I once heard that videogames embody the very essence of noir storytelling, perfecting the genre’s constricting narrative voice. In filtering the audience to a narrow, singularly focalized perspective, videogames evoke the joy of noir storytelling and its deft ability to hold back narrative information through a first-person point of view. An omnipresent camera makes us privy to the intimate affectations and actions of a single character. We follow Commander Shepard in Mass Effect from start to finish, sharing both the knowledge he gains throughout his campaign and the informational holes that drive his endless pursuit of truth. Obviously, there exist counterexamples in which audiences’ experiences aren’t focalized through a limited, single perspective. Games like Final Fantasy XIII or Grand Theft Auto V provide a myriad of viewpoints in the service of broadening the audiences’ narrative scope and understanding of the world. But the particular ability of videogame storytelling centering around a single character remains the most interesting tool in the medium’s arsenal. Curtailing information conveyed to the player by virtue of a finite perspective keeps audiences guessing about the duplicity of characters and the indeterminate circumstances of protagonists locked in constant danger.
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