Research on game characters

Schröter & Thon, Video Game Characters: Theory and Analysis, Diegesis 3, 2014,

Abstract: This essay develops a method for the analysis of video game characters based on a theoretical understanding of their medium-specific representation and the mental processes involved in their intersubjective construction by video game players. We propose to distinguish, first, between narration, simulation, and communication as three modes of representation particularly salient for contemporary video games and the characters they represent, second, between narrative, ludic, and social experience as three ways in which players perceive video game characters and their representations, and, third, between three dimensions of video game characters as ‘intersubjective constructs’, which usually are to be analyzed not only as fictional beings with certain diegetic properties but also as game pieces with certain ludic properties and, in those cases in which they function as avatars in the social space of a multiplayer game, as representations of other players. Having established these basic distinctions, we proceed to analyze their realization and interrelation by reference to the character of Martin Walker from the third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development 2012), the highly customizable player-controlled characters from the role-playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda 2011), and the complex multidimensional characters in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare 2011-2014).

Vella, Player and Figure: An Analysis of a Scene in Kentucky Route Zero in Nordic Digra 2014,

Abstract: Discussions of the relation between the player and the figure under her control have identified a duality between the figure as ‘avatar’ and ‘character’. This paper argues that two separate dualities are being conflated: an ontological duality in the figure, by which it is both self and other for the player, and a duality in the player’s relation to it, which can be both subjective and objective. This insight is used as the basis for developing a two-axis model that identifies four aspects to the player-figure relation. This model is then put to work on a close analysis of a scene in Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer 2013), which will serve to demonstrate the dimensions of the player-figure relation.

Johansson, Strååt, Warpefelt & Verhagen, Analyzing the Social Dynamics of Non-Player Characters, Frontiers in Gaming Simulation,

Abstract: Much of the current research into artificial intelligence (AI) for computer games has been focused on simple actions performed by the characters in games (such as moving between points or shooting at a target, and other simple strategic actions), or on the overarching structure of the game story. However, we claim that these two separate approaches need to be bridged in order to fully realize the potential of enjoyment in computer games. As such, we have explored the middle ground between the individual action and the story – the type of behavior that occurs in a “scene” within the game. To this end we have established a new model for that can be used to discover in what ways a non-player character acts in ways that break the player’s feeling of immersion in the world.


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