16 votes

This Is What a "Second-Person" Video Game Would Look Like

8 comments

  1. [5]
    Nexu
    Link
    i think the reason we don't see any 2nd person games is because we're using 1st and 3rd person sloppily, and the true meaning of these reference perspectives have been lost to marketing. 2nd...

    i think the reason we don't see any 2nd person games is because we're using 1st and 3rd person sloppily, and the true meaning of these reference perspectives have been lost to marketing. 2nd person games are everywhere.

    use of X-person in games is typically extremely contrived when it's being talked about. 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person are modes of address, and all provide information about: who is being addressed, how many individuals make up the interaction, and the direction of address.

    a "first person" game, i.e. one where you "look through the eyes of the player character" and don't see your virtual body from a disembodied perspective, is both 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, depending on the frame of mind of the player, and the camera angle, and many other things.

    for example, halo 3 is a primarily first person game, where it's easy to become immersed in the control of a virtual character from the first person perspective, meaning you are looking from their viewpoint.

    but at the same time, the player is very well aware that they are "puppeting" master chief, and so there are moments of indirect 2nd (i am controlling something, which i recognize as master chief, but do not accept is myself) and 3rd (wow, look at how cool that master chief guy is) person perspective.

    not to mention, in-game cinematics change the dynamic completely. "who" is the camera, when we stop "controlling" it? is the camera a "person", accounting for a perspective? are cameras omniscient entities? are they narrators? or are they benign windows? how can a camera frame "address" a character? are we, the observer-through-the-camera-frame the other of the 2nd or 3rd person? these aren't easy questions to answer, not least because all of these things are constantly and fluidly shifting when we experience a video game.

    similarly, take a 3rd person game, like gears of war. you are obviously playing as "that character, marcus fenix", but at the same time you are also controlling the first person, as in the protagonist. other characters refer to you, in the second person. you refer to your on-screen character, in 3rd person, and you play, embodied as the virtual avatar, in first person.

    perhaps the most important distinction is how in 1st and 3rd person, the virtual characters never acknowledge the meatspace player.

    the example of driver: san francisco in the video is not 2nd person any more than gears of war or halo 3 is 2nd person.

    following this logic, a better example of a 2nd person game would be seaman, or even nintendogs. the second-person element is the fourth-wall breaking, where the virtual characters are acknowledging the influence of their meatspace players. that is true 2nd person. and even then, it's still contentious, because you are still embodying an avatar of some sort (seaman and nintendogs both have disembodied virtual hands, arguably adding another "person" even though they are supposed to represent "you")

    9 votes
    1. [4]
      Morg
      Link Parent
      I'm not even sure it's that, to be completely honest. I agree that using 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person as a metric of camera/immersion in games is inflated so much in meaning that it's become kinda...

      I'm not even sure it's that, to be completely honest. I agree that using 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person as a metric of camera/immersion in games is inflated so much in meaning that it's become kinda pointless. We know what first person and third person games are based on camera placement, and "second person" games under this metric make no sense at all and are almost impossible to define. Maybe something like screencheat could be a gimmick "second person" camera game where you have to stare at someone else's screen (the "you" of the second person dynamic).

      If we consider it in a pure narrative fashion, which is where the "person" dynamic originally comes from, we need to contextualize the narrator in a game.

      I'd consider all non-party RPGs to be first person (think Fallout). You might have a party but you don't get to control it, you just control the player character (again, think Fallout vs Baldur's Gate). You are the narrator and the character. You get to make choices. Imagine we had siri to voice control the game, we'd be saying things like "I pick up X item", "I shoot", "I jump", etc.

      Then we have games like, as mentioned above, Baldur's Gate or even The Sims, where you get to control a multitude of characters. You are presented a dynamic and you get to make choices that are group-related and not individual related. From that point of view, it is clear you are the narrator of a story (in a loose sense, as not all games have an actual story aside from what you make of them) but you are not a single character in the story. Note that this does not preclude the option of having player-made characters (again, think The Sims or Dragon Age: Origins), it's about how you interact with the characters in the world. In the same voice-controlled example, here we'd be saying "<name> opens the door", "<character> attacks <enemy>", etc

      Then, what about second person games? I'd say those are the games where you get to tell the character what to do, while being clear that you are not the character. You are basically the narrator actively talking to the characters themselves. Think point-and-click games a-la Monkey Island. The entire game is a dialogue between me, the player, and you, the character. You have verbs and actions that you instruct them, and they answer directly to you (like: "I cannot do that" when you try to combine two items together). In the voice-controlled example here we'd be saying "(You) Pick up the bucket", "(You) Combine the rubber chicken with the pulley", and they'd be answering back "The bucket is too heavy, it's full of water" or "I have created a rubber chicken pulley", etc.

      2 votes
      1. Tau_Zero
        Link Parent
        An example of this this is Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures. As a side note, that mechanic was an extremely frustrating game. Pac-man is a moody bum.

        An example of this this is Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.

        Unlike most Point-and-click games where the player can interact with the environment via various commands, "the player has no direct control over Pac-Man".[3] Instead, he independently moves and interacts with the world, characters, and sometimes the player. The player's main ability is to influence, rather than control, the character's actions. The only command that can be given is via the "Look" button, which makes Pac-Man look or turn in whichever direction is held on the control pad. The player takes the role of an observer, armed with a slingshot that can be used to indirectly affect or strike objects in the world, including Pac-Man himself.

        As a side note, that mechanic was an extremely frustrating game. Pac-man is a moody bum.

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Nexu
        Link Parent
        Yes I like this distinction as you made between 1st Person (all non-party RPGs) and 3rd person (Sims, Baldur's) where contextualization of narrator is super important.

        Yes I like this distinction as you made between 1st Person (all non-party RPGs) and 3rd person (Sims, Baldur's) where contextualization of narrator is super important.

        1 vote
        1. Nexu
          Link Parent
          And Tau_Zero's comment above highlights exactly what I think is the crucial distinction of 2nd person - that the 2nd-person on the screen is actually an autonomous character. You don't control...

          And Tau_Zero's comment above highlights exactly what I think is the crucial distinction of 2nd person - that the 2nd-person on the screen is actually an autonomous character.

          You don't control them, but you influence them. God games, sim games - these are 2nd person games, as seaman and nintendogs are also.

          The 2nd person perspective in video games is a two-way street - you, the player are the second person, but also, the character on screen is also the recipient of the 2nd person because you are "addressing" them and targeting them directly.

          1 vote
  2. tunneljumper
    Link
    I think a great example of this would be Guild of Dungeoneering. I personally wouldn't recommend the game; it's got charm and it's a cool idea, but too much of the game is left to chance, but...

    I think a great example of this would be Guild of Dungeoneering. I personally wouldn't recommend the game; it's got charm and it's a cool idea, but too much of the game is left to chance, but that's beside the point. The essential concept is that the player picks a hero, builds a dungeon around them, and then the PC uses pathfinding to have the character navigate the dungeon, kind of like a single-player D&D*. Combat is still controlled by the player so it's not a "true" second-person, but the story's protagonist is, more or less, being guided by a narrator (the player).

    *I've never actually played D&D but I have a vague understanding that it works something like this.

    2 votes
  3. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    I can't watch the video right now, but I'm expecting to see a game from the point of view of the monster being killed.

    I can't watch the video right now, but I'm expecting to see a game from the point of view of the monster being killed.

    1. Eylrid
      Link Parent
      More from the point of view of the monster (of sorts) trying to kill you.

      More from the point of view of the monster (of sorts) trying to kill you.

      2 votes