Laura is done with her term, but I’ve got 20 pages to write between now and next Wednesday. Also, I’ve had a horrible virus that has left me sleeping for 16 hours a day, running a high fever, and swallowing like my throat is made of sand and ouch. I’m feeling a bit better today, but I’m not really working at the moment, so here is a quick post!
The more that I consider what exactly a second person shooter would be, the more I become convinced that our terminology is very odd. The phrase “second person” refers to a particular narrative mode where the reader is pulled into the text by being treated as the subject of discussion, as in Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City: “It’s ten-fifty when you get to Times Square. You come up on Seventh Avenue blinking. The sunlight is excessive. You grope for your shades.” In this sense, aren’t almost all games in the second person? Even “third person shooters” have you controlling someone, making them, to some extent, “you.”
For games, we’ve retooled the term “first person” to refer to perspective distance, not narrative mode. This makes sense, since we need a way to talk about our visual relationship with our on-screen body. But what about games where text is the primary means of communication? The terminology of perspective distance doesn’t make much sense here. I can’t even imagine what a “third person” text adventure would be if we used the ludic sense of the phrase.
Text games are dueling narratives—one that the game is telling to you, and one that you are telling to the game. Outputs and inputs. “Ye find yeself in yon dungeon. Ye see a FLASK.” And “Get ye flask.” The user input is usually directive, and the game’s output—the story—is usually in the second person. A text adventure in the first or third person would actually be pretty cool. Has anyone played one of these?
At any rate, as to the question “what is a second person shooter,” let me put forth my answer!
6) Almost any text adventure with guns.
You enter a room with seven Nazi Zombies. Obvious exits are NORTH and EAST.
Where would you like to shoot the zombies?
>In the head
Your pump action shotgun splatters fascist zombie brains all over the cave walls. That’s what they get for following you into your secret lair!
By the way, to anyone who hasn’t played it, GO PLAY SWITCHBREAK’S GAME. It is a second person shooter.