The Dynamic Game Character: Definition, Construction, and Challenges in Character Ecology

Joleen Blom

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


This study presents a theory about dynamic game characters within a broader character ecology in
which characters are constantly produced and reproduced in a variety of media. Characters do not
appear only in games, they migrate from one medium to another. They are independent from any
medium in particular: a character does not require a specific medium to come into existence.
Authoritative forces try to shape the overall interpretation of circulating characters transmedially in
comics, television series, films, games and more through different venues of control, such as
authorship, canonisation and ownership or intellectual property. This study addresses the struggle
for interpretive authority by explaining how the player constructs the identity of dynamic game
characters in digital games, and by discussing how dynamic game characters connect to and
influence other character manifestations within a broader media ecology in which characters
The research question of this study is: What are dynamic game characters? Through readerresponse theory adapted for cybermedia phenomena such as games, this study approaches
characters as a player-constructed phenomenon, in which the game character needs the player in
order to be invoked, but the game encourages the meaning-making process with different means
to different effects. Dynamic game characters are those game characters whose development
structures branch into different outcomes, each of which are undetermined until the player
actualises one or more possibilities that steer that direction onto distinct paths with a specific
Dynamic game characters have become a phenomenon that challenges practices of
(trans-)media control. A theory of dynamic game characters tells us about the migration of entities
via different works, and how the perceiver comes to understand them within a context saturated
with characters, stories and a variety of media platforms. Digital games are just one of the many
media platforms that participate in this character ecology, and they allow characters to challenge
the idea that within a single piece of work the character must maintain a linear, continuous and
coherent identity that stretches the understanding of characters as authored and predictable within
a single work.
This study argues that dynamic game characters are a type of quasi-person in digital games
whose development consists of multiple outcomes. Digital games accelerate a dynamic game
character’s identity within a single work, unlike non-cybermedia in which a character’s identity is
constructed over multiple works. They challenge venues of control, because the player has creative
agency over the dynamic game character’s characterisation process within a single work. However,
once dynamic game characters transfer to other works, authoritative institutions break the player’s
participation in the dynamic game character’s development. These transfers sacrifice player
participation to create the illusion of a coherent identity between the manifestations of the
character over multiple works.
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider245
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-035-2
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2020


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