The Second Person Perspective in Videogames...

Videogame perspectives are a funny thing. In other forms of media, artists and writers use a variety of viewpoints to convey their message, everything from first-person to second-person to third-person to, apparently, even fourth-person (the use of non-specific descriptives without a specific agent, ie, the use of 'one' in 'one must always be prepared', etc). In videogames, however, we only ever seem to use one of two perspectives. First-person- through the eyes of the main character, or Third-person, through a 'camera' that follows the main character.

Now, thinking about this, I tried to recall any recent videogames I had played which utilised the Second-person perspective, as in, action that is seen through the eyes of a secondary character in a game. And shockingly enough, there was only one example I could think of: God Of War 3.

There are two instances of gameplay in GOW3 which I think would be classed as Second Person. One, where you have to solve a puzzle whilst viewing the scene through the eyes of a nearvy statue (a very clever puzzle that pokes fun at the laws of perspective), and this:

In this video, we see pretty much the entirety of Poseidon's death from the point of view of Poseidon himself, while still being in control (at least partially) of Kratos, and thereby fulfilling the distinction between the two characters that justifies use of the term Second-Person.

Now, I know that God Of War 3 is hardly seen as the most original or innovative game around, but am I really wrong in thinking that there aren't many other games around which make use of the Second-Person perspective, even for as short a period as in GOW3? Can anyone else name any games where the player controls the main character, but the action is seen through the eyes of a secondary character? Because it seems to me like a concept which is ripe for developers to start exploring and playing around with, but very very few seem to be taking advantage of it.

It's a pretty cool mechanic I'd like to see developers use more often, though probably in moderation. I can't imagine how a whole game in a second person perspective would work.

Edit: Though I literally can't think of any substantial examples right now. I guess... The Cave of dreams chase sequence from Rayman 2? Not that the gameplay really changed much during that part.

I think the second person perspective isn't used for the sake of usability. In a game your character is going to be moving almost all of the time, thus the camera needs to move with you. The second person perspective would mean that the separate entity viewing what is happening must always see the protagonist while they move about as well. I think it would only really work with a fixed camera, or like the video above when it is in a very controlled space like a cutscene. The cinematography of a movie and the camera in a video game serve very different purposes and the artistic use of it is very limited in the latter.

I think it may work for something resembling Night trap, seeing your character through something like multiple surveillance cameras but that really isn't totally the same thing.

If you want to play something in the second person perspective, try old survival horror games -- especially the Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil series. A lot of 3D JRPGs are like that too; Final Fantasy VII comes to mind, aside from the world map, of course. Most games don't use them because they tend to add a lot of fake difficulty, but sometimes -- especially in horror games -- a fixed camera can be useful for tone setting.

Edit: You're not literally seeing the action through the eyes of a secondary character in the examples I gave, but it works out the same; you've got a fixed perspective that has absolutely nothing to do with your character. Also, Final Fantasy X, while narrated from a first person perspective and controlled from a third person perspective, is arguably coming from a second person point of view; Yuna is really the main character, you just see her story through Tidus' eyes.

Owyn_Merrilin:
If you want to play something in the second person perspective, try old survival horror games -- especially the Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil series. A lot of 3D JRPGs are like that too; Final Fantasy VII comes to mind, aside from the world map, of course. Most games don't use them because they tend to add a lot of fake difficulty, but sometimes -- especially in horror games -- a fixed camera can be useful for tone setting.

But is a simply fixed camera the same thing as a second person camera? I think a truly second person perspective would be near impossible to do in regular gameplay because it would have to belong to a separate character or entity which means uncontrolled movement. A moving but uncontrollable camera is disaster for dynamic gameplay. It only really works as you said as a fixed camera or a cutscene.

I believe the first boss fight of the insanely-hard Battletoads was in second-person perspective (you saw the action through the eyes of the boss). That's the only other one that comes to mind.

Bizarre thought regarding that particular GOW3 kill...the "three brothers" of the Olympian gods were Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. In terms of their "rank" in the pantheon, Zeus was considered the first, Poseidon the second, and Hades the third. In GOW3, you kill Zeus in first-person perspective, Poseidon in second-person perspective, and Hades in third-person perspective. Coincidence, I'm sure, but still interesting...

Trifixion:
I believe the first boss fight of the insanely-hard Battletoads was in second-person perspective (you saw the action through the eyes of the boss). That's the only other one that comes to mind.

Bizarre thought regarding that particular GOW3 kill...the "three brothers" of the Olympian gods were Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. In terms of their "rank" in the pantheon, Zeus was considered the first, Poseidon the second, and Hades the third. In GOW3, you kill Zeus in first-person perspective, Poseidon in second-person perspective, and Hades in third-person perspective. Coincidence, I'm sure, but still interesting...

image

I'd never even thought of that before. Well pointed out. It may well be coincidence, but to the developers' credit, GOW 3 is actually a far more intelligent game in terms of design and mechanics than a lot of people give it credit for. I wouldn't be surprised if the developers came up with those ideas and thought "You think anyone will notice?"

Mydogisblue:
It's a pretty cool mechanic I'd like to see developers use more often, though probably in moderation. I can't imagine how a whole game in a second person perspective would work.

Edit: Though I literally can't think of any substantial examples right now. I guess... The Cave of dreams chase sequence from Rayman 2? Not that the gameplay really changed much during that part.

I remember that chase sequence from Rayman 2, and I guess that would fulfil the definition. Of course, you only realize that you're watching from the perspective of that giant monster thing when teeth start appearing at the edge of the screen. Still, I thought it was a great chase sequence...

I know some people have tried to argue that Mario 64, another 3D platformer from way back when, also takes place from a second-person perspective, because of the fact that you see everything through that floaty-guy's camera. Don't think I agree though, considering that you have direct control over the camera, and thus control both Mario and the floaty dude in that game.

him over there:

Owyn_Merrilin:
If you want to play something in the second person perspective, try old survival horror games -- especially the Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil series. A lot of 3D JRPGs are like that too; Final Fantasy VII comes to mind, aside from the world map, of course. Most games don't use them because they tend to add a lot of fake difficulty, but sometimes -- especially in horror games -- a fixed camera can be useful for tone setting.

But is a simply fixed camera the same thing as a second person camera? I think a truly second person perspective would be near impossible to do in regular gameplay because it would have to belong to a separate character or entity which means uncontrolled movement. A moving but uncontrollable camera is disaster for dynamic gameplay. It only really works as you said as a fixed camera or a cutscene.

I dunno. It depends on the setting. I think the idea could maybe work in a crowded, urban setting, where there will always be other people nearby. The idea could work similar to a fixed camera perspective, except that instead of each new area using a new fixed camera, each new area would use a different person focusing on your character. For example, on a main street, you see from the perspective of a character sat down for coffee, or in a metro station, you see from the perspective of a commuter waiting for a train. It could work really well in a game dealing with the idea of always being watched, like a 1984-style game, or a 50s-set paranoia potboiler.

In the 2008 Prince of Persia game the final boss gauntlet is played in second person.

Wasn't there a survival/horror PS2 title where you watched a character through a series of security cameras and gave her instructions through voice commands? I remember it really sucking, but being a really clever idea for the time.

Psychonauts people!

That is where I think I've seen the most second-person perspective through the clairvoyance power. Fighting the one boss who blinded you by seeing the fight through her eyes was absolutely excellent.

I agree that this usually isn't seen because of control difficulties, and normally would have considered it untenable because of it. Some games can just pull it off though.

There actually is a second-person shooter. (I googled the term one day when I was bored.)

Experiment 112 (or something)

Doesnt Siren Blood Curse use second person perspective with the monsters?

Battletoads and Psychonauts like other people already said.

Text-based games like iFiction and roguelikes use a lot of second-person.

There's a boss fight in Ratchet and Clank 3 where you look through the eyes of the boss you're fighting for a short time. Can't find any footage of it however.

There's part of a level in the Xmen Origins Wolverine game where you watch yourself through Zero's sniper scope and have to dodge his shots.

In Prince of Persia Two Thrones, your being viewed through the eyes of that giant demon while it chases you.

And that BrainFish in Psychonauts

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Videogame perspectives are a funny thing. In other forms of media, artists and writers use a variety of viewpoints to convey their message, everything from first-person to second-person to third-person to, apparently, even fourth-person (the use of non-specific descriptives without a specific agent, ie, the use of 'one' in 'one must always be prepared', etc). In videogames, however, we only ever seem to use one of two perspectives. First-person- through the eyes of the main character, or Third-person, through a 'camera' that follows the main character.

Now, thinking about this, I tried to recall any recent videogames I had played which utilised the Second-person perspective, as in, action that is seen through the eyes of a secondary character in a game. And shockingly enough, there was only one example I could think of: God Of War 3.

There are two instances of gameplay in GOW3 which I think would be classed as Second Person. One, where you have to solve a puzzle whilst viewing the scene through the eyes of a nearvy statue (a very clever puzzle that pokes fun at the laws of perspective), and this:

In this video, we see pretty much the entirety of Poseidon's death from the point of view of Poseidon himself, while still being in control (at least partially) of Kratos, and thereby fulfilling the distinction between the two characters that justifies use of the term Second-Person.

Now, I know that God Of War 3 is hardly seen as the most original or innovative game around, but am I really wrong in thinking that there aren't many other games around which make use of the Second-Person perspective, even for as short a period as in GOW3? Can anyone else name any games where the player controls the main character, but the action is seen through the eyes of a secondary character? Because it seems to me like a concept which is ripe for developers to start exploring and playing around with, but very very few seem to be taking advantage of it.

I'm no expert on second perspective in games, but in writing it's when the author uses the pronoun "you" mostly left to self-help books. From that, i don't see how through the eyes of a secondary character is second perspective. In writing, that's still first person perspective, just a different point of view character.

Could you link me a website where I could read up on the other pespectives in different media I would appreciate it.

The only ones I had were Psychonauts and siren blood curse which have already been mentioned although you could be picky and say FPS are actually second person shooters because you see the action through the eyes of another sure you control them but they are not you. Im not sure what this would make seeing a character you usually see through as seen by another be 2.5 person? or just 2nd person with a slight twist?and as for 1st person well until VR comes in to actually put you in the game that wont happen.

Binnsyboy:
There's part of a level in the Xmen Origins Wolverine game where you watch yourself through Zero's sniper scope and have to dodge his shots.

That reminds me, actually; there was a sequence in the first PS1 Spiderman game that was the same thing, except you were Spiderman and it was just some random swat team member's rifle scope. That was a good game, too; I should break it out again one of these days.

spartan231490:

I'm no expert on second perspective in games, but in writing it's when the author uses the pronoun "you" mostly left to self-help books. From that, i don't see how through the eyes of a secondary character is second perspective. In writing, that's still first person perspective, just a different point of view character.

Could you link me a website where I could read up on the other pespectives in different media I would appreciate it.

Look closely at the video I posted from God Of War 3. While the action is made up of context-sensitive QTEs, it is still gameplay where the player has direct control over Kratos. He is still the main avatar of the game. However, the action takes place through the eyes of Poseidon as he is getting beaten up by Kratos. In essence, the game is giving you control of Kratos, but at the same time saying outright "You are getting beaten up by Kratos. You try to escape, Kratos kicks you in the face. You try to resist, Kratos throws you into a rock." By keeping the action with Kratos, but changing the perspective to Poseidon, you are essentially seeing the exploits of the main character (the avatar of the game) through the eyes of a secondary character (the character he's brutalizing), which as far as I can tell is pretty much the textbook definition of second-person perspective.

In fiction, using "you" is very much considered second-person, not first-person. Perspective is defined by the angle from which we view the actions of the central agent of the story. Although it is comparatively rare, the second-person very much exists in fiction. Any time a story relies on 'You' as the main point of view through which the story is viewed, as opposed to I/He/She/It, then it is second person. In gameplay terms, a game played through the eyes of the character is first-person: I. A game where the camera follows the main character is third-person: He/She. Therefore, second person perspective must create the feeling of You, meaning while the main character is controlled by the player, the action must be viewed by a secondary character.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
snip

In fiction, using "you" is very much considered second-person, not first-person. Perspective is defined by the angle from which we view the actions of the central agent of the story. Although it is comparatively rare, the second-person very much exists in fiction. Any time a story relies on 'You' as the main point of view through which the story is viewed, as opposed to I/He/She/It, then it is second person. In gameplay terms, a game played through the eyes of the character is first-person: I. A game where the camera follows the main character is third-person: He/She. Therefore, second person perspective must create the feeling of You, meaning while the main character is controlled by the player, the action must be viewed by a secondary character.

That's what I said. "I'm no expert on second perspective in games, but in writing it's when the author uses the pronoun "you" mostly left to self-help books."

Ok, I see what you mean about the video, but your post implied that you were saying it was second person whenever you were in the eyes of a character who is not the main character.

Theminimanx:
There's a boss fight in Ratchet and Clank 3 where you look through the eyes of the boss you're fighting for a short time. Can't find any footage of it however.

That's Momma Tyrranoid.

1:00 (be warned for cruddy video camera quality)

There is also the tank (1:10) in Jak 2, which is slightly above the tank but is treated like sight (the camera filter and crosshair). There is a metalhead chase too that is very similar to it, but is mostly done so you can see how far back he is. Might as well be another fixed camera. Jak 3 also had one, but I can't recall if it was in the view of a security camera or just a fixed camera angle. Either way, the camera angle sucks when you're trying to platform in all of these cases.

Mydogisblue:
It's a pretty cool mechanic I'd like to see developers use more often, though probably in moderation. I can't imagine how a whole game in a second person perspective would work.

Edit: Though I literally can't think of any substantial examples right now. I guess... The Cave of dreams chase sequence from Rayman 2? Not that the gameplay really changed much during that part.

I was about to mention that! Although it was seen through teeth instead of eyes...

Anyways, The Experiment (or "Experience 114" in Europe) exists. No one (except me) liked it.

Ape Escape 1 (PS1) during the first Specter boss phase.
Turtles in Time during the first Shredder battle.
Gex 2 (PS1/N64) during the final boss where Rez shoots missles while he's chasing you.
Bourne Conspiracy (Xbox/PS3) during the Professor section (fuck the professor).
LifeLine (PS2; voice controlled) since you're basically giving a girl instructions and unlocking stuff while being trapped in a control room the majority of the game.
Pac-Man 2 (SNES/GENS) as you are influencing Pac-Man's actions and constantly keeping him out of trouble.

Yep.

EmperorSubcutaneous:
There actually is a second-person shooter. (I googled the term one day when I was bored.)

that's pretty interesting...

OT: there's a game called 'lifeline' for the ps2. that might be considered a second person shooter. you watch the heroine(the character doing everything) through surveillance cameras from the perspective of your character. (you play as an avatar of yourself stuck in a surveillance room.) you don't even control the heroine at all. all you do is tell her what to do...

this game is really hard to explain. >.> it's worth checking out though.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Can anyone else name any games where the player controls the main character, but the action is seen through the eyes of a secondary character? Because it seems to me like a concept which is ripe for developers to start exploring and playing around with, but very very few seem to be taking advantage of it.

Arguably, White Knight Chronicles. The "player" character is a self-created avatar who has extremely little impact on the story (I don't believe he/she even has any speaking lines in any of the cut-scenes), instead following the party around and helping out with quests/combat while the "main" character goes about with his classic JRPG storyline of coming-of-age/discovering an ancient lineage or power/saving the princess/saving the world/etc. etc.

It's actually pretty interesting, and I've been pretty sad that I haven't been able to find White Knight Chronicles II (which contains a re-tweaked and remastered version of the first game as well because of a new combat system and what-have-you) anywhere. They pretty much decided that since the typical JRPG hardly let you impact the characters anyway, you could just create your own blank slate who follows everyone around and occasionally makes a few decisions about what mindless tasks you'll be doing.

shrekfan246:

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Can anyone else name any games where the player controls the main character, but the action is seen through the eyes of a secondary character? Because it seems to me like a concept which is ripe for developers to start exploring and playing around with, but very very few seem to be taking advantage of it.

Arguably, White Knight Chronicles. The "player" character is a self-created avatar who has extremely little impact on the story (I don't believe he/she even has any speaking lines in any of the cut-scenes), instead following the party around and helping out with quests/combat while the "main" character goes about with his classic JRPG storyline of coming-of-age/discovering an ancient lineage or power/saving the princess/saving the world/etc. etc.

It's actually pretty interesting, and I've been pretty sad that I haven't been able to find White Knight Chronicles II (which contains a re-tweaked and remastered version of the first game as well because of a new combat system and what-have-you) anywhere. They pretty much decided that since the typical JRPG hardly let you impact the characters anyway, you could just create your own blank slate who follows everyone around and occasionally makes a few decisions about what mindless tasks you'll be doing.

Sounds like Chrono Trigger with a character generator. Also FFX with a Tidus that shuts up occasionally; either option would be nice.

There's a section in Driver: SF that has you controlling Tanner's car from the point of view of the car behind I think?

Forbidden Siren 2 had one character who was blind. You could only really navigate properly by Sightjacking his dog and using its eyes, it was awkward a lot of the time.

Like in that Japanese horror game where you see through the eyes of nearby monsters as they come near you

I've thought of games like Gears of War and other titles with that type of camera as being set in "Second Person View". The camera isn't set on their eyes, but, it's not trailing off into the distance. It's almost like a backpack.

That one boss battle in Psychonauts where you used clairvoyance to see through the enemy's eye really surprised me, and that's saying something.

lot's of 3D platformer games, Rayman 3, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and clank are examples.

 

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