First Person vs. Second Person

Haven’t read a passage of first person text in ages funnily enough. Reading that first paragraph was really jarring, it made me think “who is I?” :confused: I need to be immersed in a game, even if it’s more of an interactive novel. For me it makes me feel like a spectator, separate from the MC, so gives it more the feel of a traditional book. Just my reaction from that, did play a little of the samurai game, but only a bit, ages ago, not sure if any other COGs use first person?


Typically not a fan of first person point of view since it always feels like I’m playing as “the author” and I hate author self inserts.

However, there have been a few exceptions and I believe you can sort of get away with a first person point of view for the whole noir detective style genre.

If this was any other genre I’d probably say stick with 2nd person, but if you really feel strongly about doing this particular story in 1st person, I’d say go for it.


I think Samurai of Hyuga is the only CoG/HG I know of that uses first person, and I’m really not a fan. It feels much less immersive, like you’re reading about a different character instead of making it your own. Gameplay-wise, it really has no difference, but having the author use first person just gives off an alienating impression. What the author is writing is the internal monologue of the character, instead of just describing what’s happening to them, so it feels like the player has less control over what kind of person they’re playing.

I really second what @CoyoteaVegas said,

You can keep the same wording and tone you used in first person and still retain the personality of the work without making it feel so much like the character you’re playing is already established without the player’s input

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Thanks a lot for all your insight @CoyoteaVegas, It’s all really helpful. I completely understand how first person would alienate the player, since whatever the character’s tone might be imposes a personality on the character rather than letting the player choose.

It was actually intentional in this case since I’m intending the game play to be more about discovering clues and solving mysteries through detective work than building a character through decision making. I’m starting to think a game like that might not be too popular on this particular site though, since this is a site that specializes in allowing the player to create their own unique character through their choices.

I’m starting to rethink my original idea though, since I think it would be quite easy to incorporate decision making and character building into a game that also includes detective work and solving mysteries. For instance, maybe the player can decide whether to beat up the man, call the cops on him or just walk past and ignore it. :blush:


Thank you for your sage advice senpai. :slight_smile:

I was talking with another forum member about these issues today and then I saw this thread. Very timely!

And I’m starting to move into the “I’m getting tired of blank slate MCs” camp. Yes, I know some readers roleplay heavily and don’t want the main character taking strong positions on issues unless the player/reader gets a choice in the matter, but that generally results in blank slate MCs, or at best, MCs who aren’t as interesting as the other characters, because it’s a lot of freakin’ work writing and coding all the various possible reactions and then trying to repeatedly weave those seamlessly into the narrative.

Recently I’ve been taking a few minutes per day at work sketching out a story with a first-person MC, and it just flows so much more easily, more intimately, when the MC has some pre-determined personality. The reader would still guide the MC and plenty of choices would be presented, but the MC has a consistent personality and worldview that serve as the lens though which the story is told and hopefully result in the MC being the star of the show.

And another issue with second person (that can be worked around) is the over use of “you,” “your,” etc.

Consider these basic sentences:

First person: “I hang my cape by the door.”
Second person: “You hang your cape by the door.”

“I” and “my” sound different. That’s an advantage. “You” and “your,” especially used in back-to-back sentences, can quickly create some verrrrry bland passages.

All this being said, as was mentioned above, an author can still use second-person while creating a more robust MC with pre-determined personality. I think the “giving the MC more personality” is a bigger deal than using first person versus second person.


I’ve never understood people’s desire to be in the story themselves and to play as themselves. It’s a story with a fictional character as its protagonist. For me, it’s much more interesting to play as a developed character from the time period, with their own personality, rather than try and pretend that I am there doing all that.


I disagree heavily with the idea that a blank slate MC is inherently less interesting than an MC that was more or less made by the author. I mean to some extent the MC is automatically interesting to the reader, since it’s their character–even if the author feels like the character is bland, the player won’t, because its their character. Maybe looking at the code, yeah this is some flighty piece of cardboard that could do whatever no matter what, but the person playing that character more often than not has their own motivations and thought processes and the fun of the game is figuring out what of the available options would be best for your character to take given the situation they’re in.

And with regards to narration having to be intentionally bland because of that–@Scribblesome’s work in progress has a few different personalities your character can fit into, and some of the dialogue in the narration changes based on what personality your character has. Granted that it is a lot of work, but the pay off is undeniable–it allows for good, solid narration while still giving the player control over who their MC is.

Other people might disagree, but my interest wanes highly when I feel like a work is trying to tell a story about a specific person. I think in traditional videogames, this works because along with the story there’s also gameplay–fighting and exploring and running around and jumping and whatnot, it’s a game that the player is controlling. CoGs and HGs have ONLY the story. I’m sure to some extent a good CoG can be written about an already established character, but quite frankly I feel like if an author would rather be writing about a specific person, why not write a traditional novel? If the MC has a predetermined personality, would the player have only options that are in character with that personality? Would they be punished for taking options that are against that idea? It might be more compelling to write, but (and this is my personal opinion) I can’t help but imagine it’d be significantly less fun to play.


I disagree, blank slate MC kills a roleplaying game for me more often than not, in fact my definition of a good roleplaying game is a game where I end up caring just as much about the MC as I do the NPC, most often I do not. I can’t roleplay Skyrím for example. The Mc is just a blob of no personality, no consquence and people only want to rob them or worship them (Hyperbole, I know, but it feels like that to me).

Don’t get me wrong, COGs and Hosted are much better than ordinary rpgs because the text format allow for much more flexibility than a videogame, still a lot of games have an MC I don’t care about, which means I end up playing less for the MC’s story and more for the NPCs, which in turns means I can’t roleplay, because I don’t really care for the featureless blob MC. (And choosing how the MC looks is not what I describe as a feature, I don’t really care about that…)

I do not want to read about potentially everybody, I want to read and play about a specific person, granted I want a specific person who I have a hand in crafting, but I don’t mind to have some things decided as long as those traits make sense and have a purpose for the narrative. I can enjoy Skyrim because it is fun to blast thing with magic, but I can’t enjoy a story where I can’t care for the MC and I can’t care for the MC when they are not someone.

That said, first person and second person has zero to do with being a blank slate. I have read enough VNs to know that first person can be a blank slate as well. (And boring for it.) Just as second person can have personality. (I have seen both.). You can even have a third person narrator who is an almost completely blank slate. (A lot of video games do that, actually).


In the example you’ve given I feel like the first person version reads a bit better better, however it is a lot more personal. It’s easy to slip into it’s directly me rather than a “character me” which I think can make it trickier to write without pushing thoughts and feelings on the reader which may conflict with how they’re personally feeling.


You make interesting points about how the reader may fill in the MC’s “gaps,” inserting the reader’s worldview, personality, etc. And yes I think many readers do that. There is definitely an audience that roleplays as the main character.

But all of our imaginations work differently (thank goodness!), and as @Caruzzo and @DreamingGames point out, other readers don’t really get immersed to the point where the reader plays as herself, or himself. I’m probably in this camp.

I don’t view myself as the MC in CoGs/HGs, partially because the stories are usually pretty fanciful, and picturing myself, a schlubby lawyer in his 40s, running around with super heroes, or fighting aliens, or evading demons is more “unrealistic” and immersion-breaking than me just going with the flow and guiding the MC, who I usually view through a more “tropeish” viewpoint, meaning that I imagine the MC in Heroes Rise to be a young, somewhat goofy, college-age person instead of myself. I would have been 100% fine with the Heroes Rise MC talking in first-person or having more of a personality (other than being rather dim-witted :slight_smile:) My MC in CCH is admittedly a blank slate as well (at least to me as a writer), but I’m trying to use the motivation bars, combined with the persona bars, to let the players flesh that out a bit more. Still, I can’t consistently write scenes with each combination of persona/motivation. I would end up re-writing at least 4 (that’s just the motivations) versions of many scenes and never finish.

CoG has it’s own house rules that require the second-person format, but folks writing HGs could try to forge new ground and try some new stylistic approaches. I just think it would be fresh and different to have a few first-person POV offerings or MCs with a preset personality (or even a pre-set name, gender, etc.) I’d be down for that, as long as the story was compelling.

I’m cool “guiding” a character. In fact, I might get more emotionally involved guiding a super sympathetic main character (who I might start viewing as a friend) than I would “being” the main character. “Don’t die on me, damnit! Don’t die”


Divided We Fall! Which of course is third-person, presenting another option.


Skyrim isn’t an exact example of what I was talking about, since it doesn’t really have a solid narrative. It has plotlines, yeah, but the main draw is how it’s open world and looks very nice and it’s fun to pick things up and then hit people with them.

I think “blank slate” isn’t the best term for an MC without a set personality, because in good games (Heroes Rise, as was mentioned, Community College Hero–on the traditional games side of it, Mass Effect) the MC does come with at least a little bit of their character set in stone–they come with the motivation to set the plot in motion. They want to be a superhero (including whatever backstory gives them that motivation), they want to be a lawyer, they want to be a pirate, they want to be a successful space military commander, they want whatever the plot dictates that they need to want in order for the story to move forward. Including in that, they have to have some level of tenacity–they can’t just give up after chapter 2 when things aren’t working and change their mind and become a florist or a grocer. Even in something like Versus, where one of the main characteristics is that the MC isn’t really active in kickstarting the plot–the MC still wants off their planet just by default, to make parts of the story more interesting and give the MC some internal conflict.

(And I don’t play as myself in these games–I’ve heard people do, but me and my friends who play CoG all just use our own characters for them.)

So my issue isn’t that the author has some hand in deciding who the MC is–they very clearly do, it’s how much of a hand they have. Not letting me play a character that’s my own (along with whatever motivations the MC of the game I’m playing gives to them) would kill my interest in a game. I agree to some level of character meddling just by picking up the game–that’s me agreeing that the author will more or less get to decide what motivates my character for the run of the game. But especially their personality is something that I still want full control over in a game–and different tastes, others might disagree, but getting to play as my own character is what drew me to CoG and it’s a decent chunk of what makes the games fun for me.

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Aww, come on, @Eric_Moser, we’re all that age once! You don’t even picture some younger, idealized version of you? Your story isn’t partially wish fulfillment? :wink:

I kid, of course. I agree that everyone seems to approach their MC and how connected they are to them in a different way. The most important point is that immersion is very important, however you’re relating. But what you describe sounds more like you enjoy looking over a character’s shoulder, like some kind of conscience, rather than seeing through their eyes and thinking with their brain. Doesn’t that mean you’re probably more suited to a second person POV?

I don’t think there is a right or wrong method, just flavors of preference, so you’ll get plenty of opinions all around. I do prefer second person voice, if for no other reason than because that way, when the character really does say or think something that I never would or don’t want them to, it comes off as less jarring or…I dunno…annoying? If that happens to much, regardless of whether it is COG/HG or not, I have been known to give up on a game. But again, I think that’s just another version of feeling a lack of agency and meaningful choice that impacts the MC’s personality and development.

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I approach my sessions as if an “alternative” me or a me from “another time-line” is the MC. I don’t think these stories are a pure substitute for either film (including tv) or books, so I don’t like the perspective of "I’m watching the MC from their shoulder type of perspective.

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When in first person, I always consider myself as: MC is me. Not I’m the MC.

You get that? Let me repeat it for you.
The MC becomes me. Not I become the MC.

Okay, that’s start to sound silly.
Frankly speaking, I enjoy 1st PoV when I turn myself into the MC of the story. Not “I’m not this MC guy who is so violent and love seeing perverted things.”
In case of SoH, I roleplay myself… as the samurai… wait.

I think there’s the case. Roleplay.
Ah! And here I am yet restating the obvious thing.

I’d agree with you there, but would add that something I wish was done more was to give the MC more autonomous dialogue, as in giving a broad description of what our protagonist is going to say, and then writing an exchange between them and another character.

That way, we could see a more well-defined MC, which is always fun. Like how the Deathless MCs are often these witty professionals and no matter which line you take, they still have memorable quotes like “Oh, most of me’s not human at this point”.

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I was reading some fanfiction today that was written in second person and was surprised by how evocative it was.

I find second person tends to be neutral at best, intrusive at worst and rather flat at times. But this fiction was wonderfully written and brimming with emotion.

I’ll admit my first instinct was mail the writer, beg them to write something in choicescript, show us something different that can be done, pushing the boundaries, pulling on heart strings. I’m much to shy to do that though.

I was just wondering what would happen if we include the things things we generally avoid. Set characters, set thoughts, emotions, telling the player how the protagonist feels and just allowing for a choice in actions, or perhaps even dialogue.

I don’t want play set characters set bf set anything. It happens yo me in video games all time. I don’t want to be That macho Gerald I want create my character instead in that beautiful universe. I felt sick playing as him. I hate him.

Most of time set character means be this generic crap male. or generic busty girl. Horizon dawn forces to be a girl , and still I can’t be part of story because she has the personality of a carpet. And forces me to be goody and that.

Samurai of Ikuga is a good game I bought both parts. But I don’t consider myself anything in that game is a great set story when my choices doesn’t matter a thing. I don’t want all games or even more games become a trend I want choice not set all stuff.For that there is stuff called novels.

It’s about offering Choices.

If you don’t want to play that sort of game, then you don’t need to. I think it would be nice to have all sorts of different games.