Everyman

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An everyman is a character, usually the protagonist of a piece, who is portrayed as normal and undistinguished in order to better allow the audience to identify with him; although they may accomplish great acts, they are the inverse of a hero. In IF, everyman generally refers to a PC who is minimally implemented and has little characterization - though usually only if these serve some useful purpose.

Classic Examples

Characteristics

  • The player character may have a default description - 'As good-looking as ever' or 'You look about the same as always' are common. If a non-default description is present, it will almost always be short and give little information.
  • The player character will usually be assumed to be male, although some games play on this assumption.
  • The everyman tendency is particularly common in puzzle-heavy games and earlier IF.
  • Everyman games will often lack complex NPCs.
  • The PC is quite likely to be given a profession, allowing the author to define and motivate them with their role rather than their personality or background.

Advantages

  • In games where the focus is not on character, an Everyman protagonist allows stronger focus on the things the game considers important.
  • Everyman protagonists allow the player to identify more easily with the PC, allowing greater immersion.
  • It was a convention of early IF, and hence will be accepted - or even expected - by many IF players.
  • Everyman PCs avoid the problems of knowledge conflict and motivation conflict.

Disadvantages

  • Everyman characters are by their nature not memorable, interesting or compelling as characters. They are thus a difficult choice for plot-driven or literary IF.
  • Avoiding characterisation can easily be seen as laziness on the part of the author - since many poor-quality, underimplemented games have Everyman PCs by default, it is easy to be damned by association.
  • The player may expect broader freedom of action, since there are no in-character reasons to behave a certain way.
  • The game may end up unintentionally characterizing the protagonist anyway, often in an inconsistent or tone-breaking manner. (For example, the protagonist of Zork does not much resemble the muscular, moustached hero on the cover of the Personal Software version of Zork I. More broadly, a character intended as wholly generic will often come across as being of the same gender, class, etc. as the author.)

See also

Links