This Is What a “Second-Person” Video Game Would Look Like

This Is What a “Second-Person” Video Game Would Look Like

Most 3D, character-driven video games can be pretty easily placed
into one of two categories: either first person or third person. In a first-person game,
you see the game world through the actual eyes
of the player character as though you were that character, and in a third-person game,
you see the player character from the outside – often
from behind their back or from a fixed isometric perspective. But the existence of
these two perspectives begs a question: if this is what a
first-person game looks like, and this is what a third-person
video game looks like… what exactly would
second-person look like? Now, I’m not the first
person to wonder about this – the question of whether or not a second-person shooter
could actually exist is one that has plagued
video game message boards just about as long as
the Internet has existed. It’s also served as the premise for some pretty good comedy
sketches over the years, like this one from Mega64: – [Announcer] Introducing the world’s first second-person shooter. (video game music) (rock music)
– No no no no! – And this one from The Onion. – To enter second-person shooter mode, you just simply adjust
the narrative slider from first to second. – You are walking down a long corridor. Suddenly, a Nazi leaps out
from around the doorway and unleashes a hail of machine
gun fire in your direction. – But to help us actually figure out what a second-person game would really be, I think it would be helpful
to look at this grammatically. In written language, the term “first person” denotes any writing
where the point of view uses phrases like “I” or m”y” to tell the story from the
perspective of the protagonist. Third-person writing, on the other hand, uses third-person pronouns – for example, “he went this way,”
“she went that way,” et cetera – to talk about characters
from an outside perspective. Now, second-person writing does exist, but it’s kind of a weird one – in second person, the
primary pronoun used is “you.” “You do this,” “you go there,” et cetera. The second person is
actually a lot less common in narrative writing, and it’s actually something
you’re more likely to encounter in, say, a list of instructions or a choose-your-own-adventure book. Now, the analogous video
game camera perspectives for first and third-person
writing are obvious – but what about for second-person? We know what an “I” game looks like and we know what a “he” game looks like, but what about a “you” game? Strangely enough, I actually
found the answer to this before I even came up with the question, and, believe it or not, it
came to me courtesy of a game you may have heard me
talk about once before – and that game is Driver: San Francisco. See, for all the interesting missions in Driver: San Francisco –
and there are plenty of them – there’s one mission in particular that I swear to God I
think about all the time. The mission in question
is called “The Target” and it’s the final mission
of chapter six of the game. In the game, you play as
a cop named John Tanner who, for reasons I won’t get into here, basically has a superpower that allows you to take over the bodies
of any other driver, and has begun using that superpower to foil a possible terror plot from a gangster named Jericho. Over the course of the game Tanner decides that the best way to
unravel Jericho’s plans is to do it from the inside, and in order to do that,
Tanner takes over the body of a low-level henchman named Ordell and uses his driving skills to help move Ordell up the ranks. The final mission in this story arc sees you inhabiting
Ordell’s body one last time to complete a major assignment
from his boss Leila, who is this international assassin and Jericho’s second-in-command. Tanner’s plan? Warp into Ordell’s body and,
without arousing suspicion, drive Leila and Ordell
directly into police custody. Now, the mission begins as normal with Tanner and his partner Jones driving their iconic
orange Dodge Challenger, and soon enough, you
warp into Ordell’s body with Leila in the passenger seat where she gives you some
clarity on the mission. (car engine roaring) – [Leila] Ordell, I need
nothing but your best today. – [Tanner] What’s going down? – [Leila] Jericho’s got
a problem he wants fixed. Get me to the target and I’ll fix it. – So you drive to the destination she’s given you, closing
in on your target, and as you get close, this happens: (car engine roaring) – Slow down. We should acquire the target any time now. (car engine roaring)
(tires screeching) The yellow Dodge, up ahead. Stay close but don’t be obvious. – …that’s my car. – What? That’s the cop that’s
been getting in our way. – Do we follow him to the target? – …he IS the target. – [Narrator] It’s you. You’ve been assigned to kill… you. (music) Now, after that cutscene ends, you are back in Ordell’s
body in the first person with Leila sitting to your right. But then… you press the
throttle to accelerate, and the car in front of you moves. You steer to the left and to the right… and the car in front of you moves to the left and then to the right. And then, quickly, it sinks in
that the car you’re controlling is actually the car you’re following. Your perspective as the
player is entirely separate from what you’re
controlling as the player. In other words, you’re pursuing… you. Now, as you can see, the
car that you’re sitting in is moving, too – but, crucially, you’re not the one who’s
controlling that car. The car you’re sitting in
is moving automatically, seemingly operated by
an AI-controlled driver who’s tailing the car
you’re actually controlling. It’s basically like a chase
mission in any other video game just like you’ve seen
countless other times – except for this time,
it’s flipped on its head. This time, you’re the one being followed, while simultaneously seeing it all unfold from the perspective of the
car doing the following. And while it’s hard for me to guess how well this comes across on video, all these elements
combine to make something that is very, very odd to play. There’s something
shocking and disorienting about seeing a first-person
perspective on your screen but also not controlling that perspective while remotely operating
the car that you’re tailing. It’s the closest a video
game has ever gotten to feeling like a true
out-of-body experience, and it’s an experience
that has stuck with me ever since I first played
this game back in 2011. Now, when I first played
Driver: San Francisco eight years ago, I kinda just played
through this mission once, start to finish, marveling
at the unique perspective that this mission granted you, but then moving on to
the rest of the game. But I’ve always felt like if
I ever came back to this game, I’d wanna pick this mission apart and see what makes it tick, and that’s part of what
I hope to accomplish with this video. See, as cool as this mission
is, it’s also pretty linear. The whole thing takes
place with you driving down this completely locked-down race course with no exits or detours – pretty much just a
straight shot to the exit. I’ve always assumed that
the developer Reflections designed this mission this way due to the technological limitations of this weird second-person camera that they built just for this mission. Perhaps there was no way
for them to get this camera to behave properly in
the actual open world with all the various streets, elevations, and alleyways you could dip into – not to mention the other street traffic. And on top of that,
they built this mission with a pretty strict countdown timer, forcing you to hit the
checkpoints in rapid succession – something that I’ve always
assumed was placed there to keep you from ever
veering too far off the path and breaking the game somehow. Still, I’ve always wondered about the actual limitations of this mission, and I knew that this time
around I wanted to test out whether or not there
was any way to escape – so before finishing the mission, I paused, started it over, and then this time, instead of starting the race as intended, I swung the car into a 180, driving the car backwards
in the wrong direction. Now, when I do this, the AI driver immediately begins panicking, rapidly spinning the steering wheel trying desperately to
keep my car visible in frame, and then eventually, it
turns around 180 degrees to reveal what looks like
the entire open world of Driver: San Francisco – seemingly 100% accessible to the player. Now I drove away from the
racetrack and began exploring, and I kept bracing myself to
hit some kind of invisible wall or failure state for going off course, but it never happened.
It all actually worked. I merged into traffic and the second-person camera followed me, immaculately bobbing and weaving through the other cars on the road. It was around this time that
I noticed… there was no timer. It turns out that Reflections had generously designed this mission, intentionally or unintentionally, so that the mission countdown timer doesn’t actually begin until
you reach the first checkpoint – meaning that if you never
hit that first checkpoint, you can drive around forever. (car engine roaring) (car passing on right honks) This led to what I can only describe as a transcendent video game experience. It felt like I was seeing something that I was never meant to see. This ability to explore the
city as much as I wanted to all from this wholly unique, extremely surreal second-person viewpoint: it felt like a magical experience and one that almost nobody else has experienced for themselves. Now, revisiting this mission and managing to escape the confines laid down by the developers
all those years ago, I really wanted to try and
push this thing to its limits. I couldn’t resit trying
to break things a little: I drove the car off ramps, into
upcoming traffic, all of it. But surprisingly, it
held together perfectly. That is, until I tried one specific thing. See, I haven’t talked about it before, but this mission actually
does have a failure condition. In the lower-right corner of the screen there’s a health meter, and it represents the
health of Tanner’s car: the car you’re chasing / driving. But if you get into
one too many collisions while driving this car
in the second person, you can actually run out of health, causing Tanner to die and
the mission to end in a loss. This is actually pretty hard to achieve on the default mission path they laid out, but driving into
oncoming lanes of traffic and ramping off car transporters had taken its toll on my vehicle and I only had a small
sliver of health left. Wanting to explore this
mission as long as possible, I gingerly pulled Tanner’s
car into a narrow alleyway and then decided to try out the one thing I hadn’t attempted yet: I turned around and drove
the car, in the second person, directly at myself. (music) This put the AI driver
in a weird position. It now had to drive backwards
just to keep me in the frame, and it was also narrowly sandwiched between the two walls of the alley, giving it almost no room to maneuver. I kept driving towards myself, putting on the pressure,
closer and closer, and then… (car engine roaring) (car screeching) (cars crashing) – [Leila] Nice work. – It broke. All at once, the second-person
vehicle shoots into a wall, clips through it, and then launches hundreds
of feet into the air. Briefly, one frame at a time, we can get glimpses of
the chaos that unfolded: we see the car inside the wall, then we see the car’s
front console flipped over; we see what appears to be the ocean floor and then the pavement
as seen from underneath; we see rooftops, the driver’s arm, the sky, trees, abstract geometry – and then the city from above, flooded with unloaded geometry. After that, we see the car
spinning and spinning in mid air, giving us glimpses of
San Francisco from above, before finally getting so high that nothing can be
seen but endless ocean. And then, black. (music) Suddenly, all at once, the
car snaps back to earth. The health meter for Tanner’s
vehicle turns blindingly white and then the second-person viewpoint fills with an orange-yellow
hue: Tanner’s car. Quickly it becomes clear
that the second-person car has somehow spawned inside
of Tanner’s vehicle, dealing infinite damage to the car. (cars crashing) A deafening crash sound can be heard and shattered glass flies everywhere, and then, for a brief moment,
right before the mission ends, the camera inexplicably
shifts into Tanner’s car where the car is balanced on its nose, its windshield shattered, thrust impossibly through another vehicle. And then, horrifically, the camera clips through the back of
Tanner’s partner’s head and shows us the backside
of his eyeballs and tongue: a truly terrifying
second-person perspective if ever there was one. (music) Shaken by my other-worldly
encounter seemingly brought on by pushing this already
existential mission to its limits, I reset the mission and played it beginning
to end one last time – this time careful to do it the right way, not wanting to disturb
whatever eldritch being I’d upset by breaking the
mission in the first place. After all, I thought, I
know that every mission in Driver: San Francisco ends with a continue and retry option, so if I really wanted to
explore this mission again, I could always hit the retry
button to give it another shot after running through it normally. So I proceeded to complete
the mission as intended – a mission, by the way, that
ends with the antagonist Jericho actually taking over your body and attempting to drive you
into a lethal car accident: (car engine roaring)
– You mean… Jericho! – [Leila] Sit back and enjoy the show. Not many people get to
watch themselves die. – …a problem that
Tanner decides to solve by, disturbingly enough, shifting for the first and only time in the game into his partner Jones’ body. Yes, that partner. – [Jones] What the heII is going on? – Anyways, I
go to finish the mission the normal way, staying on the path, fully expecting the restart option that appears after most
missions to show up. Instead, I get to the end of the mission, and – for some reason that
I still can’t explain – the only option was continue. The reset option had vanished. Panicked, I quickly hit
ALT+F4 and existed the game, hoping I could load up my save file and play through the mission
again, but it was too late. It had already autosaved over my file and the mission was gone with
no way to replay it again. (music) Look, Driver: San Francisco is a game full of weird, interesting,
strikingly-designed missions – but, to me, “The Target”
has always stood out as the perfect example of
what makes this game special. Video games are an entire medium built around taking over others’ bodies, and Driver: San Francisco
is a richly existential and metatextual reflection of this idea. This mission in particular
brought these ideas to the fore in a way that I wasn’t fully prepared for and that I’m only now beginning
to wrap my head around, years and years later. Even writing the script for this video felt like a mind-bending exercise in trying to explain something that is borderline unexplainable. You really have to play it for yourself to get a full sense of how
crazy this mission feels. In designing this mission,
Reflections took decades of 3D video game conventions
and turned them on their head to create what feels a truly
out-of-body experience. That, to me, is an
accomplishment worth celebrating. Please play “Driver: San Francisco.” (car engine roaring) – [Leila] If you’re
here, who’s in your body? – [Tanner] Well, no one. …oh God. (door shuts) (keys jingling) (car revving) – All right, so a couple quick updates on the “Driver: San Francisco” situation. The petition to get
Ubisoft to re-list the game that I mentioned at the
end of my last video is now at over 70,000
signatures, which is insane. Please, if you have any
interest in this game, please sign this petition. It now feels like 100,000
is within our grasp, which is crazy, and I
can’t believe I’m saying, but it could happen – which, to me, feels like
an unignorable number. But! In the meantime, as
you might have noticed, Ubisoft has not re-listed the game – they have been ignoring the
70,000 signatures we have. And on a totally unrelated
note, not connected at all, Driver: San Francisco,
since my video last month, has been in the top 10
most downloaded games on The Pirate Bay. …totally no relationship there, not mentioning that for any reason at all. Just saying, the game is not available and it’s also one of the
most pirated video games, and has been in the top
10 most pirated games for the past month. Just a coincidence. Also, totally unrelated to the fact that this game is apparently
very popular on Pirate Bay, did you know that if you go
to you can go to websites,
illicit or non-illicit, without being tracked by
your ISP or anybody else? So that means that, for example, if you were to go to – and
I’m not saying you should – a website that allowed you
to download a video game that is no longer available
and can be easily pirated with just a few clicks and you don’t wanna get an
angry email from your ISP saying you can’t do that, you should invest in a VPN. (laughs) If you go to and use coupon code “babylonian”, you’ll get 70% off their three-year plan and get one full month
of VPN coverage free. But yeah, if you enjoyed this video, please share it with anyone
you think would like it, and/or subscribe to my channel if you’d like to see more
stuff like this in the future. I’ve got a lot of videos in various stages of production right now that I’m really excited
to get out into the world, and I can finally start
thinking about them now that this one’s done. So yeah, that’s it from me for this time. Hopefully the next video
comes out a little quicker. I’ve got a lot of ideas
that have nothing to do with Driver: SF, I just… this one has been on my mind for a while and I’m glad to finally have it done. So thank you for watching,
and I’ll see you next time. (music)

100 thoughts on “This Is What a “Second-Person” Video Game Would Look Like

  1. is still a 3rd person, the only difference between this an ordinary third person is that you cant see the cameraman in an ordinary third person.

  2. Third person in games is still first person. You look at the character from outside, but you do control it. As long as a character is playable, that's a first person experience. Third person would technically be just like watching a movie or other people play, without having a character yourself.

  3. First person : You are you in your perspective
    Second person : You are you in hes perspective
    Third person : You are he in your perspective

  4. Won't 2nd person games just show the player do things? As in YOU go to a coffe shop so you see yourself going to the coffee shop or things like that?

  5. Driver San Francisco
    The game everyone loved
    The game EA and Ubisoft (I think that’s them) didn’t wanna sell anymore
    The game I loved
    We all loved
    It’ll never be forgotten

  6. Sorry but the mission is not really a 2nd person mission as the game is still playing in 1st person just as a difrent character prospective in my eyes the best way to describe 2nd person games is to look at games like Skyrim and the suffering and alone in the dark as them games give u a 1st and 2nd person an u can change the views in the game and not having to go through setting so I think the camera changing from one to the other can be classed as 2nd person as the games ate nether 1st or 3rd person games if u get time try looking at them games instead and maybe u will find more with them game or u can look at games like the darkness wen u control the demons witch are connected to the same character u play so I think 2nd person games is wen the game let's u chose the views u pay in plus all exscloding Skyrim let's u be more then one caricter wen controlling the same character so even though he not the same the outcome that u do wen ether a demon in the game will show even after being the demon plus the game will ether be 1st or 3rd just to play the game

  7. Wooow i didnt get it till the min 9:12 he was controlling the car in front and we were seeing the npc hahaha now i understand what he was saying i just didnt get it hahaha wow, pretty weird 2nd person indeed

  8. Back in school I was taught that there was only 1st Person, 3rd Person and 3rd Person Omniscient. When anyone was asked what happened to 2nd Person we were told it doesn't exist. Even when I tried looking it up years ago it didn't have any search results. Pleasantly surprised to see this video, glad it popped up in my recommended.

  9. 1person is from the front if you turn 90 degrees 2 person mario from the side 3d person is from the back so you need to turn another 90 degrees so second person is from the sides

  10. I always thought of a second person game being like third person, except looking at the face instead of at the back of the head, like minecraft double f5 mode

  11. Wouldn't a third-person omniscient game be interesting? You could either play as every person at the same time which would be cool and weird at the same time. Or when you meet someone it would play a flashback or something about them. That would be interesting for a crime game.

  12. I haven't finished the video yet, but I feel that 2nd person games would be like telltale games, such as the walking dead. It kinda makes sense, considering your character does a lot without you actually doing it.

  13. In Undertale the text often says "You're filled with determination" and "You feel your sins crawling on your back". And the fights have a strange perspective, because you controll your soul, but through who's eyes are you watching through? i think it's a 2nd person game.

  14. Wait I thought 2nd person was already a thing? I always thought second person would be a 2d game like mario or something or a Strategy game like Stellaris where your camera is more or less free and not attached to anything

  15. Wait! Another mechanic is Siren Blood Curse where you can see from the perspective of your pursuer. Well, close to it anyway.

  16. Finally!

    My question "Does a 2nd Person Game exist?" has been answered!

    Thanks. It's been in my head ever since highscool.

  17. Second person is when the speaker is talking about "you" e.g. "you do this" or "you decide". So I imagine that 2nd person is that view on Minecraft where you are in front of your character

  18. You look at the environment from an enemy's perspective, making sure that you cannot be seen by not allowing yourself to see yourself. You see yourself pop out from around a corner, point a gun at your point of view, and open fire. Your camera character dies, and your perspective switches to the nearest enemy. Repeat process until area is cleared.

  19. Gta 5 also has a second person mode. If you drive a car and you press R (on the computer) then your vision changes to something you would see in movies. you know what i mean. when the camera goes like next to your tire or way up above your car.

    but if you have cops and you press R to toggle that vision (and a helicopter is following you), then you have a slight chance of seeing yourself drive from the inside of the helicopter. and i think that‘s really cool.

    sry if my english wasn‘t perfect. it‘s not my native language

  20. If you just want The answer without 20 minutes of video:
    Second person gameplay is playing a game as a character being looked at by another character for example: you kill an enemy but you are looking at it through the eyes of the enemy.

  21. But this is still TPP, isn't it? Cuz in actual TPP, you can see your character in front of you, and your view of your character is controlled by the game itself. Only difference is that THIS game uses an AI for that.

  22. For the longest time I thought this perspective, the 2nd person game would make a fun experience for the style of a video game.
    I didn't even know that I was thinking of this perspective not knowing the 2nd person thing.

  23. In GTA V if you press B or O to enter cinematic mode while driving during a police chase you have a chance to have your POV on the hood of one of the police cars

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