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A player character (also known as a playable character or PC) is a fictional character in a
video game Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to gener ...
or tabletop
role-playing game A role-playing game (sometimes spelled roleplaying game, RPG) 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 ...
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 character A non-player character (NPC), or non-playable character, is any Character (arts), character in a game that is not controlled by a Player (game), player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to character ...
s (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 game A tabletop role-playing game (typically abbreviated as TRPG or TTRPG), also known as a pen-and-paper role-playing game, is a form of role-playing game (RPG) in which the participants describe their characters' actions through speech. Participan ...
s. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character. Video games typically have one player character for each person playing the game. Some games, such as
multiplayer online battle arena Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) is a Video game genre, subgenre of strategy video games in which two teams of players compete against each other on a predefined battlefield. Each Gamer, player controls a single Player character, character ...
, hero shooter, and
fighting game A fighting game, also known as a versus fighting game, is a video game genre, genre of video game that involves combat between two or more players. Fighting game combat often features mechanics such as Blocking (martial arts), blocking, grappli ...
s, 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 Abilities are powers an agent has to perform various Action (philosophy), actions. They include common abilities, like walking, and rare abilities, like performing a double backflip. Abilities are intelligent powers: they are guided by the person ...
and differing styles of play.


Overview


Avatars

A player character may sometimes be based on a real person, especially in
sports game A sports video game is a video game 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 (s ...
s that use the names and likenesses of real athletes. Historical figures and leaders may sometimes appear as characters too, particularly in
strategy Strategy (from Greek στρατηγία ''stratēgia'', "art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship") is a general plan to achieve one or more long-term or overall goals under conditions of uncertainty. In the sense of the ...
or empire building games such as in Sid Meier's ''
Civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society characterized by the development of a state, social stratification, urbanization Urbanization (or urbanisation) refers to the population shift from Rural area, rural to urban are ...
'' series. Such a player character is more properly an
avatar Avatar (, ; ), is a concept within Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religions, Indian religion or ''dharma'', a religious and universal order or way of life by which followers abide. As a religion, it is the Major religious groups, w ...
as the player character's name and image typically have little bearing on the game itself. Avatars are also commonly seen in
casino A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. Some casinos are also known for hosting live entertai ...
game simulations.


Blank characters

In many video games, and especially
first-person shooter First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre, sub-genre of shooter video games centered on gun and other weapon-based combat in a First person (video games), first-person perspective, with the player experiencing the action through the eye ...
s, the player character is a "blank slate" without any notable characteristics or even
backstory A backstory, background story, back-story, or background is a set of events invented for a Plot (narrative), plot, presented as preceding and leading up to that plot. It is a literary device of a narrative history all chronologically earlier than ...
.
Pac-Man originally called ''Puck Man'' in Japan, is a 1980 maze video game, maze action game, action video game developed and released by Namco for Arcade game, arcades. In North America, the game was released by Midway Manufacturing as part of its l ...
, Crono from ''Chrono Trigger'', Link from ''The Legend of Zelda'', Chell from ''Portal'', and Claude from ''Grand Theft Auto III'' 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 ''Myst'' is a Graphic adventure game, graphic adventure/puzzle video game designed by the Miller brothers, Robyn Miller, Robyn and Rand Miller, Rand. It was developed by Cyan Worlds, Cyan, Inc., published by Broderbund, and initially released f ...
'', but is more often done in
strategy video games Strategy is a major video game genre A video game genre is an informal classification of a video game based on how it is played rather than Computer graphics, visual or narrative elements. This is independent of setting (fiction), setting, unl ...
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
cutscene A cutscene or event scene (sometimes in-game cinematic or in-game movie) is a sequence in a video game that is not interactive, interrupting the gameplay. Such scenes are used to show conversations between characters, set the mood, reward the ...
s 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.


Character action games

Character
action games An action game is a video game genre A video game genre is an informal classification of a video game based on how it is played rather than Computer graphics, visual or narrative elements. This is independent of setting (fiction), setting, un ...
(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 The golden age of arcade video games was the period of rapid growth, technological development and cultural influence of arcade video games, from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The period began with the release of ''Space Invaders'' in 1978, ...
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 Shoot 'em ups (also known as shmups or STGs ) are a Video game genre, sub-genre of action games. There is no consensus as to which design elements compose a shoot 'em up; some restrict the definition to games featuring spacecraft and certai ...
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 originally called ''Puck Man'' in Japan, is a 1980 maze video game, maze action game, action video game developed and released by Namco for Arcade game, arcades. In North America, the game was released by Midway Manufacturing as part of its l ...
'', platformers like ''
Donkey Kong is a video game franchise created by Shigeru Miyamoto and owned by Nintendo. It follows the adventures of a gorilla named Donkey Kong (character), Donkey Kong and his clan of other Ape, apes and monkeys. The franchise primarily consists of plat ...
'', and ''
Frogger is a 1981 in video games, 1981 arcade game, arcade action game developed by Konami and manufactured by Sega. In North America, it was released by Gremlin Industries, Sega/Gremlin. The object of the game is to direct a series of frogs to their ...
''. 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. Examples include beat 'em ups like '' Kung-Fu Master'' and '' Double Dragon'',
ninja A or was a covert agent or mercenary in History of Japan#Feudal Japan, feudal Japan. The functions of a ninja included reconnaissance, espionage, Infiltration tactics, infiltration, Military deception, deception, ambush, bodyguarding and thei ...
action games like '' The Legend of Kage'' and '' Shinobi'', scrolling platformers like '' Super Mario Bros.'' and ''
Sonic the Hedgehog is a Japanese video game Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, o ...
'', and run and gun shooters like '' Rolling Thunder'' and '' Gunstar Heroes''. "Character action games" is also a term used for 3D
hack and slash Hack and slash, also known as hack and slay (H&S or HnS) or slash 'em up, refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat with melee-based weapons (such as swords or blades). They may also feature projectile-based weapons as well (such as ...
games modelled after ''
Devil May Cry is a series of action-adventure games created by Hideki Kamiya. It is primarily developed and published by Capcom is a Japanese video game developer and video game publisher, publisher. It has created a number of List of best-selling ...
'', which represent an evolution of arcade character action games. Other examples of this sub-genre include ''
Ninja Gaiden is a series of action video games by Tecmo featuring the ninja A or was a covert agent or mercenary in History of Japan#Feudal Japan, feudal Japan. The functions of a ninja included reconnaissance, espionage, Infiltration tactics, inf ...
'', '' God of War'', and '' Bayonetta''.


Fighting games

Fighting game A fighting game, also known as a versus fighting game, is a video game genre, genre of video game that involves combat between two or more players. Fighting game combat often features mechanics such as Blocking (martial arts), blocking, grappli ...
s 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. Hero shooters strongly encourage
teamwork Teamwork is the collaborative effort of a group to achieve a common goal or to complete a task in the most effective and efficient way. This concept is seen within the greater framework of a team, which is a group of interdependent individual ...
between players on a team, guiding players to select effective combinations of hero characters and coordinate the use of hero abilities during a match.


Multiplayer online battle arena

Multiplayer online battle arena Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) is a Video game genre, subgenre of strategy video games in which two teams of players compete against each other on a predefined battlefield. Each Gamer, player controls a single Player character, character ...
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 the player's teammates and counters their opponents opens up a strategy before the beginning of the match itself. Playable characters blend a variety of fantasy tropes, featuring numerous references to
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of cultural practice, practices, beliefs, artistic output (also known as, popular art or mass art) and cultural objects, objects ...
and
mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narra ...
.


Role-playing games

In both tabletop role playing games such as ''
Dungeons & Dragons ''Dungeons & Dragons'' (commonly abbreviated as ''D&D'' or ''DnD'') is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The game was first published in 1974 by TSR (company)#Tactical Studies Rules ...
'' and role-playing video games such as ''
Final Fantasy is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on ...
,'' 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 A zombie (Haitian French: , ht, zonbi) is a mythological undead wikt:corporeal, corporeal revenant created through the reanimation of a corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Culture of ...
,
berserker In the Old Norse written corpus, berserker were those who were said to have fought in a trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the modern English word ''wikt:berserk#Adjective, berserk'' (meaning "furiously violent or out of ...
,
rifleman A rifleman is an infantry soldier armed with a rifling, rifled long gun. Although the rifleman role had its origin with 16th century hand cannoneers and 17th century musketeers, the term originated in the 18th century with the introduction o ...
,
elf An elf () is a type of humanoid supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. Elves appear especially in Norse mythology, North Germanic mythology. They are subsequently mentioned in Snorri Sturluson's Icelandic Prose Edda. He dis ...
, or
cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the ter ...
), 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 An athlete (also sportsman or sportswoman) is a person who competes in one or more sports that involve physical strength, speed, or endurance. Athletes may be professional sports, professionals or amateur sports, amateurs. Most professional a ...
, 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 character A non-player character (NPC), or non-playable character, is any Character (arts), character in a game that is not controlled by a Player (game), player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to character ...
s like bosses or enemies become playable characters after completing certain requirements, or sometimes cheating.


See also

* Alternate character *
Avatar (computing) In computing, an avatar is a graphical representation of a User (computing), user or the user's Player character, character or persona. Avatars can be two-dimensional Computer icon, icons in Internet forums and other online communities, where ...
*
Non-player character A non-player character (NPC), or non-playable character, is any Character (arts), character in a game that is not controlled by a Player (game), player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to character ...


References

{{MUDs, state=collapsed MUD terminology Role-playing game terminology Video game gameplay Video game terminology