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What is the player called who has a turn? I am guessing something like turning player. But I would like some confirmation or maybe is there an idiom for it?

Explanation: In a round based game what is the general term to refer to the player that everyone else is waiting on?

With my current knowledge I would have to resort to

"I am playing a turn-based game, and it's my turn."

but I would rather say something like

"I am the ... player."

Offtopic: My use case: Programming a card game, I am trying to come up with a short variable name to store whose turn it is. The variable will contain the player object.

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Instinctively, I'd call the player active. But it feels like there should be a better word for it. – user39720 Jun 27 '13 at 13:23
@dingo_dan I know a couple of turn-based games where the official rules-lawyering term is indeed the active player. – R. Martinho Fernandes Jun 27 '13 at 14:28
everyone else is waiting FOR the active player, not ON him (-: unless they are all waiters in a restaurant :-) – sds Jun 27 '13 at 16:22
@sds - "I am waiting on Bill [to complete his turn]." - Perfectly acceptable usage. The formula "waiting on [person] (to [verb] ([task])) is pretty common. According to context the final portion can be understood and is therefore not essential. – Robert Kaucher Jun 27 '13 at 18:16
Regarding the place for asking about naming conventions, variables and design, I would suggest gamedev.stackexchange.com However, I think your question is highly relevant to English usage. – Patrick M Jun 27 '13 at 20:58

17 Answers 17

up vote 38 down vote accepted

"You're up!" and "Your turn" are idioms for game players telling a player that it is their turn. For a variable, how about "Active player"?

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I had that but that kind of conflicted with players who are in and/or out for example in poker games. The term active is a bit ambiguous in that case. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 13:31
Active player is correct. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 27 '13 at 14:31
Active Player is also the term used by Magic: the Gathering and various competitors, so it is already familiar to people who are enthusiasts for specialist card games. – Affe Jun 27 '13 at 19:28
@zsawyer, you could use a boolean for each player to mark who is or isn't playing, and then use an active player object to represent the current player. so just skip over players who don't have that boolean enabled – ardentsonata Jun 27 '13 at 20:35
I prefer "Current" to "Active", personally. May not matter in most games, but in some card games it's possible to have a player who exists, but is not active in the current game (like the dummy player in Bridge). This is a distinctly different concept than the player whose turn it currently is. "Current" is completely unambiguous. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 28 '13 at 2:57

I have faced the same challenge naming variables in card games, though in my case the word "active" rarely caused any ambiguity. May I suggest one of the following alternatives?

  • Current Player
  • Focused Player (i.e. the player who has focus, like an input control)
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+1 for currentPlayer. In the context of programming variable names, I use curentXXXX very frequently. – Kevin Jun 27 '13 at 15:39
+1 for currentPlayer – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 27 '13 at 16:20
@Kevin and that is why I wouldn't want getCurrentPlayer() in an interface specification. It would conflict too easily. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 16:31
+1. All of these work, but I think current is best. – snailplane Jun 27 '13 at 17:01
@zsawyer to mitigate this, the method on the UI controller named getCurrentPlayer returns the player that is "logged in", and the method on the game controller(data object) named getCurrentPlayer returns the player who's turn it is. When they are equal, it is your turn. – antony.trupe Jun 28 '13 at 1:07

Programming wise, I would definitely pick activePlayer.

But in a broader usage sense, I find myself using idiomatic terms more than programming terms anyways. In addition to the other answer's suggestions, baseball terminology sprung to mind when I read your questions.

At bat and variations

  • Barry Bonds is up to bat looking to extend his home run record even further.
  • Casey at the bat

As a bonus, you get the term On Deck

In baseball, on deck refers to being next in line to bat. In a professional game, the batter who is on deck traditionally waits in a location in the foul territory called the on deck circle.

Baseball is more complicated than a simple turn based game (teams take turns on offense and defense in addition to players taking turns at bat), but I think the "at bat" and "on deck" phrases extend nicely to simpler, non-team based games.

Serve Other sports-like games might use a concept of "whose serve" is it.

  • Player 2 is serving.
  • Team A wins the point and is now serving.

I also know you're not looking for every day usages, but I thought it would be useful for future searchers/visitors.

Terms I've seen used in other games for the player currently able to move:

  • On point
  • Initiative - Player 2 has the initiative: all other players can only defend.
  • Edge - I first remember this from someone teaching me about Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (also known as Jyhad), a collectible card game from Wizards of the Coast (I played Magic: the Gathering quite a bit...). However, the concept of "The Edge" is quite a bit more complicated in that game than just 'whose turn'.

The nice thing about noun-like names for the turn concept is that you can apply verbs and modifiers to them to describe non-standard actions, or just describe them in different ways.

  • Player 3 interrupts, seizing the initiative! Player 2's turn is over.
  • Player 4 now has the edge.

Terms like these are also better at conveying the concept for games that allow certain actions to be taken when it's not your turn. If your game is especially complex, there are a number of planning, investigation, reading, responding etc. type tasks that the inactive players could take when it isn't their turn. This can greatly speed up the game as well as keeping the non-active players more interested instead of just waiting.

Since you're specifically talking about card games and you mentioned poker and in/out players in the comments, you might find some useful suggestions in this wiki article on betting in poker.

  • Under the gun - the article says this refers to the player making the first bet in a round, but I see potential for expanding it.
  • Betting player - if your game engine is specific to betting games, this might be the best choice. If you are trying to leave it generic, for concepts which extend to different games or types of games, a more generic active or executing player is probably better.

And as I mentioned in a comment, you might want to check out http://gamedev.stackexchange.com for more input on the game-specific side of your design.

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I was expecting my vocabulary to simply be missing a word here but the answer may simply be that there are quite a few different terms but they depend on a use case scenario. While baseball terms seem like a localized (US?) thing I enjoyed the every day usages and initiative (initiatingPlayer) led me to executivePlayer as an idea. Thanks – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 18:07
US and North America is definitely where you'll find baseball terms in everyday use. However, Japan has quite a strong baseball following (going back to the post-war occupation, I believe). A quick google turned up this: History of Baseball outside the US; I didn't know there was present day Olympic baseball! Also, many parts of the world have avid Cricket players and followers, and the concept of a ball-and-bat game has other sub-types as well. – Patrick M Jun 27 '13 at 18:51
Also, most of my suggestions are really more applicable to the UI of a game. Internal only/variable name wise, I still think activePlayer is the best name for it. – Patrick M Jun 27 '13 at 18:52

In many children's games, such as tag, the person taking the turn as the focus or controller of the game is simply called it.

In that example, the turn is transferred to the next person by touching them and declaring (loudly)

Tag, you're it!

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Another good one bib! :-) – Kristina Lopez Jun 27 '13 at 13:44
Thanks for this expansion but sadly it or itPlayer do not make very good variable names. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 14:30
@zsawyer What about Prime? – bib Jun 27 '13 at 15:58
Just had a Simpson's flashback: "Now you are the player that is IT." +1 – cobaltduck Jun 27 '13 at 16:26
@bib I am really looking for a word that by itself directly relates to turn taking. But rereading your Answer, taggedPlayer came to mind. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 16:27

Some wargames define a 'Phasing Player'. I wouldn't use that in normal speech, but it might work in your context.

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It does if I abstract the "turns" to "phases". – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 18:10
Generally several phases make a turn. 1 turn consists of, for example, Unit Placement phase, Movement Phase, Combat Phase. Some games interleave these phases between players, so the concept of a player turn doesn't work. – Chris Cudmore Jun 27 '13 at 18:19

If you're concerned about it being understandable by others, why not keep it simple with something like "going_player" or "player_with_turn".

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I simply didn't think of "going player". Not sure the sentence "I am the player with turn." would make sense but as a variable that is totally acceptable. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 20:18

Why not something from drama vocabulary, something simple like acting player or staging player ? (but obviously not playing player).

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In many strategic board games, the phrases "phasing player" and "non-phasing player(s)" are used in rule books. It is common in these games to have multi-phased turns, so a distinction is made between the player whose turn it is , and the player who is currently "phasing", or is in possession of he initiative for the current phase.

The phrase "active player" is also occasionally heard.

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If you're interfacing with the user then "It" would be a good way to do it. The player that is now active or "turning" is told "You're IT!" A player attempting to do something only IT can do is told "Sorry, you're not IT!"

As to program design, does this really belong here? Sounds more like a StackOverflow question, but who am I to complain?

Since only one player at a time can be IT, and there are qualities of the IT player that wouldn't apply to non-IT players (I presume), I would make the TurningPlayer (I like that class name, btw) a class that inherits from the Player class. I'd consider making it a Singleton (just because there can only be one -- obligatory Highlander reference).

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We're getting off-topic with the programming chatter, but I in most cases disagree with your inheritance suggestion. Not going to go into detail here, but for one, players tend to switch between active and inactive fairly often. – Anton Golov Jun 27 '13 at 16:54
The OP was already off-topic; it's not my fault. As to players switching between active and inactive, there can still only be one active at a time, in a turn-based game. As you say, off-topic so I will say no more. – Cyberherbalist Jun 27 '13 at 17:14
I cannot imagine some saying "I am it at blackjack." with my current knowledge I would have to resort to "I am playing blackjack, and it's my turn." It conveys very little information. You would still need to inquire what "it" actually meant (maybe the winner?). That is why I am against it. The ideal case is that the word is self-evident and conveys the context (i.e. that the context is in the turn-based domain). – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 18:24
Of course you are correct. "It" applies to only a subset of the possible games. The actual designation should be left as a configuration matter, assuming that the game engine might be used in other games. I was mainly concerned with the class nomenclature thing anyway, being a programmer, and it is a fact that your original question (now modified) spoke of the programming aspect of it. My answer is now somewhat hobbled. Oh, well. Sounds like an interesting task you have! Best of luck at it! – Cyberherbalist Jun 27 '13 at 20:32

My use case: Programming a card game, I am trying to come up with a short variable name to store whose turn it is. The variable will contain the player object.

First let me begin by saying that I am a total ignoramus where computer programming is concerned. But in answer to the last part of the OP's question, may I suggest:

  • "Player on" mode

mode: a given condition of functioning; a status

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Sorry for luring you off topic. The variable stores the player object not a mode, your answer is about program design. But thanks. – zsawyer Jun 27 '13 at 20:15
@zsawyer Oh, no problem. I have not the slightest clue what The variable stores the player object not a mode means so I was expecting to hit off target. Thanks for leaving a comment. :) – Mari-Lou A Jun 27 '13 at 20:19

I'd use the phrase "in turn", and thus name your variable playerInTurn or nextInTurn:

in turn (not comparable)

  1. One after the other; one at a time; in succession; successively.

    • The teacher answered the students each in turn.
    • Each member of the group, in turn, rose to share a personal story, until nearly everyone in the room had spoken.
    • Eventually, each of the countries in turn would be brought to submission by the invading force.
  2. In due order; in proper sequence; in a determined or measured sequence, as a waiting line or queue.

    • You are next in turn to bat.
    • The boy was next in turn to sit on Santa's lap.
  3. In response; in return.

    • The musical ambassadors finished their performance, and the local musicians in turn played for them a traditional ballad.
  4. Having a relationship sequentially comparable to one just mentioned;accordingly or similarly, with respect to sequence, precedence, or hierarchy.1

    • The vassals were subject to their lords, who in turn were subject to barons or kings.
    • My car was hit by a truck, which in turn was hit by the van.
    • Mr. X leaked the secret to Mr. Y who in turn leaked it to Mr. Z.

The above is an excerpt from Wiktionary's "in turn" article.

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Seems like the next modifier produces this meaning, "I am the player next in turn." -> nextInTurnPlayer? – zsawyer Jun 30 '13 at 4:49

This player can be referred to as the "next player to act". None of the other players can (legally) do anything at this point.

I would name the variable nextPlayerToAct.

For consistency with terminology elsewhere in the game, perhaps you would prefer to use "move" or "play" instead of "act".

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Since a chess game is made up of a number of moves, and since it is common to say "Your move", how about

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In some games it makes no difference; in others, it is critically different who's moving and whose turn it is. – MετάEd Jun 28 '13 at 4:32

what about, the player who is up?

a bit contextual i know but...

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In baseball, the person whose turn it is to bat is called the batter. In chess, the person whose turn to move it is is the mover. For dice based-games, it would be the roller. For betting games such as poker, the bettor. The construction is verb -er, where the verb is for whatever it is, the person whose turn it is, is supposed to do.

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I would simply say 'the turn player'. That's what we always used when I used to play Yu-Gi-Oh! at school.

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Grammatically, this sounds rather dodgy to me. But I am curious, could you please give an example by using it in a sentence? – zsawyer Aug 22 '14 at 18:13

Got to thinking about "turns" and once everyone has a turn it's like a "round" is over. so a player is like a tangential point on a round circle. The active player could be called the On-Point Player.

The other players then would be off-point players.

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