‘Tis the season to be jolly… but also to critique the one video game genre I love and hate the most: the first person shooter. I love FPS for its simple goals, straightforward game play, and the entertainment it provides me more than other genres, but hate it for its huge popularity, non focus on skill, and the ridiculous cost often put on an otherwise simple idea. Anyone who has read my articles before has probably noticed my contempt for the FPS genre, but this article, I’m going to fully delve into my thoughts on it.
FPS games came around in the early 1990s. Games like Wolfenstein 3D and Duke Nukem were among the first popular ones to hit the scene. Ever since their introduction, they have remained a popular choice for many gamers. The only reason that comes to mind to account for this popularity is to say no matter who they are or what they believe, gamers love to play with guns (at least, in video games they like to). There is just something about shooting a gun that makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Shooting stuff is just too good to pass up.
The genre is simple at its core. The gamer plays a character that carries a gun and shoots people (typically bad guys or people that deserve to die). Of course, there is usually more than one weapon the player can use or special missions to accomplish along the way, but the basic idea is straightforward: kill everything you see. FPS can be incorporated into other genres such as action, adventure, puzzle, or role playing, but the FPS part itself always remains the same. You use a gun to shoot other people. This simplicity plays a major part in the success and popularity of the franchise. But for me, this quickly becomes a downside. More on that later.
The cost of FPS games is probably the biggest turn off for me. Take the Call of Duty franchise for example. CoD Black Ops II, the newest installment in the CoD series, costs $60. This is a typical price for many new games in the modern era, but when you consider that the game basically incorporates the same game play and graphics from the previous games, tweaks a few elements here and there, and is marketed as essentially “a new game,” that is something that ticks me off. I’m not saying the developer didn’t put in a lot of time creating Black Ops II. Only that they took something already made, changed some skins, put in a few maps, and slapped a $60 price tag on it calling it “new content.” While it is “new” content in the lightest use of the term, it is essentially the same as the previous three or four games. The FPS has been worked down to a science: you provide a modest campaign, focus mostly on your multiplayer aspect, offer your players fun perks, game modes, and weaponry, and you basically have yourself a decent FPS game. The concept is simple and downright overused, but it works. Still, for such a simple layout, developers charge a lot of money.
Even now, developers come out with new content packs on a regular basis. These packs mostly consist of new maps and some aesthetic improvements to equipment, but otherwise do not enhance the game. But, these packs can cost as much as $15, a very high price in my opinion for what you are getting. The other problem is that once these packs are put out, players who do not buy the packs get left behind and split off from other players who do. With maps available to some and not all, developers force players to shell out or face fewer games and longer wait times. This is simply not fair.
On the note of new content, there is no reason for franchises like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or Halo to come out with new games yearly. For the most part, gamers are satisfied to game until something new comes along. As I mentioned before, FPS games have developed to the point where they are all basically the same model. Any new game simply tweaks the previous game a little and is resold as new content. Of course, gamers don’t want to get left behind, so they buy the new game. This then forces people who don’t necessarily buy games when they first come out to buy the game as well or be left behind with a smaller player base to game with. It’s perhaps the worst attribute of FPS games that previous games that are otherwise perfectly good, are left in the dust a year after they are made.
Lastly, because of the simplicity of FPS, the genre tends to attract the “undesirables” of gaming: immature gamers. You see, people who either can’t handle or don’t enjoy the complexity and challenge of other genres default to playing the FPS genre. It’s easy enough to play and quite entertaining. However, these people tend to be unrefined. They tend to talk on the mic more, berate other players, and in general tend to be a pain in the rear. There is no remedy for this other than to mute the annoying players and pretend you are having fun. Of course, this is not everyone who plays, but many FPS gamers are this way.
But alas, I should end on a happier note as it is the holiday season after all. Overall, the FPS genre is an excellent part of gaming, though it gets too much praise and attention for its simplicity and entertainment value. There are too many FPS fan boys who don’t branch out and appreciate all the genres gaming has to offer. I suppose it comes down to personal preference really, but if I could sway anyone to play the FPS genre sparingly, I would highly advise it.