This option. I’d choose it if it were one of the poll choices. Cannery Vale alternates between 2nd person and 3rd person.
Preference-wise for parser adventure I’d usually stick to 2nd since that’s typically expected unless there was a really good reason - as with my room in Cragne Manor which contains a POV perspective jump that switched all the parser messages from 2nd to 3rd person while temporarily viewing the actions through another character.
I have written in all three main perspectives, and it isn’t so much a writing preference so much a conscious style-choice depending on what I want to get across regarding who the character is.
I can’t fairly vote on this poll because I’ve only made one IF thing and it was intended to purposely mimic your average parser game, so of course I went with second person since that’s what the vast majority of IF uses.
However I’m trying to plan out a story now and decide what IF form it’ll take after (if it takes one at all), and I’m not sure second person would be a good fit since I’m trying to have actual personal character growth with the MC. This happens all the time in video games with graphics, but it’s usually rejected by players when in text form, so I’m kind of struggling with that right now.
Some players refuse to play anything that’s not in second person also, so that’s something to consider as well.
Personally, I try not to write about characters who don’t ‘suit my style’ because that’s not interesting to me at all. If I’ve got to do extensive research to create a character who is a competent paleontologist without a really good reason, I probably wont do it.
That said, I’ve known authors who have written most of a book and then decided to completely rewrite it in another tense or POV - either through experimentation or based on feedback. I’ve been told about stories that “didn’t work until I rewrote it in first-person…” so it’s not unheard of.
In fact, Stephen King’s Christine is written in 1st person - until the protagonist gets sidelined in the hospital and King has to switch to another character to continue the story. I like to think it’s one of those cases where he wrote himself into a corner and it wasn’t planned in advance. I’ve had characters make decisions or come up with dialogue on the page as I wrote them that completely swerved a story or revealed things about the plot I didn’t realize nor plan for.
And I’ve heard from more than one author about those times a minor background character manipulated their way into becoming a supporting cast member or even replaced the protagonist.
A bit of that creeped into the conceptualization for Cannery Vale - one author I was on a forum with complained how she had always planned for a specific character to be murdered but they repeatedly managed to avoid it or someow make themselves important in some way that the author/murderer couldn’t go through with it.
I default to second person, but mostly because it’s what I’m familiar with: most of the IF milieu is in second person, and most of my experience writing games comes from GMing tabletop games, so why wouldn’t I address the player as “you”?
Second person works so well for interactive fiction that it’s never really occurred to me to use another viewpoint. It emphasizes the interactivity, or the interplay between player and game. It’s clearly understandable, since it addresses the player directly. And because it’s the convention, it fades into the background and becomes invisible, like the bass line that emphasizes the song’s melody.
I prefer to write in first person, but I also used the other two depending on the project.
I’m not a fan of “you” because the person in front of the computer is not really the character in the story. (But that’s a whole other debate!)
It would be interesting to see other pronouns like “we” (e.g. for a royal player character or a colony of bacteria), “they” (e.g. for a colony of bacteria or a non-binary/unspecified gender character) or “it” (e.g. for an inanimate object).
In French (and other languages), there’s also the distinction between “tu” and “vous” that can be interesting to exploit. (For people unfamiliar with this concept: it’s equivalent to “du” and “Sie” in German, or I think “you” and “thou” in old English.)
A similar thing happened to me. I wrote a game in first person and in past tense, but it’s possible to die in the game. Some people wondered how the narrator could tell the story in the branches where she dies! (I do have an explanation in my head, but I never made it public.)
Thinking about it, we could make another poll about the story tense chosen.
That happens in some of the mobile games like the Lifeline series that mimics a text conversation. You’re giving instructions to the MC and they report back on what they’re doing, so it’s told first person present tense. And sometimes they die.
“You have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.”
― Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City
It sounds like IF, but I suppose in a novel it comes across more as the narrator-as-Superego. I can’t read stuff like that in a book without hearing it in the voice of Paul Frees:
“Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm? And consider this dismaying observation: This chamber has no windows and no doors, which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out!”
― Ghost Host, The Haunted Mansion
But the main character in Lifeline is a distinct person that the player, and as you said, it’s in the present tense. The effect is not the same in the past tense.
Although now that you’ve mentionned Lifeline, the fact that the MC can die did put me off a little. The premise of Lifeline is that it’s like if a real person is contacting you. In my opinion, the MC dying breaks the illusion and reminds you that it’s only a game.
The games usually handwave their method of contact. Like in the first game it’s a radio transmission and in the second game it’s basically telepathy (I didn’t get around to playing the others). It’s told in text but if they had a budget it’d make more sense to be done in voice. But that’s why they can describe how they die, because it’s not actually them texting as they’re being killed. It just looks that way because of the presentation.
I’ve noticed that when a work of IF features a strongly-written protagonist (i.e. a character in their own right with a more-or-less predetermined personality), it is sometimes exposed to criticism from players who wanted more of a blank slate, self-insert protagonist. They may complain that the game makes too many assumptions about how they would feel or act in a given situation.
I’ve wondered whether this problem could be avoided by writing from a POV other than the traditional second-person. Would players be less likely to expect that they are supposed to identify with a protagonist who, for example, is written in first-person? Would this make players more likely to enjoy going along with the antics of a protagonist whose identity and personality are very different from their own?
The problem with a different perspective than second person is that the player then feels detached. Like why am I here if I’m not the main character?
It’s funny because if you look at point and click adventure games, the commonly accepted method of story telling these days is for the character themselves to talk at you, making it clear that you’re just some disembodied voice telling the PC what do and not actually the PC. But these characters can go through emotional change (like in the Longest Journey/Dreamfall games), whereas nearly all text games (parser or choice) don’t have any development.
This was, again, a conscious choice I made in Cannery Vale - the writer-protagonist is “you” and mostly a blank slate whom you can name anything you want, and those sections are in second person. That allowed me to specify gender and characteristics of the controlled novel-protagonist that the player could then hopefully feel comfortable roleplaying through the in-game writing even if they couldn’t specifically identify as a naked amnesiac male wandering a deserted town.
My intention was to deliberately provide a layer of disconnect so the player could experiment and consider some of the bizarre choices that character can make without any any risk to their ‘real’ self…in the game.
I suppose that’s sort of been the nerdy experimental path of my last few games without me intending it so - Cannery, robotsexpartymurder, and even Cursed Pickle all play around with the concept of identity and ‘self’ as it relates to the actual player.