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Traditional narratives have one of three viewpoints:

  • First person (I fought the monster)
  • Second person (You fought the monster)
  • Third person (He/She/It fought the monster)

First and Third person viewpoints are very prevalent in video games, but I got to wondering what a Second person viewpoint would be like.

  • First person ('I' am the character, seeing through 'my' eyes)
  • Second person (???)
  • Third person (He/She/It is the character, seen through a third party's eyes)

The only thing I can think of is a game where the viewpoint is a character you're not directly controlling, who is usually (always?) looking at the character you are. But how would that differ from a Third person perspective with a very limited camera?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You see yourself from the eyes of whatever you are facing against. This would be a cool idea of a game; you switch between the viewpoints of other people you have to hunt down and kill, and you have to use what they see to guide your character to them. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2013 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Traditional COD Killcam was 2nd Person? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2013 at 20:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like Bastion did something like this. The narrator is always talking about and with the main char \$\endgroup\$
    – floAr
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ kongregate.com/games/himojii/… \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Nov 21, 2013 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @floAr - I had that thought. But it's still a third person viewpoint with a second person narrative. Definitely closer than usual, but still not quite. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Nov 21, 2013 at 21:13

4 Answers 4

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First person is the viewpoint of the subject. It's the primary viewpoint.

  • If I fight the monster, then first-person is my perspective.

Second person is the viewpoint of the party interacting with the subject. It's the secondary viewpoint.

  • If I fight the monster, then second-person is the perspective of the monster.

Third person is the viewpoint of a (possibly theoretical) party observing the interaction. It's neither the primary nor secondary viewpoint, but rather a third, disassociated viewpoint.

  • If I fight the monster, then third-person is the perspective is neither mine nor the monster's but rather some outside observer.

First person is common in in 3D immersive games, particularly where seeing the action from the perspective of the character improves gameplay.

Second person is most typically seen in "instant replays" and other temporary cut-away scenes where seeing the action from the perspective of the target adds value.

Third person is the most common perspective, as it provides a view that encompasses more of the scene than either the subject or target alone can see. This includes side-view, over-the-shoulder view, top-view and many others.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer! It definitely makes a lot more sense laid out like this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Nov 22, 2013 at 18:32
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When you see your character from afar, standing in front of a chest, you can think of him in three different ways:

  1. I am standing in front of the chest.
  2. My character is standing in front of the chest.
  3. The character is standing in front of the chest.

Notice that it's not trivial (or probably possible, in my personal case) to think of him as an "you" as said by someone else. However, if someone else saw your character, their options would be as follows:

  1. You are standing in front of the chest.
  2. Your character is standing in front of the chest.
  3. The character is standing in front of the chest.

A lot simpler now. That's because it's unnatural to view the world from someone else's perspective (sort of human nature I guess, we evaluate everything around us according to ourselves). In short, we can talk about ourselves and other things from our point of view. We can't talk about ourselves and other things from someone else's point of view.

There are certain ways to guide the player to adopt one of these points of view. For example, the first person camera helps the player think he's the actual character in the game. Same for narrators 'speaking' directly to the player.

The third person narration (as seen in Bastion and others) places the player far away from the character so that he is able to see a larger picture of everything involving and surrounding his avatar.

I do not believe it's possible to find such a trick to help with the 2nd person perspective, for the reason mentioned above.

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As I personally would describe the different views:

  • First person: You looking at the world from your own eyes. Your own point of view. Much like you naturally do in reality.
  • Second person: You are looking at the world from the eyes of something else in the world. Or from the view of some other object. eg. You're watching your character through a security camera as he is walking down a hall.
  • Third person: You are looking upon the world from the perspective of a nonexistent object. eg. Floating along behind yourself as you walk down the hall.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your example for 2nd person. I can totally picture a game (or segment thereof) where you have to navigate entirely based on security cameras' views of your character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Nov 22, 2013 at 18:36
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Second person would be from the view of what the character is interacting with. I actually came across a game today that demonstrates this: http://www.kongregate.com/games/himojii/second-person-shooter-zato

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I came here to link this game. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2013 at 7:09

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