Half Empty or Half Full: It’s a Matter of Perspective

By Kyle Osborne

Of course I knew that we would be comparing the movie to the book, so while watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (LOTR 1), I was constantly looking for what really would set a movie apart from a game. What can a movie do that a game, specifically an MMORPG, can’t believably or tactfully accomplish? As I watched the scene change between Bilbo in his study and Frodo reading in the woods, I realized that perspective or multiple perspectives is sometimes a major difference between movies and games.

In movies, especially the LOTR movies, scenes and images excluding the protagonist are used to follow multiple plot lines or to further expand upon an existing plot line. The fact that we see Gandalf’s imprisonment and eventual escape from Isengard enriches the story and gives us a better understanding than only knowing that Saruman has betrayed the free peoples of Middle Earth. Since LOTR 1 is from a third person perspective, the scenes that take place far from Frodo or “The Ring” serve to further pull the viewer into the story.

However, it works quite differently in games. LOTRO follows only your avatar, which shifts the narration style from third person in the movie to first person in the game. Sure you’re using the third person camera angle, but the narration is still in the first person. Imagine you’re a dwarf exploring Thorin’s Hall, suddenly you are hit with a scene of Bilbo’s 111st birthday party in the Shire. That wouldn’t make a lot of sense. When you play as your character, you expect to see only what your character sees, hear only what your character hears, and experience only what your character experiences. Anything less would violate the role-playing scenario that you’ve tried to create and the validity of the game’s fiction.

                Each genre and type of narration yields its own advantages techniques. Movies utilize third person narration through side plots, close ups, and shot/reverse shot to quickly relate a complex and wide spread plot, while games, looking for a longer term relationship, focus on the first person experience and character interaction. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and each has found the narration that suits its purpose best. Frankly, I’m happy that each has found what works best, because a movie entirely in the first person would have trouble selling tickets and an MMORPG in the third person probably isn’t possible.

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1 thought on “Half Empty or Half Full: It’s a Matter of Perspective”

  1. You touch on issues of perspective here. Clearly, your avatar is the limiting narrative mechanic that governs how you see the story unfold within the game. Sometimes that scope slightly enlarges to include others in fellowship, but it can’t equate to the third person experience of the fellowship in the movie.

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