A Structural Model for Player-Characters as Semiotic Constructs

Daniel Vella


When game studies has tackled the player-character, it has tended to do so by means of an opposition to the notion of the avatar, with the result that the ontological and semiotic nature of the character in itself has not been given due attention. This paper draws on understandings of character from the fields of narratology and literary theory to highlight the double-layered ontology of character as both a possible individual and as a semiotic construction. Uri Margolin’s narratological model of character signification is used as the basis for developing a semiotic-structural model of the player-character that addresses its specific medialities and formal nature – a task which is performed through illustrative close examinations of the player-characters in The Last of Us (Naughty Dog 2013) and Gone Home (The Fullbright Company 2013), contextualized by means of comparative references to a wide range of player-characters in a variety of games.


Player-character; avatar; narratology; semiotics; game ontology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26503/todigra.v2i2.37
Published by the Digital Games Research Association.