Strengths & Weaknesses of the First Person Point of View

Games as Psychology Lessons; A Different Perspective, 2  (Page 1)

Continuing’s article on the psychological effects of different video game perspectives, we come to the First Person Point of View, the perspective currently on top of the industry with First Person Shooters. Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the first person perspective before showing how this perspective forces our brain to work in certain ways. We shall then continue through third person, side-on and top-down perspectives before revealing how the psychological laws of video game perspectives can be applied to real life in order to aid in personality improvement.

First Person Point of View

(e.g First Person Shooter, e.g  the latest Call of Duty (Modern Warfare 3)


As can be seen by the first person perspective image above, by being set in the first person perspective, a game acquires the following strengths and weaknesses.

 Strengths: First Person point-of-view games are the most immediate. This perspective puts the gamer right into the heart of the action. It sets the gamer closer to the environment of the game world and merges the character and the player (because the player is literally walking in the character’s shoes). It creates the illusion that the player themselves are pulling the trigger (they are the soldier on the front line).  This is the most intense, immediate and visceral of all game perspectives.

Weaknesses: The player is always looking from 1 angle and must rotate in order to see the whole world.

Overall: The player is very involved with the environment and more responsive to it, but it is hard to get the big picture (to see the whole world at any one moment).

First  Person Point of View

Third Person (e.g Third Person Shooter, Gears of War 3):

Fairly similar to 1st person but with a few key difference.


Strengths: Again, immediate (though a little less so) and very much involves the player in the action. Most importantly, however, and unlike First Person, Third Person clearly differentiates between the player and their character. The strength of this is that it makes the player feel in control of their character. Hence, one could say Marcus Fenix is more important than a FPS character because he is more visible, and because the player is so clearly in control of a very powerful character, the player themselves feels more powerful by association.

First Person Point of Vie

Weakness: Whilst the player feels strong in the sense that they are in control of a godly character, they also feel weakened in the sense that it is not them; they are not performing the actions themselves, but rather controlling a character who is performing the actions for them. This is most easily understood by considering the FPS player to be the soldier on the front line and the 3rd Person Shooter player as being the commander standing somewhat out of the battle.

Overall: The player is still involved with the environment and responsive to it but they  are somewhat set back from the heat of the action, which makes them less responsive but more in control.  Viewst Person Point of View

Shortly, we shall look at how to incorporate these perspectives into our own lives. To make sure we can effectively make use of perspective, however, let’s take a close-up view of how these perspectives have influenced the way we, as players, interact with games based on their perspective. To do so, let’s take a look at some of the best examples of each with Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, Starcraft 2 and Street Fighter 4. These close-up looks will illustrate how the way we look at a game (and indeed the way we look at our own lives) greatly effects the way we interact with the game (and the way we live our lives).

First Person Point of View

Modern Warfare 3 (The First Person Perspective

As was discussed above, the First Person perspective used in games like the latest Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 places us directly at the heart of the action. We are fully engaged with the game’s environment, we react as soon as something happens, and we ourselves are  in the game, more so than a character. These factors immediately shape the way our brain works when we are playing the game. First Person games make our brains work in the following ways.

We are impulsive: In FPSs it is impossible to see the whole game world at once. We are given a limited view. This means that we are always at risk of a surprise attack. For instance, an enemy could come up from behind us unseen. Because of this threat, we are forced to be more impulsive and reactive so as to quickly fend off any threat to ourselves.

We make split-second decisions:  Because of the threat discussed above, we are often forced to make very quick decisions. For instance, let’s assume we hear something behind us. We turn. We could be killed immediately. We must very quickly make a choice of action. Do we attack, run, hide, etc?

We take risks: Again, because we must make quick decisions, we often have to act on only limited information. We hear something, we see something moving but can’t be sure what it is. Do we attack? If so we are taking the risk of inadvertently killing an ally.

We choose our view: We can only look in one direction and so we must make a choice of where to focus our attention.

Associated: we are the character.

So, in First Person Shooters we have: Quick decisions / impulsiveness / risks / choice of view / associated.

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More on the Psychology of shooting games
FPSs & Real life war          Psychology of shooting games       Why you should play more games               FPSs: Why we Kill              Psychology of the First Person Perspective           Terrorism & FPSs           On Video Game Addiction



Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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