Must a cs game use the pronoun "you"


#1

… when referring to the player?

Hello, I’m one of your new crop of wannabe writers. Please forgive me if I pester you about theory. :slight_smile:

Now, personally, I’m starting to doubt is if this actually helps immersion. In fact, it sounds to me as if it destroys it. People don’t naturally think ‘you’ inside their heads. While, first-person narratives have independent characters, that reading even silently “I did this.”, and “I am feeling this.” blurs the distinction.

From what I recall, Japanese Visual Novels almost universally use ‘I’ when narrating, otherwise third-person ‘he’ or ‘she’.

The disadvantage of this, of course, is that it’s difficult to present information that the player should have no awareness of. Obvious departures from the straight narrative may seem jarring, but nonetheless… is it really a requirement to use “you” to be eligible for hosting here?


#2

Not as far as I know… I see no reason why it would either. If you want to write in third or first person, go ahead.


#3

IMOHO yes you should. To ask a question so the story becomes the readers own I and {name} would feel to alien. Where as its like someone asking you, like you have a narrator complex, what would you do in this situation.


#4

I have read a few stories using third person and it didn’t cause any issues on my side as a reader. It’s not done often but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. As for first person, I’ve never seen a choice story written using it.

I admittingly prefer second person in choice games. But if you feel using a different perspective would help develop the story, why not?


What "person" works best?
#5

I personally find the “You” pronoun more effective as well. Sure it could be in third person, but than I lose that sense of it being me, and in terms of first person, it just seems off.

However there is nothing to stop from using whatever pronouns you like, it really is just personal preference.


#6

There’s no reason that anything needs to be in any perspective. It’s just a matter of what information you want to portray and how.

Visual novels do typically use first person perspective, which sets up the reader to enter the mind of a (mostly) predetermined character. That character will tell the reader “I think this” or “I feel that”.

With second person, it’s a different type of immersion, where the reader isn’t told how they feel or think. They have more freedom to define their own main character, and come up with their own thought processes for that character.

Third person is probably the most removed from the immersion of the story, but also the easiest to write because you can convey any information that you want to the reader and not have to worry too much about the characters themselves.

Really, some stories fit better into one perspective than another. Just choose which one fits the overall feeling you want to convey and I’m sure it’ll turn out alright. :slight_smile:


#7

Thank you very much for your quick and perceptive replies. :slight_smile:

Maybe an experiment? There may be a way to add to the layer of narrative conceit, which is to have the narrator asking ‘what would you do?’ directly address and converse with the player. Isn’t this basically what a GM does to his players? It’s most obvious in Choice of Star Captain, and its Douglas Adams-like patter.

To me, overuse of “you” doesn’t present the idea that ‘you’re actually living this character’s life’, but that ‘you’re the one building this story’.

Also, people may seem to remember better distinct characters who are nonetheless defined by their actions. ‘My’ Commander Shepard, ‘the’ Master Chief, ‘the’ Dragonborn. Maybe I’ve been barking up the wrong tree regarding povs.

To more fully absorb the narrative, perhaps to combine the narrator as a perceptible character that the player interacts with - combined with a handwave explanation for having to explain obvious things to someone who should already be living in that setting: amnesia.

Hmm. Maybe a short demo on ‘you’, ‘I’, and ‘${title}’. Mind if I take your opinions as survey data?

Thanks again. You’ve all been really helpful.


#8

I recommend avoiding amnesia. It’s been done to death.


#9

A little late to the party:
the thread title reminds me of the silly joke

Cashier: “Thank you very much sir, have a nice day!”
Customer: “Please don’t tell me what to do.”

It’s probably not that obvious to English-speaking people themselves, but native speakers have always used “you” when they refer to or tell something on which they want you to be in their shoes. From non-native speaker’s perspective, it may be taken as an imperative instead of being empathic, which is funny. It’s a culture thing.

As my own rule, I use “you” in the narrative, while trying to balance between telling and showing, if you know what I mean. Then in the choices, I return the decision making to the players/readers using “I” as much as possible. This does a good job at involving them into the story, as previously demonstrated by many others. Choice of Dragon is still one of my favorite in this case.


#10

Aah, that’s it then. Neither I or my partner in the choicecript game we’re making are native English speakers. We have a second-person plural, which is often the more polite form of address.

“You are this”, “you do that”, these sound kinda intrusive. The results of actions are fine, but it’s harder for us to believe emotions and sensations delivered through “you”. Phrased as a question “Are you angry?”, maybe.

A matter of style and preference.


#11

I believe an interactive narrative can be written in first, second, or third person, as long as you play to the strengths of each voice.

Second person is hard to write well, and is often associated with the cheesy Choose-Your-Own-Adventures of the '80s. On the other hand, English speakers frequently revert to it for directions (“You go down to Ed’s Hardware, then you take a right”) and for anecdotes (“So, you’re holding the cat in one hand, a cucumber in the other, and your mom walks in on you, what do you do?”). And with the right author, second person can be almost invisible.

As mentioned above, you shouldn’t tell the player “You are very afraid,” but you can often get away with showing them: “Time freezes as the creature advances. Your heart hammers, snatching your breath away. Your feet feel rooted to the spot.” Second person characters usually end up pretty generic (and uninteresting), since the writer doesn’t want to contradict the reader’s real appearance, mindset, or reactions.

I strongly dislike the “intrusive author” format that breaks the fourth wall and asks the reader what they want to do, then comments on their choice each time. That “Gentle Reader” business died in fiction almost 100 years ago, and should stay dead. Just state the situation, provide the choices, and show the results:

Obviously, she’s going to need more convincing.

* Offer to wash her car for a year.
* Threaten to uninvite her to your birthday party.
* Blackmail her with the cat and cucumber incident.

Her eyes widen for an instant. She glares. “You wouldn’t dare!”

First person allows you to write a character that is different from the reader, but still very intimate, allowing the reader inside their head, and influencing their decisions as a conscience might:

I think I’m losing ground here. I’d better convince her, and quick.

* I could wash her car for a year. And that would give me an excuse to come to her house every week!
* I could threaten to uninvite her to my party. But what if she calls my bluff?
* I could blackmail her with the cat/cucumber incident. But that could jeopardize my chances with her permanently.

The look on her face tells me everything. “You wouldn’t dare!” she hisses. But I know I’ve won, at least for now.

Third person might work well for genres like action, or characters distanced from the reader. It would also allow you to switch characters and locations, and offer omniscient knowledge (“Little did he know, he’d be dead from stomach cancer in a month.”)

Dirk McBain spat the smoking stub from his sneering lips. It sizzled out on the puddled floor of the abandoned warehouse. “I guess you gonna need some convincin’,” he growled.

* He pressed the .45 to the man’s temple, thumbing back the hammer.
* He slowly rapped the .45 against the man’s kneecap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
* He leveled the revolver at the cat, mewling pitifully in its cage.

The man’s voice quavered, almost a wail. “You wouldn’t dare!” he plead. McBain sighed. Too bad the boss wants him alive, he thought. Gonna be a long night.


#12

Wow, thanks. Now that’s comprehensive.

As you said:

… Second person characters usually end up pretty generic (and uninteresting), since
the writer doesn’t want to contradict the reader’s real appearance, mindset, or
reactions.

Is this unavoidable? May I have further advice on how to soften this separation between reader and player? I’ve also been asking around writer’s forums, and some people find that not having any particular personality makes it harder for them to identify with the player.

Comparing a ‘text adventure’ to something like a novel, it seems to end up more event-driven than the lure of character development for the protagonist.


#13

I wonder if that problem is really a problem of writing in the second person, or if it’s a pitfall of interactive fiction in any perspective. Whether I call my protagonist “you,” “I,” or “Mary Sue,” the temptation to write an Everyperson will remain. How many third-person protagonists of popular video games are written with a strong, distinctive personality? Even in mainstream novels, the protagonist is often generic and drama is generated by the characters reacting to external events.

But @bluepencil, it’s definitely avoidable. Just write a protagonist with a distinctive personality, and have the drama flow from that character’s desires and attitudes, manifested in how they interact with other characters. If you want to make it a matter of choice, write 3 distinctive personalities and allow the reader to choose which one to pursue.


#14

I think the key is to immediately establish the PC as an individual with a unique voice and personality, rather than try to be generic enough to apply to every reader. Regardless of POV, the reader will still identify with their human traits, even if they are physically, psychologically, and even morally different.

I’m a white dude, but can still identify with a well-written Latina protagonist’s struggles and choices, even though I don’t think “I’m her” while reading. In a novel, I would want her to succeed – in an interactive work, I can actually help her succeed (or change, or resist change, etc.).

You mentioned Japanese visual novels, which usually contain endless pages of a PC’s inner dialogue, the character development you mentioned. The conflicts are usually not physical, but rather internal and interpersonal. I personally can’t stand most VNs because of their rambling, stylized narrative, but would very much like to see an interactive work with interesting individuals who spoke, thought, and interacted realistically.

That’s much harder to write than a action-oriented story, and to my knowledge, no one has really gotten close. Perhaps you will…