Point of View and Video Games

Here are some fun examples of point of view in classic video games. Hopefully these games are familiar to most readers, if not, see the gameplay clips (I am not promoting the style of play or creators of the clips, just trying to show what the game is like). Make sure to learn about the terms I use by reading my previous post, Point of View: Third Person!

Omniscient Close (third person): Final Fantasy VI

FFVI is a superb example of omniscience because there are multiple characters and multiple plotlines, all equally important, and all work together to create the overall story. Some parts of the story are more like shifting limited (when the pov focuses temporarily on a single character) but overall the interactions and community of the main party is what creates the game. FFVI is close because we have personal insight into each character’s stats and abilities as well as their thoughts, emotions, and histories through cutscenes and player-directed interactions.

Final Fantasy VI Gameplay

Limited Close (third person): Harvest Moon DS

Harvest Moon focuses on a single character (you) and your attempts to rebuild a farm and start a family. The game is definitely limited, even though other characters play important roles, because the other characters are only important when they interact with your character. Harvest Moon is very close because, as with FFVI, you not only have complete access to stats and abilities but you also have cutscenes that allow you to see your character’s thoughts. In Harvest Moon, players also directly control their character’s emotions by making them fall in love, so there is a great degree of immediacy and emotional closeness.

Harvest Moon Romance Cutscene

Limited Distant (third person): Super Mario Bros.

In this example, we are clearly following a single character because the screen moves with Mario. He is the protagonist. However, we have no insight into his thoughts or feelings. We do see the number of coins and lives he has, but this is information we could glean externally as well (how rich does he look? how healthy?). A clear case of third person, limited and distant.

Super Mario Brothers Gameplay

Omniscient Distant (third person): The Legend of Zelda

In this example, it isn’t clear who the protagonist is unless you are the one with the controller. The screen remains in place and various monsters and characters move around within it, making the game far more omniscient. If you are watching the screen with no previous knowledge of the game, you might not realize who the main character is and think the other characters are equally important. The world has a much bigger role, and other characters are given voices. In terms of distance the game is similar to Mario: you see wealth and health, and now weapons/items, but those would be visible to an outside viewer.

Legend of Zelda Gameplay

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