Perspective in gaming is a funny topic to discuss, as it could stand for a number of things, perhaps it’s referring to how someone stands in regards to the morals of a game? Maybe it refers to someone’s opinion about the title as a whole? Or, I like to think of it more in relation to the player’s point-of-view as they’re controlling a character.
Even when delving deeper into the topic of perspective in gaming, it still manages to open up even more possibilities and ideas developers could chase when designing a game. You may so naively assume that there are just a few styles to view the world of a video game from: first-person, third-person and 2D are the most common angles in gaming, but I’m here to elaborate on those and tell you there’s a lot more to it than that, because every view port adopted within the gaming industry is a huge factor into said game’s success, I mean, can you imagine playing Super Mario Bros from a first-person view?
Let’s start with something obscure, ever heard of Grand Theft Auto? Of course you have, it’s a billion dollar franchise which has won 100’s of awards and impressed millions of people. But, just because the Grand Theft Auto universe has been iterated almost 15 times, doesn’t mean it didn’t start off as a basic, pixelated title which was played from a bird’s eye view. Just take a look, it may currently be known for its ultra-photorealistic graphics, deep storyline and third-person perspective, but up until 2001 (4 years after the first game) Grand Theft Auto was played in a fashion similar to titles such as Hotline Miami or even Don’t Starve, looking down from the top of areas such as Liberty City or London.
A style which has been linked with shooters for a very long time is the first-person point-of-view, starting off with games such as Half-Life and Quake, then moving onto more modern productions such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, the first-person perspective has been lumped in with shooters for too long. Although, there are some developers who’ve successfully broken that stereotype on a few occasions: Eidos has created both Thief, an action-stealth title which follows the story of Garrett, the master thief and Deus Ex, a mix of action, shooter and stealth. Dice have created Battlefield, the shooter currently competing with Call of Duty and Mirror’s Edge, a very unique take on the sport of free-running, accompanied by action and insane set-pieces.
What I’m trying to say is, even though it’s a very limited and in my opinion over-used style of view, first-person angles don’t have to and predominantly don’t hinder the enjoyment a game produces, especially in the examples shown above.
I mentioned earlier about playing Super Mario Bros from a first-person view, oddness aside, Super Mario is a game which even though it’s evolved slightly in terms of graphics and gameplay elements, could really do so much more, especially in terms of perspective. Yes, the Mario franchise has sprouted off into 100’s of games, racing, adventure, side-scroller, platformer, action, RPG, you name it, Mario has done it. But let’s look at the core game, if Nintendo took the same approach Trials Fusion and Rayman took, it could add a whole new layer of depth to the franchise, in case you don’t know, I’m talking about the implementation of a 2.5D style, as opposed to glorified 2D.
What’s 2.5D? You might be wondering, well, it’s a little phrase created by the gaming community to describe the practise of creating a 2 dimensional game (Take Trials Fusion as an example) but instead of flat or 2D objects, you’re able to see 3D assets and backgrounds. In the case of the Trials series, these objects could be barrels, scaffolds, explosives or even the bike itself, as soon as the player bails, the game becomes a 3D field where the rider can move around freely, even falling off the track if navigated carefully.
Right next to first-person comes third-person, the same kinds of games can be found using each of those views, but some are best suited for a certain style. If you think about it, third-person games such as Tomb Raider, Max Payne or The Last of Us might not be so bad in first-person; the same could be said about Call of Duty or Battlefield being played in from a third-person perspective.
However, the reasoning behind the chosen perspective is to compliment the environment, action and mechanics the game possesses; Max Payne’s bullet-time slow motion wouldn’t be as effective if it was in first-person where the enemies weren’t easily visible, or players wouldn’t be able to evade The Last of Us’ chilling enemies if they couldn’t quickly observe the environment around them. Even the choice of which perspective the game should use is down to a player’s personal perspective on what parts of the game they feel are the most important, which brings us onto the final paragraph, highlighting games that have managed to create a hybrid of both first and third-person gaming, hopefully satisfying any gamers who are unable to choose which view they prefer.
The Fallout series is a great example of a game which utilises both first and third-person perspectives, when in combat you’re able to view the battle through your character’s eyes, shooting and hacking down anyone in your way, even more helpful with the addition of V.A.T.S, a game exclusive targeting system. Then, once the dust has settled and you carry on your merry way through the Capital Wasteland or the Mojave Desert, you can flick into third-person to enjoy the sights and soak up the radioactive atmosphere of the world. It’s this type of perspective choice that I love in gaming, top it off with the fact that the previous games in the Fallout series were played from a top-down angle and you’ve got yourself a broad game which doesn’t discriminate against any kind of view.
There you have it, my rundown on the impact the right point-of-view can have on a video game, now you’re knowledgeable of a few different kinds of perspective in gaming and I didn’t even have time to cover them all. There are still dozens more games which each utilise altered or entirely unique view ports, just take a look next time and see how many different ones there really are.