There’s a new video game genre in town, and it’s called the “first person experience,” or “FPX.” What makes this different from a typical first person shooter is that, well, there’s no shooting. Or really combat of any kind. No, in an FPX, you’re more along for the ride, a semi-active member of whatever story the developers are trying to tell. Games like Gone Home and Outlast are great examples of the genre done right. There is still some player agency, including puzzle solving, map navigation, maybe some light platforming, but you’re mostly walking around a world, taking everything in and putting pieces of the over-arching story together as the game goes along.
Sounds boring, right? Well, that’s a matter of opinion, but the FPX genre is definitely the new cool game type for people to rag on. But, as is usual in the gaming community, the loudest voices are rarely the right ones, or even the most well-informed ones. Being in first person automatically makes the player feel more invested in the world, and more engaged with what they’re doing. It’s undoubtedly a more immersive experience, as the influx of new first person VR experiences proves. And immersiveness is really the key to video game story-telling.
A great story in film will make you forget that you’re actually watching the events on a screen, the acting, score, and setting make you feel as if you’re in the room, watching everything unfold live. This is a difficult thing for video games to replicate. By definition, a video game requires some sort of input from the player, and that input can make the player feel separated from what’s happening in the game. VR may end up being a solution to this one day, but we’re years away from that being feasible. I find that first person games make me feel the most immersed in what’s happening. Think back to the first time you left Vault 101 in Fallout 3, or came face to face with GLaDOS in Portal, those experiences resonate to this day in part because it felt like YOU were the one living them, not like you were an observer.
FPXs, to me, are the next step in the evolution of first person gaming. It takes the more directed story-telling of an adventure game, adds the possibilities of exploration from an open world game, and finishes off with the immersiveness of being in first person. Now, some people will never understand the genre and continue to look down on FPXs as not being “real games,” but I’d argue that they’re definitely real art, and that’s far more interesting to me. But enough explanation, let’s take a look at five upcoming first person experience games, and I’ll tell you why you should give them a shot.
-What’s the Set Up: You play as different family members and animals throughout time from the 1900s to present day, learning about your family’s haunted history.
-What Excites Me: I love the idea of playing as all sorts of different creatures throughout different periods of time, all while trying to uncover the mystery of this family. It’s suspense/horror mixed in with a little bit of absurdism.
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Release Date: 2016
-What Excites Me: Besides being designed to work with the new VR device Oculus Rift, Adr1ft takes place in a beautifully serene, yet completely terrifying setting: space. It’s basically like you’re playing a video game version of the film “Gravity.”Developer: Three One Zero
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: September 2015
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Oculus Rift
-What Excites Me: Most of these “first person experience” games tell you a fairly linear narrative, where the only real choice is which room to go into first. But Firewatch is more open world than most of its peers, and promises plenty of different conversation options.Developer: Campo Santo
Release Date: 2015
Platforms: PC, PS4
-What Excites Me: First off, Tacoma is made by the brilliant team behind Gone Home, which is enough to get me plenty excited. But Tacoma also takes place in an abandoned space station in the future, which could take the game in tons of different directions.Developer: Fullbright
Publisher: Midnight City
Release Date: 2016
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
-What Excites Me: The biblical apocalypse and rural England aren’t things normally explored in video games, and both are things that fascinate me. Plus, the game comes out in less than a month and we still barely know anything about it, which is pretty impressive from a marketing standpoint.Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Platforms: PS4So there you have it, five awesome looking games, regardless of what genre to which they’re assigned! What do you think of the “first person experience” label, and these types of exploratory narratives in general? Let me know in the comments below!