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Subject: Second Person vs Third Person rss

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Justin Blaske
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While going over my rule book with a friend, we came across the discussion of wording the rules text in third person vs second person. I thought I would bring the discussion up here, to see what others feel.

I prefer to use third person when describing my rules in the rule book. ("he or she may draw a card")

However, for the pieces that a player will use during a game i prefer to use second person ("You may draw a card")

My friend would prefer that both rules and components were in second person.

What do you prefer to use in your rules and on your game components?
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Sturv Tafvherd
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I've done it both ways; in the past, I've even used both 2nd and 3rd person within the same paragraph ... which can be rather awkward.

After thinking it over, my preference is to keep everything in third person. And as much as possible: to use nouns instead of pronouns.

Instead of "he or she may draw a card" ...
I'd use : "The player may draw a card"
or "The active player may draw a card"

If it's on a piece that the player uses during the game, then

instead of "You may draw a card"
it just becomes: "Draw a card"
or
instead of "You deal 2 damage to an opponent"
it just becomes: "Deal 2 damage to an opponent"

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Brook Gentlestream
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For rules text, I prefer 3rd person.
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Agent J
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You should use second person, but he should use third.

That wasn't at all serious.
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Nate K
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Either one works for me, as long as it's consistent.
 
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mike
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Consistency is key in writing, 2nd person is generally used for giving a reader instructions

http://classweb.gmu.edu/WAC/somguide/123person.htm
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J C Lawrence
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Finding the second person intensely annoying, I go for the third person passive voice.
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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clearclaw wrote:
Finding the second person intensely annoying, I go for the third person passive voice.


It's hard enough to find a first person.

This discussion is probably going to get tense.
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I prefer to use "current player" and "opponent". It eliminates confusion depending on who is reading the card or who exactly "he" is referring to. Many times it is not clear, especially when the card is played on another player (opponent).
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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For a rulebook useing 3rd person is usually best unless it is a single player game.

For cards that apply only to the player then 1st/2nd person works.

Or you can bypass it alltogether and not refer to the player at all. Can be done.

Depends totally on the game though. Solo vs Multi? Game effects personal, other, all?

 
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Philip Migas
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Absolutely 2nd person. Players want to know how to play. They want the rules to tell them do this then do that. “You do this, you do that” clear. “Current player does this then the current player does that” not always clear. This gets even worse with younger players who are use to being told what to do all the time.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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That's second person.
 
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David Gibbs
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Stormtower wrote:

After thinking it over, my preference is to keep everything in third person. And as much as possible: to use nouns instead of pronouns.

...

If it's on a piece that the player uses during the game, then

instead of "You may draw a card"
it just becomes: "Draw a card"
or
instead of "You deal 2 damage to an opponent"
it just becomes: "Deal 2 damage to an opponent"



I should note that your cards are still second person -- you've just chosen to change from declarative voice to imperative voice.

If it were third person, it would be "Deals 3 damage to an opponent".

(You deal. He deals. She deals.)
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Sturv Tafvherd
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dagibbs wrote:
Stormtower wrote:

After thinking it over, my preference is to keep everything in third person. And as much as possible: to use nouns instead of pronouns.

...

If it's on a piece that the player uses during the game, then

instead of "You may draw a card"
it just becomes: "Draw a card"
or
instead of "You deal 2 damage to an opponent"
it just becomes: "Deal 2 damage to an opponent"



I should note that your cards are still second person -- you've just chosen to change from declarative voice to imperative voice.

If it were third person, it would be "Deals 3 damage to an opponent".

(You deal. He deals. She deals.)


True! It is imperative.

But it would really look weird if the card read "Draws a card"

... hmmm... then again, there is no such thing as third-person imperative, is there?


(Side note ... what if it said "May draw a card" ... it's no longer a sentence, right?)
 
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I agree with clearclaw that it's best to use 3rd person passive voice. Since rules describe how the games state should be arranged — that is, how something is rather than who does it, many times the subject is an arbitrary place-holder.

Compare "He or she may draw a card" to the passive voice "A card may be drawn" and observe that the passive construction puts the emphasis on the part that matters most — the card — rather than the unwieldy place-holder pronoun. It is still possible to specify to whom an action pertains in passive voice using "by" and "to" as in "3 damage are dealt to target opponent."
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Det var bara en hake...
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I usually find myself writing in or shifting to second person for two reasons:

1. Automatically gender-neutral.

2. Highly efficient by virtue of not having to be introduced or defined.
 
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Alex Weldon
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Second person doesn't work for all games... in a game with sequential turns, it's fine, but describing e.g. an auction, or a game with simultaneous moves, or something, it can get awkward.

Usually, I tend to default to the third person in games for adults, since it allows for more precision, and employ the second person for games for a younger audience, as this makes it easier to make the rules sound more exciting.

Certainly, in-game text on cards and stuff should be in the imperative, which is implicitly second person. "Draw two cards," is better than either "You draw two cards" or "Player draws two cards."
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Daniel Solis
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For instructions, I kind of go third-person, but my instructions are super brief. Really, they're more like headlines leading into examples.

For examples, I find second person more natural. When instructing the reader, I can say "you." When referring to another player, I can say "he." When referring to a third player, I can say "she."

In all cases, I find it more important to use plenty of images and diagrams to make subject absolutely clear. That's me speaking as an art director, though.
 
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Eric
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Kiraboshi wrote:
I agree with clearclaw that it's best to use 3rd person passive voice. Since rules describe how the games state should be arranged — that is, how something is rather than who does it, many times the subject is an arbitrary place-holder.

Compare "He or she may draw a card" to the passive voice "A card may be drawn" and observe that the passive construction puts the emphasis on the part that matters most — the card — rather than the unwieldy place-holder pronoun. It is still possible to specify to whom an action pertains in passive voice using "by" and "to" as in "3 damage are dealt to target opponent."


I disagree completely. Passive voice frequently obscures precisely who is taking the action. Rules do far more than describe a game state. In many cases they must indeed identify exactly which player takes an action. Passive voice merely adds unnecessary ambiguity.

Take ownership of your thoughts and actions. Use active voice. Don't hide behind passive voice. (I obviously think that imperatives are fine too.)
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K H
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jblaske wrote:
[...]
I prefer to use third person when describing my rules in the rule book. ("he or she may draw a card")
[...]
My friend would prefer that both rules and components were in second person.

What do you prefer to use in your rules and on your game components?

Third person always, active voice when practical. Never assume that the human reading the rules is the one responsible for performing the action.

And since time travellers might wish to play the game in the past, present, and/or future, pay close attention to verb tenses.

"...willen haven been..."
 
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Alex Weldon
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Passive voice is a good way to make your instructions sound like a scientific paper, i.e. utterly dry and technical.

Actually, thinking about what places I might conceivably use the passive voice, I realize that the Setup section of a game's rules is kind of special. There, it doesn't matter who is doing the setup, so you can use passive voice if you want... but I think there I tend to opt for the imperative, under the assumption that the person reading the rules is going to be the one doing the setup.
 
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