It’s All About Perspective

The first-person perspective in a video game is meant to convey the intimacy of assuming another’s consciousness, living in those virtual shoes. Take the airport terrorist situation in COD: Modern Warfare 2. The first-person perspective is a tool that – when used correctly – enhances a gamer’s experience through immersion. In my opinion, this perspective is also extremely inhibiting and can actually hinder the full gaming experience. This valuable gateway, which should be a solid foundation, is the crutch of some genuinely great games.

Donning the first-person perspective in games has come to mean there’s no possible way that a gamer could ever see outside the vision of the character he or she inhabits (I’m discounting Fallout 3‘s VATS system as a temporary lapse).  This defeats the purpose of being in first-person, right?  In God of War 3, when the player as Kratos is bashing Poseidon’s face with a rock, did it defeat the purpose to switch to first-person when it’s a third-person perspective game?

Third-person games use first-person perspective as a tool for situations that will be enhanced by that perspective.  Why can’t first-person games use third-person when it will enhance the experience?  This would open up new creative avenues for developers, making for some pretty badass moments.  Imagine playing Bioshock 2 and occasionally seeing Subject Delta drill through a nitro splicer as a fly on the digital wall.  Wouldn’t that be more engrossing than just seeing half of the drill in the bottom right corner? And imagine the cinematic potential of watching from below a drainage grate as the splicer’s contaminated blood cascades into the refuse and seawater flowing under Rapture.

I love plowing through levels, playing for hours to sneak up on a cinematic cutscene.  That little bit of story you’ve been driving towards that makes it all worth it.  Remember the bridge exploding in Final Fantasy XIII?  I got a little teary-eyed and the action was awesome!  Uncharted 3 had some insane moments during its stomach-churning, interactive cutscenes.  In my experience with the first-person perspective, these kinds of cutscenes just don’t exist.  Actually, the opposite happens.

I can remember a scene during Skyrim in which I hid in a coffin where a Jester was pouring out his soul.  So, for about four minutes I stared at the inside of a black box while some motionless guy rambled on and on.  If the first-person perspective was “allowed” to cut away and take on a cinematic scope, this scene could have been epic.  To watch as an armor-clad Dovakiin jumps out of that coffin and owns the Jester would have dialed up the tension and the dramatic release, both of which create satisfaction in media consumers.  Amazing.  Instead, I watched the inside of a box then pounced out and stared while the Jester just continued to talk.  How anti-climactic.

I can remember playing Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back on my Xbox, and less than ten minutes into the game I faced a low-level foe.  I tapped the ATTACK button, and my character’s arms flailed in what seemed like “the closest layer of animation”.  Then, in “the second closest layer,” the foe fell backward, while a blood splatter graphic popped onto the screen.  While recently playing Skyrim, I noted that not much has changed.  With all the technology at its disposal, Bethesda hasn’t even taken the time to make the world into one cohesive, interactive screen.  Personally, this takes me completely out of the gaming experience.  In Skyrim, I’m immersed in an amazing, realistic-looking world on the most innovative gaming platform to ever exist but the second I decide to swing a broadsword I feel like I’ve been time-machined back to 2002.  It’s a hindrance that exists only because of the first-person perspective.

My entire life I’ve had a thing against the deceptive, effective first-person perspective.  From my first encounter (Zero Tolerance for SEGA) all the way to Battlefield 3, there’s always been something that just doesn’t sit right.  But, I keep trying.  I’m attempting to find that first-person perspective game that changes my mind and shows me that this view can help a game.  I’ve yet to find that game.  Chalk it up to personal preference, but I think there is a large amount of room for improvement in the world’s most favorite genre of gaming.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Mike Deas View all posts by
Mike is a gamer, writer and pretzel muncher. He plays on Easy, rarely completes side quests, and hates himself for relying on walkthroughs.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.