Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually


with one comment

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:


Halo: Combat Evolved


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!



Written by highbrowhighscore

November 10, 2010 at 12:05 am

One Response

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  1. The only reason the third person view works for Fallout is the VATS system. If you played Oblivion or Morrowind, you’ll remember that trying to aim in third person was much tougher than in first. But the VATS system had some serious issues at least for me. The combat setup in Bethseda games allows a player to move and attack at the same time, but using VATS you become immobile and have to take damage. I also found that through most of the game I had higher headshot accuracy with weapons like the rifles and scoped .44 when not using VATS. Chalk that up to all the hours I have spent playing Doom, Halo, and Bioshock I suppose. So I felt much more at home in the first person perspective for Fallout 3. That said, I was moderately disappointed in Fallout 3 on the whole.
    I also don’t think your point about story objectives in third person holds up. Especially given that you started with Fallout. It’s a game designed to be primarily first person and is filled with story and it’s not even a top tier example of a great game in my mind. There was a game that came out a few years ago, you might have heard of it. I think it was called Half Life 2? Compare that to GTA IV which does have story progression through objectives, but it’s gathering dust on my shelf; a waste of $60.
    L4D isn’t comparable to Resident Evil in my mind [I’m in love with Valve and am not a fan of RE so I’m biased], but I think the games are designed with different goals in mind. Valve approached L4D with a concept of shooting zombies with friends sounds like a ton of fun, let’s make a game out of a zombie apocalypse geared towards that, and I think they were rather successful with their intentions. In constrast, Resident Evil is focused exclusively on single player story and while the stories are more developed than L4D, I always get incredibly frustrated trying to kill 10 zombies with 3 bullets. Especially when I can’t even aim the gun properly to begin with. When I mentioned before that I thought third person perspective always impedes the player in some way, it was specifically the Resident Evil series I was referencing. However, as far as atmosphere and environment, I think I agree that third person is a great perspective to see it from as long as the game doesn’t ask me to do a lot of actions that would be easier in first person, like shooting zombies.
    Whether this carries over to literature is a really interesting question. Certainly there are novels which are well written and give a wonderful sense of atmosphere and location, but I wouldn’t claim that perspective is the sole issue in this. The sci-fi/fantasy genre is almost always third person while more realistic “true” stories are typically first person. The reason for this could be that a fantasy novel is removed somewhat, so the author has to explain what an Aliethiometer is. It would seem silly for Lyra to spend a page describing the device in first person. She can see the thing. It is accepted naturally that she knows what it looks like. So Pullman tells his story in third person because he has to explain what the fantasy things are.
    There is nothing out of the ordinary which Harper Lee has to explain or describe, so first person is a viewpoint a reader can understand. I can read the book and know what a piece of gum looks like. I think it could be argued that TKaMB has more atmosphere than The Hobbit, specifically because I can so easily draw up a mental image of a courtroom in Alabama during the Depression while imaging Gollum’s lair from only Bilbo’s perspective is going to be tough since he can’t see much.
    Perspective is always a tool in storytelling, it’s like an apples/oranges thing, but not entirely.


    November 10, 2010 at 5:07 am

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