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.
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.
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.
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.
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.