Point of View & Video Games: Part 1

One of the main dilemmas that a writer can encounter is trying to determine the best way to tell a story. In my “Intro to Fiction” class last year, we had various writing activities where we had to experiment with different points of view. However, one thing I learned is that you can’t just give any story a point of view because that point of view may not fit that story.

In video games, point of view is an entirely different task. PoV in video games is a very complicated subject, which is why I’ve decided to address each in their own post to hopefully avoid confusion. While there are three different points of view in narratives, most video games are written for the same PoV but are played through different PoVs.

The most obvious PoV to figure out with video games is first person. You are playing directly from the character’s perspective. So, in essence, your eyes are their eyes; you can see as far as they can, and you control every aspect of their body just as if it was your body. Two examples of games that really help understand this view are: Doom & Bioshock (the entire series).

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The cool thing about the above screenshot is that the character, “you,” have been hit, so your screen goes red to represent it. The picture of the character also shows you what you look like and will show scars/scratches when you’ve been “beaten up.”

Though Doom is an older video game, it’s an iconic one that most people have at least heard of. Doom was probably the first mainstream video game to take on this perspective. I can still remember playing it and trying to shoot the monsters, while sometimes getting a headache trying to move around. When I played the first Bioshock game, I got the same sensation all over again. Although Bioshock and Doom have very different storylines, they still had the overall objective of killing “monsters” though the definition was different for each game. For the sake of this day and age, I’ll focus most of this post on Bioshock.

titleCurrently, there are three games in the Bioshock series. Bioshock I takes place in an underwater “utopia” called Rapture. Of course, something goes wrong and “you” just so happen to have been in a plane crash and were swimming toward the lighthouse entrance of Rapture to be the one to do something about it. Literally, you come across as the one swimming in the ocean because you’re seeing through his eyes. With a contribution to the vibration of PS3 and XBOX 360 controllers, when “you” get hit, you can feel something. That’s the brilliance of first person PoV in games, as well as books; you feel like you are the main character even if they aren’t your gender or name.

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This PoV (1st person) isn’t the most common in video games. The entire Bioshock series is played from this perspective. There are some games, such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, that will let you alternate between 1st person PoV and 2nd person (which will be discussed in further detail in part 2 of this series). Books told from first person PoV are much more common. Some of these books include: The Hunger Games series, The Fault in Our StarsTo Kill a MockingbirdThirteen Reasons WhyThe Great Gatsby, as well as plenty of others. More commonly, nonfiction narratives are told in 1st person, such as The Diary of Anne Frank.

The benefit of  having a game or narrative in 1st person is the sense of immersion it gives the player or reader. With 1st person, a reader/player is directly involved with how the plot plays out. It’s a good technique to get readers/players more involved with the storyline as well as investing them in the series. However, that process involves more thinking and creativity on the author’s side because you’re restricted to what the reader/player is allowed to see and know, and it has to be interesting yet suspenseful enough to keep readers/players intrigued.

Although 1st person is not an easy PoV to attempt, it’s well worth it for the product that’s created.

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