplayer online battle arena video game

Vainglory is a free-to-play video game with in-game purchases, developed and published by Super Evil Megacorp for iOS, Android and PC. The game is a version of the MOBA wherein two opposing teams of three or five players fight to destroy the enemy by controlling the path between the bases, which is lined by turrets and guarded by AI-controlled enemy creatures called minions. Off the path, players battle for control points that provide resources. The game was released for iOS on November 16, 2014, after being soft-launched for over half a year, with the Android version being released on July 2, 2015. A Mac and Microsoft Windows version of the game was released in July 2018. Through cross-platform play, players on all four platforms can play together simultaneously.

Hero shooter Shooter games with hero characters

A hero shooter is a subgenre of shooter games that cover both the first-person shooter and third-person shooter genres. These games emphasize "hero" characters that have distinctive abilities and/or weapons that are specific to them.

<i>Master X Master</i>

Master X Master (MXM) was a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by NCsoft.


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