November 15, 2012 by rcthames
Since we’ve been talking about first-person shooters, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss in more detail some questions about the first-person perspective in games. In his chapter, “Origins of the First-Person Shooter,” Galloway moves ultimately to a discussion of movement through space, time, and virtuality. While his argument is interesting, I feel it overlooks some other aesthetics and uses of the first-person perspective in games. Specifically, I want to talk about identification, subjectivity, and the different types of first-person perspectives games can invoke.
For this, I’d like you to look back over parts of Galloway (p. 40-46), as well as watch a couple of videos. On page 41, Galloway talks about the distinction between the POV shot and the subjective shot, pointing out a continuum, “a question less of type than of degree.” If we think of POV/subjective as a continuum, I began to wonder is a sort of continuum existed in first-person games. On page 43, Galloway discusses the subjective shot further, arguing that such “shots are more extreme in their physiological mimicking.” I began to think about how first-person games convey the physiology of the character, how different degrees of first-person perspective might do that differently, and what that might mean for the player’s experience.
I’d like you to watch a clip from (or play) a game I feel is on this end of the spectrum, Mirror’s Edge:
Also, watch some of a clip from Fallout 3, a game that came out around the same time (you can skip to around 6:00 and skip around the parts where he goes into the menu:
And I assume you are familiar with the traditional first-person shooter perspectives as well.
1. I feel that the perspective of a game like Mirror’s Edge is much more physiologically in tune with the character than the traditional shooter perspective (including glimpses of arms, legs, etc. in various positions interacting with the world, as well as a less-stable perspective). Do you think this leads the player to feel more attachment and/or identification with the character?
2. Many shooters, if they have more physiological representation than the gun, still mostly limit the perspective to movement of the arms, with the presumed body in an almost abstract, upright position. What does the inclusion of the full body from first-person perspective in Mirror’s Edge add to the experience, if anything?
3. Do you think such a perspective, moving more towards Galloway’s final point, changes how we view our interaction with the gamespace in ways different from the classic shooter perspective, or the stiff perspective of first-person RPGs like Fallout 3?
4. Do you think there really is a difference in the actual experience of gameplay, or do you think the difference is more superficial?
5. If you do think the perspective makes a difference in gameplay, how so?
6. I don’t play many first-person shooters, so I was wondering if they are starting to adopt a more fully-embodied first-person perspective or not. Any thoughts on this? Compare Halo 4 (which I have yet to play, but will by the time of this discussion) to Mirror’s Edge.