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The power of the subjective POV.

i would like to start this response by saying that these series of essay by Alexander Galloway is very technical and a bit difficult to follow. Nevertheless, I do find them enjoyably complex and informative. One of the essays I found very interesting was chapter 2 ‘ Origins of the first person shooter.’ In this chapter, Galloway connects two medias, film and video games, where each borrows and teaches the other. Galloways gets my attention as a reader, when he begins analysing classic movies and the use of the ‘gaze.’ He states that there are four, “The audience’s look, the camera’s look, the intradiegetic look between characters and the fourth look – the look at the viewer by an onscreen character.” (galloway 40)

The subjective shot, Galloway states, is one which allows the viewer to feel a sense of alienation, detachment and fear. In games this becomes a way in which the gamer can get a sense of motion and intuition- key features of any game. The eye of the camera, Galloway notes, in movies most commonly given to aliens and monsters (galloway, 50) and so the eye of the camera constitutes a predatory gaze. This gives and interesting perspective to the use of ‘the subjective point of view’ used in video games. As a person who like games suck as ‘Call of duty’ or ‘Red faction’ where the camera depicts your character mostly shooting, it offers this sense of the ‘other’ or the monstrous horror of killing another somewhat more real. Similar to movies where the camera shifts back and forth from and into the subjective, first player shooters in a game mostly tend stay in that position, making the thrill of killing or other horrors less distant and more real. Some argue that this lessening  of distance between the player and the game, makes it more viable for young gamers to think that this is completely normal. Yet Galloway argues that first player shooter games seem to be made the scapegoat, as there are games which do not use the medium of ‘subjective point of view’ and are more or equally as violent.

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “The power of the subjective POV.

  1. It is interesting to think as the first person angle as a way of alienation and not as a way to create a sense of attachment. You mention Call of Duty and Red faction. These are both first person shooters. Another very popular game that uses this view is Skyrim. What all these titles have in common is that they all involve killing and slaughtering of others, whether it be with a gun or a blunt weapon. This in a way does separate society from these games, mainly because most people have not killed someone, with most exceptions being men and women that have served in the military and have been part of combat overseas. Maybe this is the game developer’s way of separating us from the characters. We feel uneasy being in the shoes of a killer or behind a gun, making us not attached, but detached to the character that we are playing.

    Posted by jamesste | June 13, 2013, 11:36 am
    • I think its unfair to group Skyrim with games like Call of Duty and Red Faction. CoD and Red Faction are games based solely on combat, where killing is an absolute necessity to be successful in the game, there is no way to avoid it. Skyrim is more of a true role playing game, where killing is often an option, but just as often quite avoidable. The goal of Skyrim is to put the player in the shoes of an extraordinary character in a different time and world. There is so much more to Skyrim than killing, there’s the interactions with computer characters and the building of a virtual life. I think in Skyrim the use of first person, particularly during violent parts of game play, helps associate with the character more. Because there are other parts to the game and the violence is more of a last resort, the player would feel more of a connection with their character.

      Posted by Ben Tarhan | June 13, 2013, 11:42 am
    • You argue that first person point of view gives the feeling of alienation mainly because most people have not had the experience of killing or slaughtering someone. In my post I mention that it is a actually the opposite, as the subjective view makes the gamer feel on and whole with the character he / she is playing. You state that on feels uneasy whilst playing the game, yet violent games are very popular amongst young people. I love playing first person shooter games, I have found that when I play such games the other side of me, a more monstrous side comes out. I wouldn’t think twice before shooting an enemy in the game, but in reality I wouldn’t even dream about it. Games like these offer us another sort of experience, playing with a darker side.

      Posted by aditipre | June 13, 2013, 12:18 pm
    • I also found this of particular interest. Perhaps in third-person adventures, since in those you are constantly staring at the character, you grow to identify and connect with that image. When the perspective is in first person that element goes away and it makes the focus much more on the experience or events taking place and removes the direct visual link with the character, and I can understand the assertion that this means that without that we are therefore more so at a distance mentally even though were are closer physically (so to speak). When I think of my favorite characters, none of them are from my favorite FPS games–Joanna Dark, Bond, Master Chief, all great but it’s not like we’re talkin about Solid Snake or Sonic here.

      I’d be interested to ask a diehard Metroid fan what they thought of the Prime transition. In one of the most-discussed perspective shifts of all time, the traditionally side-scrolling Metroid saga changed to a first-person 3D adventure on the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime. The hesitations and WTF-ness turned to adulation when Prime dropped and became pretty much the best game on the system (certainly top5), but the question remains: do we feel more distance from the already all-business Samus? I can’t say I agree when using this example. Zero Mission for the GBA was in the traditional side-scrolling perspective and Prime 2: Echoes was in the new perspective–in both we are given rare glimpses of Samus’ personality and I enjoyed both of those moments equally.

      Posted by bretth2 | June 14, 2013, 7:28 pm
  2. The first person shot definitely institutes a feeling of fear in the player. It puts you in the character’s shoes; your mind is more likely to play along with the ‘I could actually be in this situation’ mentality when displayed through a subjective shot. This plays a huge role in games like Doom III for original xbox. A more realistic continuation of its primitive pc predecessors, Doom III uses the subjective shot in its concoction of horror. Another factor they added in is darkness. Whether slight or severe, everybody is afraid of the dark; it’s human instinct to fear the unknown. As Doom III is based in an abandoned space settlement on Mars, there are PLENTY of pitch black hallways and rooms that the player is forced to navigate. To make matters worse, the flashlight and weapon must be used separately. So when you’re being bombarded by jacked monsters, spiders and giant floating alien heads, you must choose between seeing your attackers and firing aimlessly into the dark praying you make contact with whatever it is raging towards you. I remember playing this game with several friends sitting around me, jumping at each cleverly placed pop-out as I frantically tried to avoid death. In this instance, the subjective shot makes it as equally entertaining to watch than it is to play.

    Posted by sccrdude540 | June 14, 2013, 12:13 pm
  3. I also found these essays slightly difficult to follow but exciting to read once you grasp what he is trying to say. This particular essay was the most interesting for me because of its connection to film; something I enjoy reading about and was able to connect back to video games quite easily. I agree that using the subjective shot in video games gives the player a better sense of intuition- I am horrible at COD and one of the hardest things about this POV for me is that it seems a lot harder to know when someone is coming and then I always die. I also agree with Galloway that these games are no more violent than games than any other game that uses a different point of view. I think society is constantly trying to find ways to blame video games for various issues and this is just another opportunity that they have found to do so.

    Posted by sierrasu | June 15, 2013, 12:24 am
  4. The argument between POV and violence is fascinating. The shifting perspective in the different iterations of Metroid brought up by BRETTH2 is a great way to look at this discussion. In both context, the player controls Samus to kill aliens. In both contexts the player uses their own agency to kill. It’s definitely reasonable to say that the side-scrolling versions are more detached from our real life first person perspective than a FPS. However, this doens’t change the fact that the player is killing, it just puts it in a different perspective. In fact, if anything objectifies killing or murder, it would be the objectification of games with killing into genres like FPS or, more broadly, “Shooters.” Killing is a concept that is always deeply contextual and subjective. Form war to revenge to a particular psychological imbalance, each has its own particular justification. When the narrative that calls for the act is forgotten, “Shooters” start to lessen the value of life. This being said, as soon as the narrative disappears, representations of life are voided of all aspects of life beyond appearance. In this kind of play killing has more in common with target practice than murder. Without narrative, simulations of life are simulated targets.

    The idea of friendly fire in multiplayer shooters has more to do with actual violence than any narrative form of shooting. But this type of malice has more to do with disrupting another players game play than the in game murder/betrayal. The player who chooses to kill a teammate disregards gamic objective and violates in-game societal code. This annoyance isn’t unlike spamming someones audio feed and the in game killing is a tool to achieve a much more harmless out of game frustration. On a related note, the killing of atmospheric creatures that have no game value represents a type of non objective killing that seems to reflect a disregard for life. But, again, we cannot ignore the fact that the space is virtual. If a player is able to distinguish life from game, is there any harm?

    Posted by chasecon | June 23, 2013, 12:44 pm

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