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I need to program computer agents that interact with each other (for example they play a computer game with each other). Sometimes it happens that two agents are interacting with each other. I need to find a word to describe who they are to each other. I have the following options:

  1. opponent
  2. companion
  3. partner

My main requirement is that the word should be neutral (since the interaction can be of different kinds: cooperation, competition, fight). I am afraid that opponent is a bit "negative" (in the sense that it assumes that two agents are enemies, that they are fighting). Partner, in contrast, seems to be positive to me (assuming that agents cooperate with each other). What about companion? Or may be you can propose other words?

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Interestingly you can use "opposite". Often "opposite number". This is often used in say the corporate world (or perhaps sports, or the military). You're my "opposite" or "opposite number" if you are kinda the same role as me on the other side. – Joe Blow Jan 11 at 16:35
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Companion also suggests friendship. This is tricky as the agents will have the possibility of being in 2 opposite situations.

Perhaps peer or contender?

I'm not sure where you'll be using the word, but of course if you're using it in the program you can simply code it so the word changes depending on the situation; a simple IF statement.

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Peer is good, and it's short too :) – Benjol Jan 20 '11 at 10:12

Maybe “interlocutor”, which NOAD defines as “a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation”, depending on the type of interaction they are having.

Otherwise, if they do not really speak to each other, but play in the same team, you could use “teammate” (but that's strongly positive). If they are just playing together, then “fellow player” might fit the bill.

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I'd have said interlocutor too, but I'm influenced by my French, I think. – Benjol Jan 20 '11 at 10:09

How about participant? I think it's as neutral as it gets.

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It can have positive, negative or neutral sense.

It is relative, that is, one can be counterpart only of someone else, not in an absolute sense.

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If you're engaging in a specific activity, you might also be able to put "ee" and the end of that activity's name, and thus it becomes the person with whom you're engaging in said activity. For example, if you're training someone, you might naturally call them your "trainee". Of course, this makes the term less general, which may not work for you in this case, but it might for others.

Additional alternates of the more general variety might also include:

  • equal (feels strongly neutral to me)
  • associate
  • cooperator
  • collaborator
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Companion sounds positive just like partner, while opponent is negative as mentioned.

One word I can think of is complement. Since two objects are involved, when you already have one the other complements it to make the complete set. Complement is also used in mathematical set theory to denote the remaining objects which make up some set.

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How about co-competitor? This implies they they might not be acting against each other, but toward some common goal. Co-competitors in a relay race, trying to get their teammate across the finish line first. It also implies they could be acting against each other, such as co-competitors in a tennis match would. They are both in the same match, but on opposite sides. All Olympians who attend the same games are co-competitors, even if they compete at different events.

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This is a bit outside the box, but when you're playing cribbage, the person who isn't dealing the cards is the "pone" (I believe this is short for opponent, but it has no negative connotations since it alternates between players). So, if there is some sense of a dealer & pone in your game, this may work.

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