Midterm - Chapter 5


Game characters are either player characters or non-player characters (also known as NPCs). Sometimes one player can control several player characters (often in a group, such as sports teams or military troops).

Characters & Avatars

Player characters are characters or other entities in a game world that are controlled by the players. When a player controls only one character, that character is called an avatar. The direct connection between the player and the avatar can sometimes result in a player assigning personal identity to the avatar. This can be more pronounced if the avatar displays realistic features and actions.

An effect known as para-social interaction can occur when an audience becomes so attached to characters that they actually believe the characters are real people. This effect has occurred with audience members who bond strongly with characters and the make-believe world they observe week after week on television series. "Evil" characters are hated by these audi3ence members, who often send threatening letters addressed to the characters (not the actors).

Non-Player Characters

Non-player characters (NPCs) are those characters in a game world not controlled by players. Instead, these characters are created and controlled by the game's artificial intelligence (AI) engine. An NPC can range from a merchant who sells you food to a monster you must defeat.

Character Types

There are five common character types used in games: animal, fantasy, historical, licensed, and mythic.

  • Animal: Sonic the Hedgehog character is an good example of an animal character. This kind of character is geared towards families and children, they are often given human characteristics to allow for more identification between player and character. Of course not all games featureing animal protagonists are family oriented. (Ex. Conkers Bad Fur Day)
  • Fantasy: Characters who do not have counterparts in the real world fit into the fantasy category. Examples include Mario, Luigi, Wario, Lara Croft, Duke Nukem, and Pac-Man. This player category covers any character who was specifically created for a game and not licensed to a pre-existing source.
  • Historical: Characters that are historical have distinct counterparts in the real world- but often from past history. Political and military games focusing on reeal-world events contain historical characters- including Ben Franklin, General Lee, Cleopatra, William the Conqueror, and William Wallace.
  • Licensed: A licensed charater also already exists in the real world-but in a pre-existing medium. These characters are usually fantasy-based, but already have established recognition in literature, comic books, films, and television. James Bond, Frodo, Neo, Harry Potter, and Bart Simpson are examples of licensed characters. Licensed characters can appear in games only with the permission of the license holder, which usually involves a whole lot of money.
  • Mythic: Characters in mythic category have counterparts in mythology from all over the world. Many role-playing games such as Neverwinter Nights and Everquest use standard mythic characters- including orcs and trolls. Age of Mythology contains the Cyclops, Medusa, and other characters from Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology.

Classic Character Archetypes

These character archetypes are used in all entertainment media to heighten the audience's connection to the story.

Hero: The hero archetype is the central character in a single-player game. The hero is always presented with a problem toward the beginning of the story and embarks on a physical or emotional journey to eventually solve the problem. The hero performs most of the action in a story and assumes the majority of risk and responsibility. Luke Skywalker is a classic example of a hero character.

Shadow: The shadow is an extremely important character- representing the hero's opposite, often the ultimate evil character in the story. The shadow could be the adversary who is responsible for the hero's problem Some

Mentor: A character, who often guides the hero toward some action, provides hero with information to embark on the journey and provides hero with wisdom.

Allies: Characters, who help the hero progress on the journey, assist in difficult tasks that may be impossible to do alone.

Guardian: Blocks the progress of the hero until the hero has proven his or her worth. The guardian could also be a block that exists within the hero’s mind such as doubt, fear, and discomfort.

Trickster: Neutral character who enjoys making mischief. These characters pranks can stop the hero from progressing through the journey, but usually just provide comic relief.

Herald: Facilitates change in the story and provides the hero with direction.

Protagonist: is the main character, the one that the story revolves around or the character in the game that has learned or changed the most from the start to the end. The games are told through this characters point of view as he drives the story forward and doesn’t always have to be the “good guy”.

Antagonist: The opposite of the protagonist, prevents the protagonist from accomplishing his or her goal. As with the Protagonist the Antagonist doesn’t always have to be “bad” could just have different views from the Protagonist.

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