The State of Gaming: The First-Person Shooter

FPS

I’m officially off vacation now, and am back with the third of five blog posts in my State of Gaming series. This week, I tackle the juggernaut genre of the gaming industry, and try and get to the bottom of the huge success the first-person shooter has found.

If you know anything about video games, you’ve probably heard of a little something called a first-person shooter, or FPS. The FPS has been the biggest, most universally played game for a long time. But why?

The original Doom, released in 1993, reinvented the FPS and really introduced it to the overall gaming audience, and is still loved by many today. And in 2001, the FPS was reinvented again by Bungie’s Halo: Combat Evolved. Many of the widely-accepted rules of the FPS (how many guns you hold, regenerative health etc.) were more or less started with either the original Halo or the ’93 Doom.

The ‘secret’ to the success of the FPS is fairly simple, and all comes down to immersion. Stepping into the shoes of a hardened, courageous soldier is incredibly appealing to people of all backgrounds; and going through thousands of bullets while saving humanity from destruction is something that just can’t be beat.

The grandfather of shooters.

 

This is what has kept the FPS alive for so many years, and with today’s technology, developers are able to make games more immersive, more realistic, and more thrilling; all of which further feeds the appeal these games so obviously possess.

Some people resent the shooter for its popularity, claiming that they’re all the same and don’t do anything to make themselves unique. While this is in some cases, an accurate statement, it is somewhat misguided.

Call of Duty has had a new game on the shelves annually for the last several years, and every game earns more money than the previous one. It’s this ‘if it ain’t broke why fix it’ mentality that has led to the over-saturation of the generic shooter.

Because Call of Duty makes so much money, developers and publishers now will often take take the core of Call of Duty, re-name it, and then add their own few changes. This is not always the case, but it is a common one.

I honestly have no idea what game this screenshot is from.

 

The market is abundantly saturated with first-person shooters all claiming to be the best, when in reality, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. While there are some cases where developers make their first-person game unique (Borderlands 2 and BioShock come to mind), this is an unfortunate rarity.

When I play a game, I want an experience that will entertain and distract me from my everyday life. In fact, I often expect the same thing of games as I do of movies and books. Which is why I’m often disappointed when a FPS will disregard the need for a good narrative in favor of nail-biting action and violent encounters.

While that can certainly be fun for a time, you can only take down the same faceless thug for so long before it gets boring. And with branching out becoming increasingly rare, and my free time following parallel, I often give a game thirty-minutes to grab me before moving on.

I’ve tried to play Call of Duty numerous times in the ast, but it loses my interest fairly quickly because it does nothing I haven’t seen dozens of times before. Even my beloved Resistance games are only unique in the fact that they put as much focus on the narrative as they do the gameplay.

Even Halo falls prey to many of the traps that come with being a FPS.

 

There is hope however. Every so often a game will come along that turns everything we know on its head. Halo did it in 2001, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did it in 2007, and it’s only a matter of time before we see history repeat itself.

Until then though, let’s enjoy what’s out there. The FPS genre is still packed with some truly great games that are unique, entertaining, and exhilarating.

Borderlands 2 is a recent game that does all of that. Mixing the narrative into the gameplay, and adding in an abundance of humor and great characters, Borderlands 2 is, in my opinion, one of the best shooters we’ve had in a long time. All while still retaining the appeal of the shooter.

Games like Borderlands 2 give weary FPS fans reason to believe that change is coming.

 

Even Call of Duty knows change has to come, as Black Ops 2 (the newest entry into the series) is the most unique Call of Duty to come out in a long time.

The first-person shooter dominates the gaming market, there’s no doubt about that. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a good thing either. However, there is hope that change is coming.

I expect that when the new consoles hit, they will bring with them new and wholly original games that will re-define much of what we know and expect from gaming. And that includes the FPS. Mark my words, the new generation will bring us the ‘next big thing’, and it really will be like nothing else.

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8 responses to “The State of Gaming: The First-Person Shooter

  1. Your closing statement sure seems like a pie in the sky dream to me. I’m a recent re-adopter of the FPS. I played the living crap out of Wolf3D back in the day, then skipped over all FPS until Goldeneye. I was terrible, and the controls were terrible, and I gave the genre a miss again until Left 4 Dead grabbed hold of me my first year of playing 360. I’ve played several of them, both old and new, that I missed out on since.

    In my opinion, there really isn’t room for innovation in the market anymore. There are FPS titles that have mastered story, and there are FPS that have mastered gameplay/multiplayer. The only thing left to improve upon is gaming’s constant… graphics.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I really don’t see where we go from here, except to see the market finally cave like the rhythm genre did. I know the FPS market has thrived longer than that, but that’s because, like you mentioned, there were some key innovations at key times. I don’t think it’s hardware or lack of resources holding back “the next big thing”. I think the genre is tapped. There will always be new great FPS, just like there will always be new great platformers, JRPGs, Western RPGS, even point-and-click adventures… but I seriously doubt there’s more game-changing innovation left in the genre.

    Wow… that was a lot longer than I anticipated. Obviously, you had a great, thought provoking write-up! Great job!

    • I think I misunderstood your closer. You weren’t talking about the next big thing in FPS, you were talking about the next big genre in gaming. I guess that means we’re pretty much in agreement. 😛

      • I am still hoping for some sort of fresh take on the FPS, but it does seem more like wishful thinking than anything else. Although there are some incredibly fun games on the market, and a few promising games on the horizon (BioShock: Infinite mainly) the genre is running out of ideas. The shooter isn’t even my favorite genre to be honest, for those very reasons. What really excites me about the future is, like you said, the next big genre that will surely come with the new consoles. If the new consoles come shipped with just sequels, I’m going to be very disappointed. Thanks so much for commenting and reading. Love hearing feedback like this. 🙂

      • Glad to read/comment. Discussion & feedback are fun.

        If I’m completely honest, I have extremely low expectations for the next console generation. Nintendo, and the medium as a whole, seemed to learn one thing out of this generation… Casual is where the profit margins are, and finding, creating, building the next big gimmick is the way to their hearts.

        Motion controls, touch screens, drawing tablets, balance boards, copy-pasta source codes, rhythm gaming, and Day 1 DLC subscriptions are what they learned from this generation.

        Come up with an idea, beat it dead, beat it into the bleeding ground, bury it, dig it up, flip it over and bury it again… That’s what they’ve learned.

        Just look at the WiiU and that tablet controller thing. I’m not saying Nintendo doesn’t know how to still make a buck–or a good game, for that matter–but their ideas are terrible. It’s been the Power Glove times a million this generation. I can’t wait until we stop throwing money at these awful ideas.

      • Wow, when you put it that way, the future does look a little grim. It does seem like most of this generation’s most successful endeavors are the ones that are more gimmicks than actual, useful tools. I still have some hope that one of the new consoles will surprise everyone, but if new ideas don’t sell well, then we might not. Just look at the PlayStation Vita; it’s a great, unique device that I love to death, but no one is buying it. Fingers crossed that someone, somewhere comes up with something new and exciting for the next generation.

      • Someone will have to, because the “core” crowd can’t take much more of this peripheral BS. Fortunately for them, CoD seems to still be going strong, with no sings of stopping yet, so they’ll be placated until they start having/taking care of kids.

        For guys like me, the “core” crowd of the 8/16 bit era… there’s a growing number of people realizing the only reason we’re not spending a lot money on stuff is because it’s not quality. We’re soaking up indie titles off Steam or XBLA. We’re firing up our old consoles and showing our kids what a “real” game plays like. We’ve learned exactly how much it costs us, in both time and money, to play games, and we just don’t bother with stuff that we feel isn’t 100% worth it anymore. And when we find a game that is, a Fallout, or a Skyrim, or a Mass Effect… we play the living daylights out of it, like we used to back in the day.

        That doesn’t make the bigger companies as much money. So we get pessimistic about the future because our golden idol developers get bought out by bigger companies, and begin to churn out shit on a stick.

        Hell, maybe I’m wrong, and the next gen won’t be solid full of CoDs and Angry Birds. One thing’s definitely true though… this generation is tapped. I wasn’t excited for anything this year… at least not after the ME3 ending.

        Truthfully, it won’t matter for me… I’m still playing Oblivion on and off, for cryin’ out loud. l’ll be fine with this console generation for a while.

      • In response to Spikor’s comments on “core” gamers. I suppose you could consider me one of those people. I grew up playing 8-bit games. I bought Doom when it came out in 1993 (by the way, you have erroneously stated it came out in 1983 in your post), and I have been chugging along with gaming ever since. The problem, if you can even call it that, is “core” gamers are acting all butt-hurt that they aren’t being catered to exclusively any more. The “casual” gamers market finally got tapped with the Wii and with cell-phone gaming. Publishers realized there was a new market, and have done what they do best: attempt to exploit it. Now that more people have been brought into gaming, more time is being spent trying to make games in different genres that will appeal to a wider fan-base. “Core” gamers aren’t an exclusive audience any longer. As a result, they act angry, and talk about how the system is broken. It isn’t broken at all. It’s evolving just as every other form of media.

      • Thanks for your comment (and for pointing out my mistake with the date). I agree with you 100%. The ‘system’ is doing what it has to in order to evolve, and while that does mean we have to put up with a lot of stupid gimmicks, it is a good thing. I for one am glad we’ve moved past the 8-bit era, and now have the ability to play beautiful games that not only play great, but look great as well. I do, however, hope the casual market doesn’t take over. That would disappoint me for sure. Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

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