Tension from first person perspective

This issue that arose in class on Tuesday stuck out to me: how and why does a subjective first person perspective seem to smooth things out and perhaps relieve tension in games while it makes things more jumpy and increases tension in film? As I thought about it, what I came up with was the effect of perspective on our perception of control. If we’re in first person, we expect control, in some sort of very basic way. But on top of that, I think we also experience control more vividly from a first person perspective. We’re used to controlling our own daily lives from a first person perspective, and so I think we can get more strongly into the experience in that perspective, all else equal. So we not only feel that we are in control in a first person video game but we feel more natural and fluid in some way.

By contrast, with film we feel much less natural and out of control, in that events are going on that we are more directly involved in because of the perspective, but we have absolutely no control over them. I think this is probably part of why subjective shots get used in the places they do in: no matter what’s going on in the film, we have this expectation of control that isn’t met, and that unmet expectation brings about some anxiety in us. It would be silly to bring about anxiety in this way in something like a romantic comedy, where becoming anxious and worried is contrary to the point of the movie. On top of the anxiety that we get from our unmet expectation of control, what little control we may feel may be extremely negative. In Silence of the Lambs for example, what tiny bits of control we get in the night vision scene are all very unpleasant, because it’s as if we’re driving the actions of the killer himself.