Game figure (computer game)

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Toy figure, here from the public domain game Passage : Pixel graphics of this kind were used as sprites in the 1980s in particular

The character in computer games that can be controlled by the player is referred to as a game figure . Unlike an avatar , which is an individual representation of a person, the character in a game is usually the same for all players.

Role-playing games are an exception in a certain way, because the game characters there are designed as individuals capable of development due to the game idea and can be given their own characteristics in each course of the game, for example through the free distribution of experience points . In these games, the terms character and avatar are therefore synonymous. For a more precise distinction, player characters are also used here .

In a broader use of the term, not only those characters controlled by players but also those controlled by the computer are referred to as game characters. In combat-based computer games, the hostile playing characters are usually referred to simply as opponents or (if appropriately designed) as monsters , while neutral or peaceful characters are referred to as non-player characters (NPCs). Computer-simulated players in multiplayer mode, on the other hand, are usually referred to as bots .

Most of the time, the character is represented as a living being , but in some games artificial objects represent the character.


NetHack, the @ is the pawn

In the early days of computer games, the game characters were only indicated in basic features due to technical restrictions and therefore rather abstract. The earliest games relied largely on man-made objects as game characters such as the spaceships in Space War and asteroids . Other games used the characters in ASCII to represent the characters (e.g. NetHack ). In the skill game Rock n Roll , the player steers a ball through three-dimensional levels. The first character designed as a living being to achieve worldwide fame was Pac-Man . Pac-Man was a game character that was limited to their visual appearance. It was not endowed with an origin legend or fictional character traits.

Castle Wolfenstein was one of the first games to show characters based on reality. When human (or humanoid) characters appeared in the early computer games, they were mostly male in order to appeal to the initially predominantly male audience. The first computer game that left the player to choose the gender of the character was the isometric platformer ant attack , in which the player could either save the girl as a "hero" or save the boy as a "heroine".

With the increasing realism of new computer and video games, game developers place greater emphasis on the design of the game characters. For example, complete biographies are sometimes created for different characters . One of the most famous video game characters is Lara Croft , the protagonist of the Tomb Raider game series , whose fictional life story was also filmed .

Since the mid- 1990s , digitized recordings of well-known actors have been made for video sequences. Origin Systems implemented this as one of the first games for part three of the Wing Commander series . Actors Mark Hamill , Malcolm McDowell and John Rhys-Davies appeared in this game . A year later, Westwood followed with the first Command & Conquer part, but here primarily unknown actors or people from within the company ( Joseph D. Kucan ) were hired to cast the roles.

Later it became customary to hire well-known actors for smaller speaking roles for game characters. Rockstar Games synchronized the dialogues of the Grand Theft Auto game series with recordings made especially for this purpose. B. the actors William Fichtner , Mario Perter and Jenna Jameson .

Game characters in Nexuiz

Identification of the player with the character

Computer games today derive their attraction to a large extent from the possibility of being able to take action in virtual reality .

Especially after the school massacres at Erfurt's Gutenberg-Gymnasium and at the Emsdettener Geschwister-Scholl-Realschule , some youth activists criticized the fact that young players identify with the characters of so-called first-person shooters and then carry out these actions in reality. However, this criticism is rejected by the players. Even in family-friendly games such as The Sims or Singles , the player can take on the role of a character and shape their "life".

Well-known characters (selection)


  • Tanja Witting: Virtual characters in screen games. Federal Agency for Civic Education, April 20, 2009.
  • Solveigh Jäger: Successful Character Design for Computer and Video Games: A Media Psychological Approach. Springer-Verlag, 2013.

Web links

Commons : Video game characters  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Game character  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations