Books vs Games: First-Person Perspective and Novella Update

The Sci-fi novella I was editing has now been sent off for proof reading. So hopefully I will be getting it up for ebook purchase soon.

Now, on to the title topic of this post. I’m sure many of you are aware of the idea of point of view. But for those of you who aren’t familiar, it is the perspective from which you view the story. The most common ones for books are first person perspective, third person perspective and omnipotent perspective. Those three perspectives have direct parallels in the world of gaming. First person and third person are obvious examples as they share the same name, and omnipotent perspective is comparable to how you view real time strategy, or civilisation management games. Such as XCOM, Sim-City, Civilisation 5 and the Total War games.

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The interesting part about these shared perspectives in books and video games is the comparisons you can draw between them, and seeing how each medium handles it. I thought this was so interesting I have decided to do some long winded posts on them, enjoy.

For this post I am going to focus on first person perspective. In books first person is where the readers view from the eyes/mind of the character. You see their thoughts and feelings, and everything they do and see is filtered by their worldview and intentions. If the character in question is say, a lover of cars, during their trip through whatever narrative they’re a part of, things will be filtered in that way. Car similes, noticing the cars other characters drive as a way of judging them, higher significance to driving scenes and more specific description of vehicles.

So the strong point of first person is having the world distinctly changed and warped through the characters perspective, in turn causing you to view the world in that way (which can be emulated in deep third person but I’ll get to that in a later post).

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Looking at many first person games that same depth to which you are linked to the character is on the whole absent. In fact sometimes the reverse can be true. Despite other characters in the story addressing you directly when talking to the main character, and then the protagonist’s voice coming from you. Their emotions are rarely unlocked to you via seeing into their mind itself, and sometimes their emotions are even harder to gage as you can’t see the main characters face for any emotional reaction. It all has to be displayed via voice acting and body language visible from their own eyes.

But there is one thing that games have which books do not, interactivity. In a book you connect to the character in first person via experiencing their feelings and thoughts as if they were your own. But a first person game literally lets you be the character. You share their triumphs and failures as if they were your own, because they are your own. It’s a fantastic way of bonding with a character, and works so well that a character such as Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life series is loved, despite the fact he does not say a single word, and almost only interacts with the world around him via players making him hit/pick up/press something. It is a great example of people loving a character because it is them.

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While it is true that in all video games you control the main character, giving the player a first person viewpoint really enforces the idea that they are the character, where a third person behind the shoulder perspective doesn’t give that same feeling.

So all in all the first person perspective in books and games can give the same connection to the character, just via incredibly different avenues both tailored to their own mediums. Of course, with all things there are exceptions and outliers. But either way both ways create fantastic opportunities for stories, and I’m sure both have had spectacular failures.

That’s all for now thank you very much for reading and I hope I’ve given you something to ponder on. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments and I leave you with this my dear reader. A wonderfully whimsical picture of the character Link from the fantasy adventure game The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, in a tribute to the brilliant painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The game is an awesomely colourful romp through a waterlogged fantasy world, which I would recommend to anyone who loves well-made games and quirky character design.

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All pictures in this post sourced through Creative Commons from Mike Prosser, mrwynd, mrwynd (again), Niranjan and Codex41 respectivley.

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