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Thread: The Player's Perspective in a Game Story

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Sat at my desk.

    The Player's Perspective in a Game Story

    I was intrigued by a comment Count Hans von Hekeldicht made in the 'Witchboy Speaks' thread regarding how far removed (or not) the player is from his in-game persona.

    It struck me that, from a narrative perspective, this is another crucial area in which the games medium differs from more traditional methods of storytelling.

    In a book, for example, take first, second, and third person perspectives. Despite the obvious differences between these modes they all have one thing in common, they include at least one other party in the narration of transpiring events. In first-person you are told of events that have directly happened (tense aside) to another individual, by the individual. In second-person you are told what is happening to you, by someone else. In third-person you are told of events that happened to someone else by someone else.

    In all of these an entity takes the role of narrator.

    In a film, events mostly take on the third-person mode of literature. You remain an invisible, neutral voyeur. Occasionally, for effect, you may be asked to believe that the image represents your own view (comparable to either first or second person mode), but usually (I can't think of an example, but I'm well aware there may be one) the view is one of a character in the film.

    The film itself acts as a mute narrator.

    But can any of these modes be said to exist in a videogame?

    If, as the Count said, "you can really be there", i.e. the experience is more first-hand than first-person, then what impact does this has for the writer of a videogame story?

    I, too, have seen people crane their heads to 'see' round a corner that is simply a two-dimensional representation on a flat surface (frequently do it myself, in fact). Is this level of mental involvement a clue as to where the games writer can elevate his art above those of his non-interactive cousins?

    Some games don't ask you to be anyone other than yourself. No in-game persona is provided, other than the one you bring with you. Is this an advantage or disadvantage to the writer?

    Some games provide the so-called first-person perspective of an in-game character, often a well-defined character. You are obviously going to bring a huge element of your own personality to mesh with that of the written one, aren't clashes inevitable?

    If you the player are asked to don the mantle of the character in question do you have the right to demand to know everything that character would know? Or can the writer hold back some details, for later revelation, without breaking the context?

    Would it break the context of the next big game, "Tomb Raider but with Pirates", if you suddenly found out, half-way through the game, that your character had a wooden leg? What about if you found out, half-way through the game, that, in actuality, YOU were the killer? It's been done in first-person novels.

    And what about the purposeful destruction of the "I shoot therefore I am" experience? Third person perspectives and multiple character control that divorce your identity another step from that of the head-craner. Are they missing out on the big storytelling advantages of the videogame medium?

    [ October 23, 2001: Message edited by: Always_Black ]

  2. #2

    Interestedingly, although I used Torment as an example, you _do_ feel part of what's going on rather than a neutral observer. For me, though, this occured only during dialogue. Combat really was more like playing chess than fighting for your life.

    One thing that didn't get mentioned in the other thread was Half-Life's "let's not take control away from the player during cut scenes". It was absolutely criminal for Elite Force, for example, not to implement this simple thing.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Oxford, England

    Well on the mod I am currently working on, we believe we may take the risk of having a 1st person narrative from the main character who already knows what has happened, in a similiar style to Max Payne. We have also taken the risk of not making the ending particularly happy and it is obvious that is the case from the beginning of the game. This could mean that people do not feel the motivation to play the game through but we are hoping that their inquisitive nature to see what exactly goes wrong will be enough. Whatever happens, its an experiment with rarer forms of narrative in computer games. And mods that do not involve spending money should be a way to experiment.
    'An anarchist is a liberal with a bomb'

    Trotsky

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Sat at my desk.

    So you're saying that the player-character will know what's going to happen and therefore so will the player?

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Oxford, England

    No the actual player will know very little about what has happened in the end. Only that its not a particularly happy ending and something has gone horribly wrong.
    'An anarchist is a liberal with a bomb'

    Trotsky

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Sat at my desk.

    But isn't that breaking the context a little? Don't you risk alienating the player from his character if you say he has the knowledge then deny it to him?

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Oxford, England

    It worked in the 3rd person game Max Payne but I suppose in the context of a game like Deus Ex it could be a risk. One risk we may well try taking though.
    'An anarchist is a liberal with a bomb'

    Trotsky

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Sat at my desk.

    Does anyone know if "The Scriptmonkeys" featured in Gamer 102 have a website?

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