All of my writings for school are done.  My brain hurts, and migranes have inflicted me with temporary blindness. I wrote 35 pages in two days and read over a thousand pages in one weekend to prepare myself for the process. Now I cannot focus my eyes more than five feet in front of my face, and I have a headache. Hooray!

So I wrote this frivolous thing. It is a list of all possible definitions of the ‘Second Person Shooter.’  See, most of the random web searches that get directed here are phrases like “definition second person shooter” or “example second person shooter.” People out there want to know what a second-person shooting-people video-game would look and feel like. And they think we know? Pah! We don’t.

Frankly, we’re curious, too. We picked the name “Second Person Shooter” basically because it sounded interesting. Our excuse: we were despairing. We’d just spent over an hour combining random nouns in the hope that something would click, but we’d only come up with monstrosities like “Antelope Rapture” and “Black Hole Church.” (I still think either of those would have been awesome. Perhaps we can sell them to nameless indie-rock bands.) At any rate, we are definitely not the experts on what a ‘second person shooter’ would look like. I myself don’t think that a second person shooter would be any fun to play, unless the idea was approached with a certain amount of drunken levity.


In this game, you have control over yourself, in a first-person perspective, and over another individual, the shooter. It would be a little bit like that one team-building exercise where blindfolded people team up with non-blindfolded people who shout instructions at them while they and navigate mazes or throw yarn balls at one another. Have you ever done that? I did it once at a summer camp staff training, and it was horrible.

Anyway, for this game, I’m thinking of things along the lines of the robot segments from TLC’s Logic Quest. Remember that one? You had to program a robot-like boxy-man painted up to look like a king or a knight. He was always inside this weird kind of spacious jail cell, and you would have to program him with a set of commands that would let him unlock the cell. Anyway, this variety of second person shooter would require your embodied digital self to either 1) program or 2) directly control a separate individual who has a gun. Objective: shoot dudes without getting you or your puppet-man shooter shot. It would be INCREDIBLY COMPLEX. There would be WAAAY TOO MANY CONTROLS. Basically, this setup would translate poorly to the kind of moment-by-moment excitement of a shooter— it would be awesome, but only for five minutes. After which point every player would either tear the game directly out of their hard-drives with the brute psycho-magnetic force of their unholy rage, or commit pathetic, despairing suicide in the drippy corner of their local basement. That’s what I did after a few sessions of Logic Quest. Yep.


Such a game almost already exists. It’s Night of the Cephalopods: A Terrifying Experiment in Narrative Excess, a lovely bit of indie freeware from 2008. In it, you, the terrified Lovecraftian protagonist, run through a foggy forest while squidly-face monsters chase you. You shoot them. EVERY TIME YOU DO ANYTHING, the narrator describes it. There aren’t too many variations in the voiceovers, so you’ll quickly reach the extent of your amusement with this game—but for its length and complexity, it’s brilliant. It would BE  a second person shooter, except the descriptions are phrased in first-person rather than second.


I’m thinking of something in the style of The Onion’s ‘Close Range’, but instead the player is the guy who gets shot. And dies. Over and over. Or maybe the player never dies, and just stands there while he or she gets shot again and again for no reason. Not sure which would be more effective. Basically, though, that’s the bottom line: you watch as someone shoots you over and over and over and over again. Infinitely. Not much else to say about this idea. Maybe the environments would change? In one level, you’d stand there while people shot you in a jungle; then there’s be an ice level, and every time you’re shot your body would physics-slide all around the map, ragdolling against barriers? No idea. Not even sure where player action would fit into this game.

(Also: the staff members of the embarrassing college humor magazine I write for consider Close Range to be one of our favorite-ever videos. New recruits sometimes have a hard time understanding why we love it so much. But we do. It is sublime. And I love the Max Payne references.)


Pros: Would teach our children the important moral binaries they will need in order to navigate the modern, adult cultural world.

Cons: Would be very short. Also, very easy. Too easy.

5)      …GOD OF WAR?

While checking over this post, Kent suggested to me that the famous from-the-victim’s-perspective death scene in GoW III is a second-person death scene. A shooter version of that, he posits, would be a second-person shooter. So: like idea number 3, but instead of playing the silent victim, you’d shoot yourself. Gosh! So  crazy!

I would only play this game if there were a bit where time slowed down while the bullet flew towards your face, and you had to contemplate the philosophical profundity of your self-capping act.

Leave a comment


  1. Now I want to make all of these.

    • lauramichet

       /  June 2, 2010

      I would totally love to see how you’d do some of these, actually.

      On an unrelated/vaguely related note, are you going to be making a game for the Casually Addictive experimental gameplay theme?

      • I have an idea for one, and I think their longer time limit may give me a chance of getting it done this time.

        Embarrassingly, my current project was originally thought up as a one-week idea for May’s theme, but a mixture of procrastination, a full-time job and life means I’m still working on it a month later.

  2. HF

     /  June 2, 2010

    What about that NES game Battle Toads? There is one (or more?) boss battles where the screen is from the POV of a giant bad-guy robot, and he is shooting stuff (rocks?) at your guy. So you run around and pick up rocks and throw them back AT yourself/ the screen (which is the bad guy).

    I would describe that as 2nd-person shooting. Maybe?

    • lauramichet

       /  June 2, 2010

      You’re totally right: that probably does count as second-person shooting. In the same vein as the GoW situation, anyway.

    • There’s also the boss battle in Psychonauts where you have to use clairvoyance to see through the boss character’s eyes while you psy-blast it.

    • T

       /  June 4, 2010

      I came to the comments just to point this out. The first time I played Battletoads and got to one of those bosses I thought, ‘Hey, a second-person shooter.’

  3. That last picture is misleading. Shooting Dracula with anything other than a wooden arrow or crossbow bolt will only make him mad, and James K. Polk is widely known to be a space alien (hence his low-profile presidency). Honestly, it’s like you’re not even taking this seriously.

    Oh, and I call dibs on Antelope Rapture.

    • lauramichet

       /  June 4, 2010

      go ahead with the antelope rapture. So long as your outrageous indie band’s first CD under that name features cover art with antelopes bounding skyward on it.

  4. How about the bits where you control Snake while being targetting through the scope in the boss fight against The End?

    That’s second person shooter to me…

    • s/targetting/targetted/

    • But in that case, it’s nearly impossible for the player to shoot the viewer (SPS [ooh fancy acronym {I haven’t been this parenthetical in ages!}] as in God of War III). And you don’t control The End shooting Snake either. So it’s more a Give-And-Take-Person Shooter. Which nicely forms GATPS.

      I see an opportunity for Unangband to include second-person shooting abilities and be truly unique, here, by the by.

      • lauramichet

         /  June 4, 2010

        It looks like we’re kind of agreeing that ‘person’ in game terms really means ‘perspective.’ So a second-person shooter would be a shooter where you look at yourself from another embodied perspective, the same way a second person story is one where you experience the narrative of your adventures from another intelligent, not-you perspective. (‘Yourself,’ of course, being whoever has the agency in the story– in this case, the gun.)
        It seems to me that such a game would necessarily urge its players to identify with the person the perspective is FROM as much as with the more-remote avatar to which their identities are purportedly assigned. I mean, this is exactly what happens in GOW III. So yeah, like you say, a SPS would be practically impossible to pull off in multiplayer, and would be more of a GATPS– I mean, the exercise would be interesting enough on its own, but I feel like the real power of the second person perspective would be in singleplayer, in inducing cringeworthy situations, like in GOW, where your alienation from your own actions makes them seem stranger or more brutal. The person whom the perspective is coming from doesn’t need to have much agency. Poseidon doesn’t. He just gets the shit kicked out of him.
        Then again, we keep thinking of the second person perspective as being in the body of the person who gets the shit kicked out of them. There could be other great ways to make things emotionally affecting without putting the perspective under Kratos’ fists, so to speak.

  5. labbel2003

     /  June 4, 2010

    your thoughts remind me of a game I played once:
    Second Person Shooter: Missing Inaction
    From the description:
    “you control yourself through the eyes of the bot, but you do not control the bot”
    try it:–Missing-Inaction.shtml

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  10. Linco

     /  March 15, 2015

    I think the 5th person comes closest to what I see as a second person shooter: suicide quest. Basically your hand is personified as a separate person. The actions you take constitute game play which indirectly affect your emotions which then indirectly affect your hand’s action to kill you or not.

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