Narrator

Those interested in studying player character may also be interested in past rec.arts.int-fiction discussions .

Customizable PC. The player is allowed to adjust aspects of the player character (often explicitly, at the beginning of the game). Probably the most frequent choice to offer is a choice of PC gender.

  • Bolivia By Night, Aidan Doyle. Permits the player to choose both a gender and a nationality, with mild effect on puzzles, and some results as well for how the NPCs treat the player character. My Review.

Multiple PCs. Your point of view shifts between several different player characters over the course of the game.

  • Downtown Tokyo, Present Day, John Kean. You play both the hero of a Japanese monster movie, and the movie-goer in his seat watching the movie. It’s a bit surreal, but reasonably effective for all that.
  • Being Andrew Plotkin, J. Robinson Wheeler. You play multiple people over the course of the game, and at one point play a pair of people simultaneously, which is a fairly unusual effect.
  • Common Ground, Stephen Granade . You experience the same occurrences repeatedly through the eyes of the three major characters; the identity of the player character determines how you perceive various objects and events, providing multiple insights on the situation. See also Exhibition by Ian Finley and Jane by Joe Grzesiak.
  • Heroes, Sean Barrett. You select one of several possible heroes to play on your quest; your abilities and insights affect how you are able to approach various puzzles. See also the robots in Infocom’s Suspended, the main characters of Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning…, and the superhero protagonists of Paul O’Brian’s Earth and Sky series.

PC with Unusual Abilities. Your player character is not human; or he is human but has extremely unusual abilities. Both puzzles and narration may play on the way the strange protagonist views and manipulates the environment.

Anti-heroic PCs. The PC is not necessarily someone whose goals you support.

Unusual Player/PC relationship. The player character’s identity or interaction with the voice in its head is explicitly explored in some regard; or your PC is not what you might think at the beginning of the game (and may not be being completely straightforward with you about the fact).

  • Everybody Loves a Parade, Cody Sandifer. Infamous when it was released (in 1997) for containing a bit of a twist — though from the perspective of the IF world as it now stands it doesn’t strike me as particularly twisty. At one point, fairly late in the game, it becomes clear that the player character is, in fact, female. This is only stunning if you’ve been assuming a male PC all along, which was far more the norm for IF at the time than it is now.
  • Rameses, Stephen Bond. The player is not always able to convince the player character to obey the commands he’s given — a tension that paints an interesting portrait of the PC’s social awkwardness and limitation.
  • Voices, Aris Katsaris. The player character is aware of the player’s voice and responds to it independently. See also Bellclap by Tommy Herbert, The Primrose Path by Nolan Bonvouloir, and LASH by Paul O’Brian.
  • Fail-Safe, Jon Ingold. Explanation would damage the effect. See also The Weapon by Sean Barrett, All Roads by Jon Ingold, The Blind House by Maude Overton, Delusions by C. E. Forman.
  • The Baron, Victor Gijsbers. This piece involves some unexpected twists in the relationship between the player and the PC; it also employs a completely novel form of interaction in which the player is asked to clarify his intentions before certain important acts. For instance, >ATTACK FOX might provoke a menu asking the player whether he means to kill the animal out of aggression or simply to put it out of its misery.

Alternative viewpoint. Games that use something other than second-person present-tense narration. This is decreasingly unusual these days; see first person, third person, and past tense games on IFDB.

  • Fallacy of Dawn, Robb Sherwin. Narrated in the first person (singular). See also the sequel Necrotic Drift and much of Robb’s other work.
  • Muse: An Autumn Romance, Christopher Huang. Uses the first person (singular) and the past tense.
  • Beetmonger’s Journal, Scott Starkey. Contains segments in the third person and past tense.
  • Granite Book, James Mitchelhill. The protagonist is, somewhat mysteriously, first person plural. It’s never entirely clear what this means, and does not very much alter the range of actions. See also Legion by Jason Devlin.
  • Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!, Jon Ingold and Mike Sousa. Contains one section in the first person plural. This is by no means the bulk of the game, but the effect is somewhat interesting.
  • The Isolato Incident, Alan DeNiro. Uses first person plural, as per a royal “we”. [Suggestion and writeup courtesy of David Welbourn.]
  • Shelter from the Storm, Eric Eve. Kind of the ultimate example, in the sense that it lets the player change voice and tense freely during play. Makes a great lab experiment for how narration feels in different voices, though it does this mechanically (swapping pronouns and verb endings), rather than digging more deeply into the implications of a viewpoint swap.