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Choose Your Perspective: First Person, or Third Person?

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The perspective from which a game is presented, can govern the audiences experience. Much like in writing, a video game has to make the choice of being played in the first person, or in the third person. From a mechanics standpoint, a cover system used in games like Gears of War or Uncharted, would be odd if the games were in first person. Constantly hiding behind cover would have your character look to the side, or away from barrier where there are no enemies, thus putting the player at a disadvantage because the player can“t spot enemies. The cover system allows for better strategic advantage in a third person view.





Marcus aiming from cover



Video games are a form of fiction, and the game is that character“s journey and story, and you, as the player, can experience the same story. Many, if not all video game formats at least allow for third person to be a viable presentation option. More often than not, one will find an action game, or an RPG to be in the third person (there are some exceptions). However, The third person perspective also runs the risk of the audience being detached from the character. To reiterate, the game is that character“s journey and story, the player is just there for the ride.


With that potential detachment however, comes the fact that the third person perspective allows for the audience to take a step back amidst all of the action and see the bigger picture more than first person perspective allows. You can see your character make faces showing that he or she is distressed, angry, or sad, reacting to the situation at hand (such as covering their ears after a nearby grenade explodes). Unfortunately, the detachment from the characters will make the audience feel like they are watching a movie, instead of taking part in it.





He may have your name, but he“s not really you.



The detachment also leads to the fact that the third person perspective allows you to see your character. This is great, because it allows the player the greatest amount of control. The player can see everything at once. This allows you to tell when an object is going to fly over the character“s head and calculate how far you throw an object, or how far you will jump. The stronger level of control allows for the player to maneuver through the world better than a first person game does.


The first person perspective does its best to emulate human sight. The player is placed inside the head of the player character, seeing exactly what the character sees. This allows for the player to be pulled into the action of the game even more so than a game in the third person perspective does. The character you are playing, is, even more than a third person game, by extension, YOU. You see bullets whiz by your head, and the horrifying face of that killer dog is literally a few inches away from you. This makes the action that much more surreal.


The player is also allowed much more camera control. You can almost always decide to look wherever the heck you want to. This is especially great for all of those people that like to explore their environments. But what if you look around while some character is talking to you? Do you miss an important item, or some other funny animation? There is potential to miss some important things, but that level of control oddly reflects real life. As soon as you turn away from someone or something, that person or thing vanishes, and you are left dumbfounded. The greater amount of camera control isn“t without its limitations though.



Shooting some aliens.



The first person viewpoint feels very limiting from a gameplay perspective, because shooting is what works best. There are exceptions, like Skyrim, and Mirror“s Edge but when most people think of games in the first person, it“s the shooter genre. As unique as it could be, a

or an action game where your character spins around a lot could get quite unnerving after a while if it“s played in the first person. It“s not so much that the games are bad, it“s that there are greater inherent restrictions to the first person viewpoint. The games need to have mechanics that work around this inherent limitation. There is the potential for more creative games in the first person if there are great mechanics, but the mechanics need to overcome the restrictions first.


Both perspectives have their own merits and limitations. Video games have used the third person perspective more than the first person, and more games tend to lend themselves better to the third person perspective as well. Both sides can lead to different levels of creativity as well, but you need to find out which perspective works best for the presentation of the game.

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It would be pretty hard having a fighting game in first person. I wouldn't really know how they could successfully pull that one off.


I liked how you focused on the gamplay and mechanics. Personally I think that when it comes to shooters first person is better then third.


In fact most of the time if I am given the option I pick first person. I don't know why I just feel more in to the story that way even if I don't see a lot of the character I'm playing with.


Nice article,

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