My point of view on POV..

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Wade Wellman

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
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*collects self*

In interactive fiction you aren't living an event, you're being told a
story. You. Sitting out there right now. Staring at a screen with your hands
on a keyboard or a mouse or a bag of pretzels. The story has already been
written, you're only being given the opportunity to choose how it
progresses.

This means that as a writer the traditional narrative styles, (first,
second, third person) have an entirely different effect.

In conventional fiction first-person can feel deliciously intimate. It's
like having the opportunity to read someone else's diary. To get inside
their head and watch what they think while they do what they do. You wonder
along with them. It becomes fascinating when the character is unlike you.
Understanding how they react, and realizing why, are wonderful feelings.

Usually IF requires that the player be in control. Any first-person IF will
necessarily need a character who is (at least partially) submissive to
the wills of _someone else_. The particlar magic of first-person fiction is
gone. "What should _I_ do?" asks the character. He/she/it can express
distaste at your suggestions but is at least listening. IMHO: First-person IF
works best, i.e. with the most realism (eek! mimesis!) with entirely
submissive characters. The best I've seen was the robots in "Suspended". They
had to do what you told them, so any character traits they had (and those
were charming) were secondary to acting on YOUR wishes. _You_ weren't the
robot, but you saw the world through the robots' eyes.. and all descriptions
said "I" and "my" instead of "you" and "your".

Third-person suffers even more. Now it is the _author_ who has become
submissive. "Where should my story go now?" asks the writer. The author
knows the characters and can tell you "Billy doesn't answer the phone on
the first ring, he's reading comics! The machine will get it." Billy doesn't
personally need to say "No way, dude. I'm reading comics, let the machine
get it." and break the fourth wall. Unforunately, unless the plot is loose
and mutable and the characters are flimsy or indestinct, a player's
opportunities for choice all but disappear.

If it had been written as such.. "The Space Under the Window" could have
been in third person and worked splendidly... but it still ends up feeling
more limited than...

SECOND-PERSON

Now the storyteller is neither a submissive character nor a submissive
author. The writer becomes _your_ senses. Even if the character you play
isn't you... it is _you_ playing. The Beatles are just about to break up and
YOU ARE THERE! Yes, this makes character more difficult to establish
concretely... yes, it leads to lots of anonymous 20th century 20somethings
flying through space, vanquishing dragons, and bringing about the end of the
universe... but that is because it realistically addresses the fact that
_YOU_ are playing a game.

---
what am i trying to say
---

Arthur Dent wouldn't even consider eating the bulldozer.
Tracy ain't the sort who puts barbed wire in her nose.
A sensible Meldrew isn't going to attempt to kill everyone.
Ms. Spenser just ain't the type who scrapes parrots.

Anonymous 20th century 20somethings...
of all ages... bless their twisted hearts...

DO and ARE and WILL TRY TO MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS ANYHOW!

So I find that the more we allow _the player_ to choose what happens.. and
thus the more we allow "you" to. The more pleasing a game tends to be.

Not that I wouldn't love to see someone prove me wrong.
Because I'm almost sure someone will.
And I can't wait.

*shrug*

WMW

Den of Iniquity

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
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On 9 Sep 1998, Wade Wellman wrote:
>This means that as a writer the traditional narrative styles, (first,
>second, third person) have an entirely different effect.
>
>In conventional fiction first-person can feel deliciously intimate.

I dunno if it's just me, but I think it's a matter of form and content.
The form is first person, the perspective is an intimate one. Literature
is full of examples in which the intimate details of a character or
characters, down to their thought processes, are conveyed in the third
person. Indeed if you want to write a conventional story from
multiple-viewpoints but give it this intimacy, you're pretty much bound to
the third person, otherwise you'd waste plenty of paragraphs explaining
which new character the 'I' of this chapter refers to.

However it's clear that people are fussier about the viewpoint that is
portrayed in interactive fiction than they are in the static form. I don't
think this is because of the identity of the PC, but because of the way
the game is commanded. Certainly it's obvious why the past tense is an
uncomfortable form - i-f is commanded, naturally, in the imperative, which
in English is grounded in the present tense. To switch between this and
another tense really gets in the way of disbelief-suspension.

I'm not so sure about why second person is so preferable to first or
third. Initially I was tempted to write it off as habit. The majority of
i-f is in the second person. But I think Wade is on to something. The PC
may have a completely different character to you yourself, may be a
different gender, colour, race, creed, sexuality, whatever. But you can't
get away from the fact that you're receiving the PC's sensory information
and more importantly, you're guiding the PC, trying, at least, to make the
PC's decisions. And that's the key, I think. I think the best way to write
i-f in the first or third person so that it can be read comfortably is to
do away with PC's altogether.

No, stop looking at me like that, I mean it. If you interact with the
story, influence the chain of events by _other_ means than by choosing a
PC's actions, then you'll be more comfortable with a first or third person
viewpoint. How would you do that? Well, it could be something like The
Space Under The Window (who, after playing the Chicken Under The Window,
said "I can't relate to this: the chicken is presented to me in the third
person"?), or some similar hypertextual thing; maybe you could influence a
story by typing abstract pretentious things like 'hunger', 'satiation',
'change', 'stagnation' at the prompt (I'm never going to get round to
trying this one out, I think, so I'm letting you in on my idea). Or maybe
something that no-one's thought of yet.

--
Den


Mark Stevens

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
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On 9 Sep 1998 05:45:56 GMT, dece...@sonic.net (Wade Wellman) wrote:

>In interactive fiction you aren't living an event, you're being told a
>story.

I can't honestly remember how this whole POV thing started, although
it currently looks like people are trying to determine the ideal POV
for the medium.

But the medium doesn't necessarily dictate the POV -- it's the story.
And that's what a lot of people seem to be forgetting. I do a lot of
fiction writing myself and can't honestly recall a time when I've
deliberated long and hard about which POV I should use for any
particular story. Sure, the POV is very important, but I've always
found that any particular POV seems to exist within the very seed of
an idea.

Having said that, most of my fiction tends to be in the first-person,
the rest in third-person. Oddly enough, although my previous attempts
at IF (largely confined to the 8-bit era) were all in the conventional
second-person, my first major piece of Inform-based IF (which will
hopefully see the light of day some time next year) is being written
in first-person.

Back to what I was saying earlier about the *story* dictating the POV
rather than the medium. That's true to a certain extent, but then we'd
probably find that more books are written in third-person than any
other POV, just as most pieces of interactive fiction are written in
the second person.

I guess the second-person POV is a little trickier to employ
successfully (in novels) than first or third, mainly because it's
involving the reader, to some extent. The reader might not necessarily
*want* to be part of the action. This is one of the reasons why I
found Iain Banks' 'Complicity' to be particularly cunning, putting the
reader in the shoes of someone who's committing some extremely violent
revenge attacks. Ooh, and don't forget the movie 'Strange Days',
various portions of which force the viewer into a second-person POV.

Erm, I'm sure I intended to make a point when started writing this,
but I've completely forgotten what it was. And I'm hungry too.


/\/)ark

http://www.sonance.demon.co.uk/


Drone

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
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In article <6t54mk$ba7$1...@ultra.sonic.net>, dece...@sonic.net (Wade
Wellman) wrote:

> *collects self*
>

The thread's becoming that oppressive, is it? :)

> Third-person suffers even more. Now it is the _author_ who has become
> submissive. "Where should my story go now?" asks the writer.

Heh heh. Reminds me of those beginner Infocom prompts.

--- BEGIN TRANSCRIPT: AUTHOR V. PLAYER ---

What do you want to do next?
>I DUNNO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO

But where should my story go?
>YOU TELL ME

Please! I have to know!
>GO WEST

The story goes west. (You like me! You really like me!)
[Your score has gone up.]

--- END TRANSCRIPT ---

> knows the characters and can tell you "Billy doesn't answer the phone on
> the first ring, he's reading comics! The machine will get it." Billy doesn't
> personally need to say "No way, dude. I'm reading comics, let the machine
> get it." and break the fourth wall. Unforunately, unless the plot is loose
> and mutable and the characters are flimsy or indestinct, a player's
> opportunities for choice all but disappear.
>

You show two functionally identical responses here. Either way, it means
'You can't do that.' How does the one restrict the player's choices more
than the other? I don't see how this follows. Or maybe I mistook your
meaning.

[with second person]


> Now the storyteller is neither a submissive character nor a submissive
> author.

No it's just a submissive computer. Seriously, since viewpoint doesn't
really have any impact on how likely the protagonist is to 'submit' to
your command (that's based entirely on whether the author decided to code
an effect for that command and what that specific effect contains) -- I
consider these things separate issues.

Drone.

TenthStone

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Sep 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/11/98
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foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone) caused this to appear in our
collective minds on Wed, 09 Sep 1998 04:57:05 -0500:

>In article <6t54mk$ba7$1...@ultra.sonic.net>, dece...@sonic.net (Wade
>Wellman) wrote:
>
>> *collects self*
>
>The thread's becoming that oppressive, is it? :)

Oh, the weight. The weight. Please. Help.

>> Third-person suffers even more. Now it is the _author_ who has become
>> submissive. "Where should my story go now?" asks the writer.

Where does his story go now?
A brief essay on philosophically meandering in a realistic assumed ego

Yea, O Muse, insuffregate these your Servants and allow them free
Reign over your Meadows of Creativity.

>--- BEGIN TRANSCRIPT: AUTHOR V. PLAYER ---
>
>What do you want to do next?
>>I DUNNO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO
>
>But where should my story go?
>>YOU TELL ME
>
>Please! I have to know!
>>GO WEST
>
>The story goes west. (You like me! You really like me!)
>[Your score has gone up.]

South is more likely.

-----------

The inperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

Doeadeer3

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Sep 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/14/98
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In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98090...@ebor.york.ac.uk>, Den of
Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:

>And that's the key, I think. I think the best way to write
>i-f in the first or third person so that it can be read comfortably is to
>do away with PC's altogether.
>
>No, stop looking at me like that, I mean it. If you interact with the
>story, influence the chain of events by _other_ means than by choosing a
>PC's actions, then you'll be more comfortable with a first or third person
>viewpoint.

But you're not really standing off and looking at the PC as a separate
character. At least when I play a game, I'm not. The only time I do that is
when I look at myself (and the description may only change from the default if
the author coded for that).

I am looking outward, through the eyes of the character. So the PC is almost
invisible anyway. Where second person comes in is when the parser addresses
you, "You can't do that." I can't see dumping that altogether as there has to
be some way to limit the player's actions because one can't code for every
possibility.

Parser responses could be first person, I suppose, but it would be difficult to
come up with appropriate (and unawkward) first person responses to all actions
(and to those actions that can't be taken).

Maybe I have misunderstood the whole first-second-third person discussion, but
it seemed like that is what people were talking about, the parser's responses.

>or some similar hypertextual thing; maybe you could influence a
>story by typing abstract pretentious things like 'hunger', 'satiation',
>'change', 'stagnation' at the prompt (I'm never going to get round to
>trying this one out, I think, so I'm letting you in on my idea).

There would still have to be some feedback from the game for those player
"states", "You are hungry. You are no longer hungry.", so I don't see how that
changes anything, really. But maybe I am not getting what you mean.

Doe :-)

Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

Den of Iniquity

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Sep 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/16/98
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On 14 Sep 1998, Doeadeer3 wrote:

>Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:
>>And that's the key, I think. I think the best way to write
>>i-f in the first or third person so that it can be read comfortably is to
>>do away with PC's altogether.

>>[...]


>>maybe you could influence a story by typing abstract pretentious things
>>like 'hunger', 'satiation', 'change', 'stagnation' at the prompt
>

>There would still have to be some feedback from the game for those player
>"states", "You are hungry. You are no longer hungry.", so I don't see how that
>changes anything, really. But maybe I am not getting what you mean.

OK, rough example thrown together transcript suggestion to elucidate the
concept.

She stared at the screen until strange things happened to her focus. The
letters loomed at her in an unfriendly way and the edges of the display
seemed to sidle away as if not wanting to have any part of this visual
victimisation. She rubbed her tired eyes and stared again. The monitor was
innocently restored to its former appearance but as she stared at the
message the letters began to do that creepy thing again. She'd been at
this too long, she knew, but she had been determined to make sense of the
post. Even if it involved ROT-13-ing it all again and trying to decipher
the hidden message that must lie within.

>HUNGER

She hit the INBOX menu button. The fourteen messages reappeared, all
'read', none interesting any more. She hit the INBOX button again, and
again, refreshing the screen with a quick flicker. Fourteen messages. 14.
XIV. She hit the button again. Fourteen. Damian had to write again. He had
to. He might be writing now, might be pressing 'Send' this very moment.
The message might be on its way. Might have just arrived. She hit INBOX
again. Fourteen messages. Thirteen dull and boring messages and one
cryptic promise of 'more tomorrow'. Well it was already tomorrow. Hell, it
was nearly the day after tomorrow already. Fourteen. What had happened?

>UNDO
>STAGNATION

Letters were smeared against letters. She thought she saw words resolving
from those seemingly random message headers. "Like seeing faces in
clouds," she thought, and Damian's face appeared on the screen, made up
from the spaces between the letters, white between black or black between
white - which were the words and which the spaces? She could no longer
tell. The whole swirled in front of her face, false colours spreading from
the edges. She thought she heard whispers from the screen. She closed her
eyes and became aware of all the noise around her, the hum from the
monitor, from the hard-drive, from the cooling fan. The ticks of the
clock, the rush and splash of cars through the puddles outside, the gritty
tap of rain on the skylight. And straining through all this to hear the
whisper of the words she thought she heard the echo of dead silence.

>UNDO
>SATIATION

That was it. No more. Couldn't take any more. Her head was pounding,
probably some sort of new migraine-inducing monitor-radiation that the
scientists hadn't found yet. She needed sleep, desperately, and if
Damian's message was so unimportant that it must wait a bit longer then so
be it [...]

>UNDO
>CHANGE

Beep! New message - but this one was from Dad. Her bloodshot eyes widened,
she suddenly felt a little more awake. What was Dad doing up so late? She
double-clicked on the little envelope icon and [...]


Hmm, maybe those aren't the best 'abstract pretentious things' for the
purpose and obviously you'd actually want to plan first so that you could
get a useful story from each of these avenues - as well as contriving to
rejoin the branches further down the line. Maybe I've made them a bit too
separate (then again, this could be a pivotal plot moment ;) but the idea
would be to use the choices over and over to have some sway over the plot.
A second "HUNGER" after the first one might lead to her picking up the
phone to try to contact Damian. A second "STAGNATION" could get very silly
indeed - more likely bring about loss of consciousness, forcing a "CHANGE"
to the story (which is why I worry about using these particular concepts
to drive the thing).

But hopefully you now get the idea.

--
Den


Doeadeer3

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Sep 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/16/98
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In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98091...@ebor.york.ac.uk>, Den of
Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:

I get it. But, IMO, you are very strange.

Doe :-) (Could be a compliment.)

Den of Iniquity

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Sep 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/17/98
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On 16 Sep 1998, Doeadeer3 wrote:

>Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes:
>
>>But hopefully you now get the idea.
>

>I get it. But, IMO, you are very strange. [...] (Could be a compliment.)

Er, thanks. I think.

> I know. I just WANT TO USE ACRONYMS. GIVE ME MORE ACRONYMS!!!
>
> Muhahahahahahahaha!

Quite.

--
Den


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