I love this article! This particular line struck me:
The design idea that the first-person perspective is a tool to generate a particular feeling of a place instead of a particular way of enacting power is part of how these games are shifting.
Cameron discusses the shift away from first-person as a vehicle for a particular kind of combat experience, and towards a variety of experiences which emphasize observation, or simply looking. Whether it’s through investigation of a space, or bearing witness to events, observation is often what progresses the game. Another way to describe this type of experience is voyeurism. Gone Home, Tacoma, Obra Dinn, Deus Ex, Bioshock - all of these games are investigative to varying degrees, but all of them also play upon the player’s desire to know what they aren’t supposed to know.
In a game like Deus Ex, that often means learning of all-the-way-to-the-top conspiracies, but, in getting access to that information, you are also often learning about the relationships and personal lives of the people who occupied the space you now occupy. Prey went as far as to gamify this incidental learning, with side quests about exploring the remnants of characters’ relationships (which also happened to give you an item or a new quest upon completing them).
Gone Home is explicitly just an investigation into the lives of others. You’re digging through people’s stuff and learning their darkest secrets, certainly without their consent. Gone Home’s story could be told in under a minute, and it’s a compelling story to tell, but it works as an experience almost entirely because of the thrill of discovery, of holding that secret notebook, of connecting those dots yourself.
I am currently playing RDR2, and lamenting its quests. I don’t want to ride my horse into town with Dutch or whatever, I don’t want to do a cool shootout. What I want to do is ride around and find weird shit. I want to get these map pieces and puzzle out where they are, and what they’re hiding. I want to stumble into a homestead and dig through drawers, reading footprints and notes alike. In Tacoma, I could go into the engine room and watch what happened when it blew to progress the quest, but first I’m gonna follow this arguing couple, and then I’m gonna go to their bunk and read their notes.
I love seeing Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor post a picture on his social media of himself wearing the Sleep No More mask. I am living for this voyeurism renaissance. There is something special about exploring a frozen moment in time, whether literally, like Tacoma, or figuratively, as in these abandoned places we so often visit in games of this ilk. I relish taking in the tableaux from every angle, through which you can glean so, so much about everyone and everything within it. It’s one step closer towards the (my) holy grail of a fully-realized detective game, and it’s also just darkly thrilling to be sneaky.
oh and lastly RDR2 in FPS mode in Standard FPS control scheme, with all the look speeds turned all the way up, the joystick deadzones set to 0, and horse camera set to third-person is an INCREDIBLE way to play that game