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A certain member of this website, who goes by the name of Slayn Bacon, created a contest to put the writing skills of his fellow GamePodunk members to the test. As for myself, the topic that has been set before me is one concerning the differences between first and third person games.
This article is the result of many hours minutes of contemplating the broadness of this topic. I finally decided to form my argument around the level of immersion I experience when playing these games. This turned out to be a rather tricky concept to play around with as immersion can seemingly take on several forms.
Traditionally, the common reasoning is that the immersion is greater in first person games. YOU take on the role of a character in whatever story is being presented in the game you're playing. YOU are making the decisions, calling the shots, killing the baddies. However, I feel that there is more to being immersed in a game than simply "being there".
First person games rely on your ability forget the real world and place yourself into the game world. The major flaw with this concept, to me at least, is that there is an extreme disconnect between the player and the game universe. The player (you) don't belong in the game world, you are simply piloting an shell of a character to navigate the game world. Thus, you, the player, are neither truly a part of the fiction of the game, nor are you a simply a spectator watching on from the sidelines. In Skyrim for example you take the role of "a character" customized to look however you'd like. You spend the game literally building a persona around your character. However, your character really isn't important in the grand scheme of things, it is merely an interface for you to interact with the game. You are not engaging with the character you're playing, but rather with the entire world around you.
This line of thought effectively eliminates characters such as Gordon Freeman as "true" characters. This "Gordon" fellow is simply a vehicle built for players of the Half Life games to control in order to play the game.
The perspective this gives you, the one of YOU becoming the character is a perplexing one. It ultimately comes down to your desire to role play. Do you want to become a space marine, destined to save the universe? Do you want to become an elite soldier, piloting F16's over a battlefield?
Perhaps you do, perhaps you don't. It really depends on the gamer and the mood.
But not everyone wants to be "themselves" in a game, even if they are capable of things they aren't in real life. They WANT to be someone else. There's a reason more games are third person, the reason being that you are constantly being reminded of WHO you are. You are constantly looking at your character, how s/he looks, how s/he moves, voice, personality etc. If you were to describe a character from nothing but the camera angle used in-game you'd be able to tell FAR more things about say, Nathan Drake than Gordon Freeman, simply because you can see them. This added dimension of personality makes for more convincing characters in games. Aren't all games centered around us suspending our disbelief to take on the role of the character we're playing? So wouldn't it be better to know as much as possible about whose role we're taking on?
This lack of seeing your character allows for the reality of human movement to be swept aside in favor of strafing and spinning in games such as Call of Duty or Quake. You have no sense of weight, as opposed to playing Marcus Fenix in Gears who's lumbering stride imparts a sense of primal force which is different from playing Nathan Drake, whose ease of climbing and hap hazard running leaves you with an entirely different feeling.
So to finish off my thoughts on this, the perspective the camera takes in a game determines the connection to the game itself. Whilst in first person you are never truly you, but rather an impossible you, one who doesn't truly allow for seamless integration with the game world. In third person, your character has more layers to them, making your time spent witnessing their journey a more engrossing experience. Now as always their are bound to be exceptions or games that don't quite fit either mold, but I feel that this is a general observation of two types of perspectives in videogames.
First person or third person, which do you prefer?