Cameras in Video Games: Comparing Play in Counter-Strike and Doctor Who Adventures

Eric Laurier, Stuart Reeves

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter explores the relationship between game playing and the carefully crafted movements of visual perspective that players employ in and through game playing in 3D environments. Much of the methodical ‘work’ of play engaged in by players involves rendering virtual game spaces intelligible through scrutiny of the virtual environment and linking together sequences of perspectives. Even the first-person perspectives, provided by the graphics of games, are not isomorphic with the glances made by the naked eye. For both first and third person perspectives visual awareness is comparable to looking with, and through, camera lenses (MacBeth, 1999; Mondada, 2003). Thus, competence in the manipulation of video perspectives becomes an essential acquisition for players as they seek to engage with the game itself and / or with other players. Through instructive comparisons with other settings in which cameras are used to look around and render the scene intelligible (e.g. surveillance & endoscopic medicine), the findings of this chapter will help inform a wider understanding of the manner in which environments are made sense of through video technologies.
The analysis of video perspective is based upon a set of vignettes drawn from a corpus of video recordings of Counter-Strike, a popular ‘first-person shooter’ and the Doctor Who Adventure Games, an interactive, narrative game based on the popular BBC TV series, which, in contrast, involves third-person perspectives. A characteristic feature of first-person games, like Counter-strike, is that players experience the 3D environment ‘through the eyes’ of a virtual embodiment. Third-person games, by contrast, show a view from behind (and usually above) the character. The character and their relationship to the course of play within the game are made visible via a ‘virtual camera’ that has indirect coupling to character movements. Thus, for third-person games, the view in and around the game’s environment can be manipulated to inspect the scene without actually moving the player’s position within the environment.
For players of both first and third person perspective video games, they deploy a repertoire of analyses of the courses of actions of others with and through the game’s optics (be they other players or computer-generated actors) Visual activities of ‘looking around’, ‘scrutinising’ and ‘inspecting’ and so on, are achieved via localised and dexterous combinations of mouse and keyboard manipulation. These activities are conducted in combination with course of plays that then ongoingly render the 3D environment intelligible. At times these basic techniques of looking may be complicated by various in-game effects (such as ‘smoke’) and perspectival augmentation (such as ‘telescopic weapon sights’). As a consequence players develop further specialised ways of looking. Players also develop a reciprocal awareness of the visual detectability of their courses of action within the virtual environment (Reeves, Brown, & Laurier, 2009). Their movement of their perspective point is thus crafted in, and through, hiding or disguising their courses of action with respect to both the perspective of others as well as a concern for how their perceptibility (i.e., visibility, audibility) is modified by key terrain features (layout, walls, objects and resulting lines-of-sight). Gameplay is often done in multiplayer environments which are inherently collaborative; working as a team, players develop quick, implicit forms of visually oriented coordination and collaboration with their fellow players.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies of Video Practices
Subtitle of host publicationVideo at work
EditorsMathias Broth, Eric Laurier, Lorenza Mondada
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-85170-9
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-72839-3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • conversation analysis
  • ethnomethodology
  • video games
  • video analysis


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