In many First Person Shooters you might notice that something odd about your character: you don't seem to have much in the way of a bodily presence. Instead of feeling like you're actually there, in the game, you almost feel instead like you're simply controlling a flying RC helicopter with a camera attached to it.
For example, you see your arms holding the gun in front of you, but everything else about your body seems non-existent. Looking down, you don't see your torso or legs. Rather, your whole body seems to rotate with your view, making it look like you're not touching the ground at all. Further, you seem to have a curious lack of interaction with the environment: water is undisturbed by your steps, and walking through snow/mud leaves no footprints. You don't cast a shadow, even if NPCs do. You never see yourself in any mirrors or reflective surfaces. Walking up to a door, when you press the "open" button on the controller, nothing seems to happen in-game; the door just magically opens up. For the most part, it seems like the player might as well be a ghost.
This is because, from a technical perspective, you are. The game engine is built so that you are essentially just flying a camera around, with animated arms being "painted" on the screen that only you can see. As far as the game engine is concerned, the player's viewpoint is just a camera. In some cases, the player's physical body might never actually be modeled or tracked in-game.
In early games, this was considered an Acceptable Breaks from Reality, as rendering something that wasn't in view the majority of the time would be a waste of limited hardware resources. Also, many older raycasting engines had to purposefully limit vertical camera rotation to well under ±45° in order to minimize perspective distortion artifacts. However, as hardware has gotten more powerful and software more sophisticated, this trope can become particularly jarring.
Another reason is that most GPUs and graphics APIs tend to clip geometry that's closer to the edge of the screen, hence the reason why in most cases using the same third-person model for a first-person camera would result in visual artifacts. Modders who write first-person camera hacks for third-person games such as Grand Theft Auto would disable the head model to keep it from displaying stray polygons or getting in the way of the camera.
Also, the reason for using a separate view model is that animations and weapon or item positions on a third-person model tend to look jittery or awkward when viewed on a first-person camera, as well as so that models that are close to or held the player, i.e. guns, can be given more detail. The latter also goes with racing simulators which use separate, more intricately detailed interior models whenever a cockpit camera is used; the interior on a third-person car model is usually of lower quality, or in some cases do not exist at all (especially with early racing games where the first-person "interior" is just a two-dimensional sprite).
To combat this, some FPS games have begun to include more and more model parts of your body. For example, if you go to open a door, you'll actually see an animation of a hand reaching out and turning the handle. You sometimes will also see your body in cutscenes, such as if the player is knocked down by an explosion and you briefly see your legs as you're bodily thrown back. However, as soon as the cutscene is over, and you have control of your character once again, you'll find your legs mysteriously absent once more.
This is so common in FPS games that only aversions, subversions, or lampshade hangings should be listed as examples.
See also Invisible Anatomy.
Jurassic Park: Trespasser. Not only did you see your arm but also your breasts, an essential view since they had a tattoo that represented your health meter. There's a code to play the game in third-person, but, as seen in the page image, this reveals that you are literally a levitating pair of boobs with a gun.
In Half-Life, the "thirdperson" command would allow one to have a third-person view over Gordon, with a complete model, though you still can't see anything other than your arms in first-person mode. Amusingly, in the expansion packs, the new player characters still used Gordon's model, and in Half-Life 2, using the same command would result in seeing just Gordon's arms.
On another occasion, using the developer console to play Half-Life 2 in third-person led to the revelation that Gordon Freeman is apparently a vaguely humanoid glass statue that doesn't move so much as glide around.
Garry's Mod can have this subverted by player made addons and gamemodes by rendering the legs, torso, (and arms/hands if using a swep that makes you unarmed) although there can be the occasional artifact depending on the player model.
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has much like the first HL2 example. Kyle, while being fully modeled and animated in third-person, has the usual "arms only" thing when in first-person - which gets even worse when you attempt to use the lightsaber in first-person, at which point Kyle is nothing but a pair of hands and maybe half of their attached forearms gripping onto said lightsaber, using the third-person animations. Jedi Academy "fixed" that by forcing a third-person perspective when using the lightsaber.
Deus Ex: While you can see JC Denton in mirrors and other reflections, you can't see his feet when you actually look down (though you would see a “blob shadow” under him.) The same holds true for just about any game based on the early builds of the Unreal Engine: Unreal, Clive Barker's Undying, etc. Particularly odd in the case of well-polished floors, where you could see the soles of JC's boots reflected back at you.
In the prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the player doesn't ever see Adam Jensen's reflection in mirrors or shiny surfaces. Adam's body is modeled in-game, since the camera very frequently switches between first and third person. Yet when you're in first-person perspective, you never see your legs and your hands are just drawn on-screen, but you can see them moving back and forth when you sprint without anything in your hands.
In Prey, the very first scene in the game shows the player looking at their own reflection in a mirror. Later in the game you can see yourself in other mirrors/reflections/portals. However, you can't see your feet.
Duke Nukem 3D was one of the first FPS games with mouselook, and therefore one of the first examples of this trope. Of course, in early versions, you could see both of Duke's feet, but only when attacking with them (the left foot was the Quick Melee and the right foot the melee Emergency Weapon).
Left 4 Dead 2 does away with seeing your legs and feet in first person, no matter what your settings are. Word Of God says that the removal of legs was needed in order to allow more zombies in the game world and cutting out legs in first person would allow this goal, since rendering legs can get taxing on the Source engine. Notable because the first game is in the exceptions list below.
One of the few things that's almost always present in an FPS are the hands and held items. Ironically, one example of a game which lacks even that is? Ghost Recon.
SWAT 3 as well, but entering the code "handsup" would make them visible.
So did early Rainbow Six games before Raven Shield (and yes, Ghost Recon ran on the same engine).
Particularly tasty in GoldenEye and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 since you can freely look down to the floor. Try it while standing in a corner and look for your feet...
No matter what character you've chosen in Goldeneye's multiplayer, you'll always have Bond's arms. Perfect Dark fixed this, but then fell into the trap of every NPC referring to you as a woman, even when you're playing as a big hulking Scandinavian man.
Portal lets you see Chell by looking through the portals, but you can't look down to see her legs and she doesn't cast a shadow (even in rooms in Portal 2 when other objects do). As with Half-Life 2's gravity gun, you use the portal gun to pick up objects, but before you get it Chell seems to pick up things by glaring at them.
System Shock and System Shock 2. The Hacker's Guide to Sin goes further: not only does the main character have no feet, but he's able to activate healing stations from 13 feet away, yet unable to search bodies across a gap, so he most likely has boneless tentacles that snake along the ground.
Spiritual SuccessorBioShock 1 has both of your hands visible at different times (left hand is Plasmids, right hand is guns), but your feet are missing. One of the lesser goals of the sequel was making it possible to see your feet.
A difficult call for No One Lives Forever and its sequel, where you can occasionally make out your character's facial features (typically while dying).
Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light do no render the first person player model, even though scripted events sometimes have Artyom's arms or even his legs. Oddly though, he and his weapon's shadow are rendered with a decent degree of detail.
Not just FPS games suffer from this. The Myst games are a series of first-person puzzle games that had a First Person Ghost whose only visible appendage was a floating hand cursor. Justified in Myst and Riven due to movement limitations, but by the time Myst III: Exile rolled around, the player could not only look down and see that they had no feet, but also wind up standing on thin air just off of the edge of a cliff. It's worse in Myst IV: Revelation when the hand cursor gained a more realistic look. You could even inexplicably tint the hand strange, unearthly colors other than 'skin tone' or 'heavily pigmented skin tone'. The developers thankfully fixed this in Myst V: End of Ages.
While most of The Lost Crown isn't first person, there are a few such scenes in which objects must be handled and Nigel's arms are nowhere to be seen. This was probably deliberate, as it makes a story about ghosts just a little creepier not to avert this trope.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion you cannot see anything but your arms in first person. Additionally, you cast a shadow in third person view but not in first person. This gets even more strange when the horse you are riding always casts a shadow so if you look at the ground while riding your horse in first person you will see the shadow of a horse with no rider.
For PC users, the TFC console command gives you a ufo-camera option, using this in first person will auto-set the camera into third person pan without actually zooming out, leaving two arms floating in midair.
More egregiously, you don't see your arms moving when swimming in first-person. Also, there are actually differences in the animations between first and third person, noticeable with where the character holds their weapons between the two modes (as with pretty much every complaint about Oblivion, there's a DLC that addresses this).
There are mods for Skyrim however that avert this, by simply having your third-person model rendered while in first-person as well, except for the head (and arms when equipping weapons).
Fallout3 and Fallout: New Vegas both inherited many of the above problems in Oblivion. Fallout 3 had an additional weird instance when ever you used zoom with a non-scoped weapon. In third person the character would use the weapons sights like they should, but in first person the camera just zooms and the players arms don't move at all. New Vegas fixed this issue but added a lot more of the "differing first person to third person animation thing" with its melee weapons.
Justified in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, during the Desmond's Journey sections, as the puzzles are made of pure Animus data, and Desmond can't even feel or see his own body.
Minecraft lets you see only your arm and if you are holding an item, you only see the item itself while your arm is nowhere to be seen (unless you are holding a map, which both of your arms are shown then). Of course, hitting F5 turns you third-person, showing how you look in multiplayer. Your entire body is very, very visible.
In Facade, only Trip and Grace have (very blocky) models. You are purely a free-floating camera, with any objects you pick up levitating around with your cursor movements. If you move a full drink glass to the bottom of the screen, it animates to show you're drinking from it, but still does so in empty space.
The Penumbra series and its Spiritual SuccessorAmnesia: The Dark Descent play this trope completely straight, due to engine limitations. In Penumbra, you don't even see your own hands - even when you're holding a flashlight or swinging a pickaxe in front of you.
Justified in The 7th Guest, as the player character is a literal ghost.
In flight simulators using fully modeled 3D cockpits you will often see your flight controls, which in some cases move based on the player's control inputs. But you almost never see the "body" of your pilot. Apparently the pilot is controlling the plane via The Force.
A weirder example: In the Novalogic combat simulation games (F-16 Multirole Fighter, F-22 Lightning 2/Raptor/Lightning 3, Mig-29 Fulcrum), you can freely look around the cockpit, and the pilot's body is there, but not his head, giving the impression that we're looking through a camera hovering over a headless, neckless dummy.
Wreck-It Ralph has this in-universe, as the player-character of Hero's Duty (the first-person shooter) is a robot with a pair of arms mounted on caterpillar tracks and a TV screen for a head. The player only sees the arms.
America's Army 3 allows you to see your character's entire body when you look down. Interacting with objects (turning valves, opening doors, etc.) however, still seems to be done telekinetically.
F.E.A.R.'s development articles drove this point home. You can see the main character's feet, even while performing kung-fu. You also need to use your hands to climb ladders and swim, although curiously not to press buttons or open doors. If you look down you can see your legs, and the game actually renders your character model in the game world. There's even a unique character model for the player character, even though the player never is actually able to see themselves fully.
In FEAR 2 there are a small number of mirrors where you can see your character model. They also changed it so that you do have to use your hands to press buttons, turn wheels, and move objects - but still not to open doors (unless you like to bash them open with melee attacks, since they added that too).
The Darkness allows the player to see Estacado's lower body when looking down.
Far Cry 2 allows the player character's entire body to be seen.
Ditto Far Cry 3. The game never leaves first-person mode; not even during cutscenes, which all play from Jason's perspective. Additionally, nearly every interaction with the environment is animated, including opening doors, climbing ledges, looting bodies, skinning animals, entering vehicles, and so on.
Killzone 2 does try to avoid this to some extent, but for some reason you can't see all the way down.
If someone leaves the party while playing multiplayer campaign online, the game freezes and glitches allowing you to look down directly into your torso.
It's perfectly possible not just to look down and see your thigh, but to stick a plasma grenade to it.
Halo 4 totally averts this trope. Not only can you see the Chief's legs when you look down, but every onscreen prompt (i.e. "press X to open door", "press X to activate console") is fully depicted onscreen, with the Chief reaching out and interacting with the world.
Operation Flashpoint is one of the earliest games that does an honest attempt at not doing this trope. Of course, it'd invoke some really obvious Fridge Logic if you couldn't, since it also allowed you to use a third person view. Its Spiritual Successor, the ARMA series, go a step further and enable you to rotate your character's head independently of where their weapon is facing. In the latest ARMA III Beta, your character has impressive control over his movements. From leaning, three levels of standing based on what cover you're shooting from, to being able to choose whether your character keeps the weapon up at the low ready, the high ready, or simply slung across his torso, it can be a challenge at first to remember all the controls to manipulate you character's rendered body.
Crysis permits players to view their character's lower torso and legs, arguably to show off the extreme level of detail that was put into the game's Nanosuits.
Battlefield 3 averts this, with the player character's body fully visible during most actions.
The Call of Duty games, in their multiplayer matches, feature an interesting example: the players bodies are rendered seperately, so that the third person version you see of another player isn't the exact same thing that they see in the first person. While most the time the two match up more-or-less seamlessly, some interesting things can happen when they don't match up; for example, most modern CoD games will "smooth out" the player's third-person movement to look more fluid and natural, rather than the herky-jerky movement that would result if you showed their actual first-person movement.
Because of lag, what one character shows in third person might be delayed from what they're doing in first person. This can lead to situations where you get shot by someone who appears to not even be facing you; their bullets will seem to exit the barrel at angle to hit you.
If you are hit with a flashbang grenade, your character will appear to cover their eyes and shake their head, with their gun pointed at the ground and off to the side. However, from the first person perspective, your gun is still up, meaning that you can still shoot and kill the person who flashbanged you.
Going prone actually takes into account the position of your limbs; it's possible to be "prone blocked" and be unable to turn without standing up if your legs are up against a wall or something.
Also played with in the single player campaign of Black Ops. When the game first starts, the player is strapped to a chair in front of several television monitors. You can see your character's face on the monitors, and it actually moves with your view (i.e. if you turn to the left, you'll see the face on the monitor turn as well).
Completely averted in Duke Nukem Forever. That game has no first-person model, and all you see of Duke's body in first person is the third-person model that is actually present in the game. Mirrors reflect Duke's body, whose position is always exactly the same as what you see in first person, whatever you're doing (walking, shooting, reloading, or even just standing in place letting an Idle Animation run). Of course, you can see your feet, although, for obvious reasons, the lower part of your body is locked out of view when Duke is pissing.
This can almost be completely averted in Team Fortress 2 with a console command or supposedly when playing with the Oculus Rift. Entering "cl_first_person_uses_world_model 1" in the console sets the first person view into a mode in which, as the command would suggest, the view model is replaced with an instance of the player's world model, allowing the player to see their entire body and their own shadow, along with any of the many fashion items the player may have decked on their character. While not perfect, it works surprisingly well.
Metroid Prime 3 not only allows you to see Samus' lower body and arms when she's sitting in her spaceship, you can also view her skeleton when using the X-ray visor.
Metroid Prime in general. You can see Samus' eyes reflected in the Visor whenever a flash of light comes close, you can see her reflection in various reflective surfaces, etc.
When you go into third person view via Morph Ball or Screw Attack, Samus clearly has a model and it moves fluidly. However, her model vanishes the minute you go back to first person view. You can also aim her arm cannon straight down, but you'll never see her feet.
Geist, while not allowing you to see your legs by not letting you pan down to look, does show you doing EVERYTHING in the corner of the screen when you're possessing someone in the main single player mode.
In the Mount and Blade series, you can see you arms and legs during first-person gameplay. Even when you die.
The Max Payne 2 FPS-Mod makes the game probably the most realistic FPS game, in the context of this trope.
The similar FPS mod for Just Cause 2, meanwhile, takes this to the extreme - you can even see inside your own head with it, unless you download/create a mod that removes Rico's head from his character model entirely.
Mirror's Edge lets you see Faith's legs. Good thing, too, because the game requires a lot of precision platforming. Additionally, you can see her full arms, shoulders, and torso, body position permitting (your camera is constrained to the directions Faith's eyes could actually be looking at any moment). The tip of her nose is the only thing really missing.
And as far as interaction goes: When you press a button, she actually presses the button.
Mirror's Edge provides a good example of why this trope exists in the first place: designing animations that will look convincing from a first-person perspective is a very different task from animating a character in third-person, and the character animations in the game that look impressive in the game's default gameplay mode look rather stiff and awkward when the game is played in third-person.
Related to Mirror's Edge in the context of this trope is Jumping Flash!. Since this game was a Platform Game and an FPS, it was important to see where you were going to land. The developers of this game had the camera pan down as you fell. Not only did you get to see the character's feet, but a shadow as well.
This also leads to a strange issue or oversight, while your body is fully visible it does not cast a shadow. This leads to objects being visibly in your hands while carried but the shadow projected is just the object floating unsuspended in mid air.
And oddly enough if you switch to a third-person view, you're largely invisible except for the occasional limb flickering into existence. For the most part, legs stay visible.
A non-FPS example, the early Wing Commander games showed Blair's body seated in the cockpit, including animated arms manipulating the flight stick.
First person Survival Horror game Outlast makes the protagonist's chest, arms, legs and feet visible when looking down. Additionally, he frequently interacts with the environment physically; you can see his hands turning valves, pushing buttons, etc. The game adds several other features to avoid this trope, such as Miles visibly putting his hand on a wall when close to one, and leaving bloody footprints if he walks through a puddle of gore. Also, Mile's shadow is synchronised to his body movements, meaning that if he holds the camera his shadow also does.
In Virtue's Last Reward, Sigma's face is not seen and his voice is not heard, though in the promotional anime his face is shown and he is voiced by Troy Baker. His face is shown in the True End route, and is a massive spoiler. Troy Baker also voices the perspective character in the Secret End, a dead giveaway that the player is no longer Sigma.
Zeno Clash, although more of a brawler than a shooter, makes a point of being very detailed. The main character's hands are visible as his default weapons, his leg shows up during counterattacks, and when hit by a heavy blow, you can see him realistically scramble to his feet through his eyes.
Montezuma's Return, an obscure first-person action/puzzle game, was one of the first games to attempt to show your character's limbs.