A player character, playable character, or PC is a character, usually a sentient being, in the game world whose actions may be directed by the player, usually by typing in commands at the prompt. This is in contrast to non-player characters (NPCs) which the player cannot control in a direct manner, but which may sometimes be ordered to various tasks by a PC.
The player character is one of the identities described in the triangle of identities, which it calls the protagonist.
A few rare games do not have a PC at all; for example: The Space Under the Window (Andrew Plotkin) and the virtual human (Duncan Bowsman).
The player character's identity is established both by the author's design and by the whim of the player, who takes control of the character. Games convey identity or personality in various ways, such as through backstory or character interaction, or by employing a specific narrative voice or tone. While most games conflate the identity of the PC and the narrator, some such as Bellclap and Pantomime subvert this relationship.
Some games employ a neutral everyman player character with little or no distinguishing features (sometimes called an AFGNCAAP), while others feature PCs with a more well-defined personality, such as Varicella and Narcolepsy (among many others). Modern interactive fiction trends tend to favor more developed characters to generic ones.
The structure of IF encourages the player to identify with the player character, arguably more so than in other media because of the control the player exerts over the PCs and the frequest use of the second person. This creates both opportunities and conflicts. Some theorists believe that it is unfair to the player if the PC has more knowledge about his situation; amnesia is often employed to level the playing field. Other authors employ conflicts and confusions of motivation and knowledge as literary devices.
Multiple player characters
While most games only let the player control a single character, some games feature more than one playable character.
Games may implement multiple player characters by:
- prompting the player to pick a character (Heroes, Threnody);
- switching control to a particular PC during the game (Photopia, Fine-Tuned, No Time To Squeal, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy);
- randomizing the whole identity or some aspects of the PC (Chancellor);
- allowing the player to freely switch between characters (Luminous Horizon).
- Various PC-related awards:
- XYZZY Awards: Best Individual PC.
- Erins: Best Male PC and Best Female PC.
- Game lists by type of PC:
- The Player and the PC in the IF Gems review quotes collection (also available from the IF Archive).
|Code Compare: Player character|
|ADRIFT 4:||The player variable and the Amend Player dialog box|
|Inform 6:||The player variable and the selfobj object|
|Inform 7:||The player variable and the yourself object|
|TADS 2:||The basicMe class|
|TADS 3:||The gPlayerChar macro and the Actor class|