Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Archive for November 2010

Perspective!

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I hate the fact that at the moment, I can’t go buy Fallout: New Vegas.

Can I pay student loans later, please?!

However, I’ve been suppressing my rage by playing Fallout 3 again and trying to get the worst karma ever… I’ve played through the main quest a few times and generally stick with the first person perspective, but this time I’ve been using the third-person view just to see if it’s as awful as they say it is.

It’s actually not… depending on what you want. I found that my sneak has improved in third person, but I find myself switching back to first person because it feels and looks better – as if the game were designed to be played from that perspective. From what I’ve gathered, it’s the same with New Vegas. Although the Fallout series has become an interesting mesh of FPS and Action RPG, most games designed from the first-person perspective have a tendency to focus on combat and the First-Person Shooter  is one of the most easily recognizable genres on the market.

It looks a lot like this:

DOOM

Halo: Combat Evolved

Bioshock

What do these screen shots have in common? What do you notice about them? (I noticed that DOOM’s Space Marine was left-handed.) Right off the bat, it’s obvious what the “S” stands for in FPS. Violence, for a variety of just and unjust causes, is the pivotal force behind these games.

Violence and war-like combat are staples of this genre, making the FPS a vulnerable target for censorship groups and parental advocacy organizations. DOOM, published in 1996 by id Software, has shouldered more than its fair share of condemnation during the Columbine tragedy and other teen-related acts of violence in the late 90’s. This was an unfortunate instance of scapegoating an already vilified media and has carried on to today in current legislation.

This shouldn’t suggest that violence is exclusive to the FPS genre. Game series like God of War, Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, etc have sold like hotcakes and will continue to do so with a “God’s Eye view” of the action. Does that make them any less violent? Of course not. But you’ll notice that these games have storyline objectives, versus Left 4 Dead for instance, where the object is to blast through zombies with extreme prejudice to survive. Resident Evil, a series which could be considered the heart’s blood of the survival horror genre, requires (or at least used to require) a certain level of skill to ration ammunition, solve puzzles, and find hidden objects to complete the game. Although several on-rails shooters have been made in the series, the third-person perspective is essential to the game’s overall atmosphere and entertainment.

It would seem that while the first-person perspective lends itself to action, the third-person could be more conducive to “sensing.” This line of thinking also coincides with theory of literary perspective.

Now, let’s think about two works of literature with different narrative perspective… To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hobbit. One is narrated by a young Southern tomboy and the other is a fantastic yarn reminiscent of early oral storytelling. Apart from the subject matter, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hobbit are told from two different perspectives – one through the character Scout and the other from the eyes of an unnamed, all-knowing narrator. To Kill a Mockingbird is just as much a coming of age tale for the young Scout as it is a commentary on social justice, but we are meant to empathize through a child’s perspective – to feel for her. In The Hobbit Tolkien makes every effort to suspend the reader in disbelief in his world of fantasy by making the world around Bilbo tangible in our minds – to make us feel with him.

Is this a fair assessment? I understand that atmosphere is a huge part of the FPS, but I would argue that it is more important in games with the third-person perspective. To me, being able to put a solidified character in the context of a larger world is the core of a third-person gaming experience.

Please feel free to voice your opinions and experiences you’ve had with any genre! I can’t wait to hear your perspective… (See what I did there?!)

Happy Geekery!

-Rachel

Written by highbrowhighscore

November 10, 2010 at 12:05 am