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Why Have FPSs Always Fascinated Us?

For the record, this is not a rhetorical question. It's quite legitimate, so comment away.

The biggest video game in the world right now is a first-person shooter. That's not news. And although I am not on the bandwagon that says shooters dominate this generation (as one developer said, this isn't true in the slightest unless your name is "Call of Duty"), I think it's plain as day that one genre has always fascinated gamers from the dawn of the industry.

Those who are old enough might remember first seeing Wolfenstein 3D. They will likely recall that it was a revelation almost to the level of Super Mario Bros.. And although one can make the claim that shooters are bigger now than ever before, simply because of CoD and maybe Battlefield, the veteran gamers are going, "...uh, no, we were around when Doom, Duke Nukem, and Heretic totally kicked ass." They didn't just kick ass, they were technological tour de forces and as far as I could tell everyone loved them.

In fact, I dare say it was more of a lovefest in those days than it is now. I really didn't know anyone who didn't at least admit that Doom was something special. Now, is that because we were still breaking down walls in video games, and exploring unknown frontiers? Well, that may have been the case with Wolfenstein, but weren't Doom and Duke Nukem just more of the same...only fancier? And what about the ensuing generations, when games like Half-Life and Halo once again owned the gaming world's attention? The love really never dies.

So what is it exactly that makes these first-person shooters so damn enduring and appealing for such a large number of gamers? Is the love simply passed down from the olden days? That's a fine answer for those over a certain age, but what about the young'uns that don't really play anything but shooters these days? Is it just the constant gratification that caters to our ever-dwindling attention spans? That's undoubtedly part of it, but was it true in the late 80s and early 90s? Not everyone on the planet worshiped at the alter of digital deification in those days. Heck, people still went outside and did stuff.

Maybe it's just the viewpoint. First-person RPGs like The Elder Scrolls seem to be immensely popular as well. Then again, Mirror's Edge didn't exactly leap off the sales charts, and these days, third-person shooters (Uncharted, Gears of War, and to a lesser extent, Grand Theft Auto) seem to earn the highest praise (if not necessarily the highest sales). It's quite the complicated question, isn't it?

Tags: first person shooters, fps, video games, shooters, gaming industry

5/24/2012 9:15:43 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (26 posts)

Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 9:42:52 PM

The only FPS that has ever fascinated me was BioShock. The rest just don't do it for me, i just can't get into them like i do with other genres. I personally just don't find the idea of controlling a gun equipped mitt all that interesting. But hey that's just me.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:45:54 PM

Same here. I enjoyed the plot and setting in Bioshock. The only other fps I've managed to get into was Portal. The puzzles in that game are just so fun and inventive. It's also one of the few games that has actually made me laugh out loud multiple times. Gotta love that twisted sense of humour.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 10:07:11 PM

Cuz us westerners are gun nuts?

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:00:27 PM

I never got on to the FPS bandwagon, the only FPS I played this gen are the 2 Bioshock games. Never quite understood the FPS craze.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:02:50 PM

who didnt dream of being a soldier and shooting the bad guys as a kid? As an adults FPS games enable us to continue this fantasy from the safety of the couch.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:16:06 PM

To he fair TPS' could achieve this same thing then, and have.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:15:24 PM

It's hard to explain really. On the one hand third person games you are controlling a character, and you see every movement that's made. It's engaging but there's some sort of disconnection there.

Where as for FPS you always see what's in front of you - as the player - head on. It's quite engaging, and plenty satisfying, not to say other genres are not. There's a large connection between you and the action, and a sense of urgency as you pop in and out of cover or what have you.

That's a tough question to answer. When I get a clearer answer I'll get back to you.

Last edited by bigrailer19 on 5/24/2012 11:18:30 PM

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:21:10 PM

The only FPS I like is Borderlands.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 11:34:05 PM

It's a perspective thing.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 12:00:16 AM

With first-person view, it's the closest to being literally in the character's shoes and seeing what goes on in front of his eyes.. 3D enhances that experience. That type of game play is attractive having the feeling that it's you who's playing through the scenarios and not a character that you may not be able to relate to.

At least that's how my best friend explains it, he prefers FPS titles over TPS, not hating the latter, it's just his main preference. The first person view is also translated well with racing games, where you literally go into the driver's view to more than watching your car move around.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 8:09:47 PM

...except it's not a realistic representation of a character's perspective, unless that character is a Dalek.

I find third-person view much more immersive than first-person, because my field of vision is more analogous to human vision and the character animations are more convincing.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 12:03:52 AM

Actually Ben, I've found many gamers look back fondly at FPS' and some who MIGHT replay them for nostalgic reasons.

But the games have not aged well. I cannot for the life of me play Wolfenstein without dying in the first few minutes. Without a mouse for looking, the game just seems almost impossible to play compared to today's standards.

The only game I WAS able to play was Duke Nukem 3D on 360 because of the updated control scheme. But the visuals actually gave me a headache and made me feel sick and dizzy after an hour of playing. Same goes with Perfect Dark on 360, new and improved controls, new and improved graphics, but get dizzy and sick after about an hour of playing.

I find this happens with nearly all old FPS'!! Is it motion sickness?

Either way, those FPS' were great for their time, but with modern FPS' pushing the boundary every time, it has not aged well and I find I cannot play old FPs' anymore. Heck! I loved Goldeneye 64, and when I went back and played it, it was terrible!! The N64 control scheme was terrible for playing an FPS compared to today's twin stick combination.

The idea and gameplay behind the old FPS haven't changed, but graphics, controls, HUD and features have. I think people love FPS' because it is an enduring genre that can be applied to many other genre mixes. Just look at Portal, Bioshock and Borderlands!!

I think, physchologically, it the player's interest in immersing themselves in that gaming world by seeing that world through the eyes of the main character, and THAT is what engages people to play and keep playing.

Anyone else agree?

Last edited by Dancemachine55 on 5/25/2012 12:05:44 AM

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 12:45:27 AM

First person puts YOU in the centre, that's the appeal as far as I can tell. It clearly makes the experience more intense. It's YOU they attack, it's YOU who struggle, YOU hide and YOU are discovered.

But third person view gives you a much better overview of the game field, while first person gives you better precision. That's why I in games like Fallout continuously alter between 1st and 3rd person views.

Personally I like both views equally well. Certain games just *have* to be in first person, while others would have been a FAIL in first person.

Last edited by Beamboom on 5/25/2012 12:46:29 AM

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 5:11:33 AM

best example of that is legend of grimrok.
first person is just so much more engrossing than third person.
i normally dont enjoy dungeon crawlers much because of their tedious backtracking gameplay.
but the first person nature of it has added a extra layer to the game.
every time you turn a corner your constantly praying that there is no enemies there, than theres none and you blow a sigh of relief.
than you turn around and a enemy leaps out at you.
its amazing how much a simple camera change from first to third person changes things!
racing games are another example.
every single time i play a racing game the first thing i do is change it to first person camera if i can.
burnout paradise for instance i cant play that game unless its in first person!
just adds another layer of immersion to the game.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 1:42:34 AM

dues ex human revolution was the best first person game.i can see the character i'm controlling when i get into cover.I like that type of camera.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 2:53:11 AM

Yeah it worked great in that game. Best of two worlds.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 1:56:36 AM

FPSs never facinated me, period.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 5:07:00 AM

2 reasons.
1 shooters have always been a realm to bring in new technology.
every single time a new game comes out and sets the graphical benchmark its done in a shooter.
every time a game comes out and sets new AI or physics standards its in a shooter.
look at half life, it was the first game to bring physics elements into puzzle solving.
2 humans are inherently violent.
thats just how we are, were obsessed with violence and there is nothing more violent than blowing things to pieces with a rocket launcher!
yea you can have just as much violence and gore in any other genre but for some reason it just does not give the same experience.
but they mainly became famous because of their inherent ability to always bring something new.
be it better graphics, a new more advanced physics system, new rendering techniques, better AI, whatever.
shooters became famous and still are today because there the number 1 genre that pushes innovation forward!
i guess you could call the genre the S class of the gaming industry.
it brings new things to the industry and makes them standard, compulsory!

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 8:08:58 AM

It's a tough question to find a single answer for. I guess FPS's popularity on the consoles can be traced directly back to Halo. There were other FPS on the consoles before Halo like Medal of Honor on the PS1 but none ever came close to being the hit Halo was for whatever reasons. What was it about Halo that made it the first true FPS hit on a console? I suppose the overall quality and polish of gameplay had really never been seen on a console before and gamers took notice.

If you examine the the sales of FPS titles there are a only a few games that sit in the 10 million plus range like Halo, Cod, and BF3. There are many others that have had only moderate success like Killzone or Homefront. There are even some complete flops like Resistance 3. I know why Homefront only had moderate success but I have trouble coming up with a reason why KZ3 isn't a huge hit and why Resistance 3 was a complete bomb. What I am getting at is even though FPS are insanely popular and get a lot of attention from the gaming media there only a handful of titles that are true hits. So making a FPS is no guarantee of success nor does it equate to universal appeal. There must be other dynamics that are in play that are tough to isolate when it comes to FPS popularity.

KZ3 is one of the most polished FPS I have ever played. It looks and plays great. The MP is diverse and most of all fun but somehow it can barely break 2 million copies sold. I know it got dinged by critics for the SP campign but do the FPS titles that are hits feature single player campigns that are really that much better? In Battlefield 3's case I would answer no way. Resistance 3's SP campign was excellent plus the game was well received by critics yet the game totally bombed.

I think the appeal of the multiplayer plays a huge role in the popularity of FPS on the consoles. There is probably a bandwagon type of effect going on that plays a big role in why only certain FPS titles are true hits. Once a game has a huge multiplayer following the players start to pull in other gamers and it has a snowball effect. It takes a lot to get gamers to jump off that bandwagon. That might go a long way in explaining why some quality FPS games have been ignored by many gamers. So, I would say the popularity of MP gaming plays the biggest role when it comes to the fascination of FPS. I really don't think fascination is a good word to use associate with FPS. It's not about fascination but rather simple, straight forward gameplay that is easy to pick up and most of all fun to play with your friends. Don't confuse popularity with fascination. Gamers aren't playing FPS because they find them fascinating for the most part especially when it comes to the blockbuster FPS titlles.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 8:11:23 AM

Have to admit I am tired or bored of this line of question. FPS fascinate us? I fascinate may not be the right word. I don't feel personal have or have been fascinated.

FPS is just another way of engaging an individual. Course FPS do not necessarily mean multiplayer either.

What it comes down to is the perspective of the game play "First Person". Lets drop the "Shooter". From this perspective you get the feeling you are in the game, you are contributing to the unfolding of events, you are changing the environment. One might say you are "almost" fully immersed in to the game whether you are playing a combat game, exploration and/or puzzling solving game.

Fascinated... no. Immersed... yes. But this can be found in any "good" game.

As for the "Shooter" component of the full FPS game. I am getting bored real quick with the genre. When I have or ever do play them I catch myself saying this like such and such game, oh that level is like, hah! that aspect of the game is like this game. Bored yes. But it would also be boring if most games were platformers or RPG.

Keep playing.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 9:05:34 AM

Wolfenstein, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. I haven't been able to get into an FPS since those golden days.

But I was younger, with a lot more energy and free time then. I guess I just kind of grew away from the genre. That, and I find modern FPS games very stressful. When I play video games now it's to wind down at the end of an already stressful day. RPG's, platformers, and adventure games are where it's at for me these days.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 10:15:15 AM

Well, they don't fascinate me. Actually, I generally tune out a game centered around dragging a cursor over targets over and over.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 1:16:09 PM

Wow - there's not that many games left then. :D

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 10:18:18 AM

Also, I'd put Marathon (late 1994) in the golden age of shooters with Wolf3D and Doom. That was by far my favorite of those. Today, I've moved on from the genre.

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SirLoin of Beef
Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 2:31:01 PM

Marathon was a hoot. We played that during break times at the graphic design place I used to work at. I still wish Bungie would release an updated version of the game.

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Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 9:02:44 PM

Well judging from my brother's preference on solely FPS games and the amount of reviews claiming the Raid: Redemption to be one of the best action movies in a long time, my guess is that the content conveyed in action packed entertainment is a high adaptation requirement from our mundane(?) lives, leading to slight adrenaline rushes when playing/watching, and in theory someone would typically want more. Kind of like how people love speed. Not the drug.

And of course a main cunning of the FPS genre lies in its name: fIRST pERSON. Supposedly to place the action through a more personal view? Gave me headaches when I was younger =\.

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