An Itchy Trigger Finger

There are plenty of reasons to have concern regarding First Person Shooters (FPS). As I wrote in Parents fear First Person Shooters, these games often have fast-paced, immersive violence with plenty of content that should be concerning to an engaged parent. Yet is it fair to just write them off completely? Is there any redeeming value in this genre?

First Person Shooters as Action Movies

FPS are one of the most-played game genres because of their ability to draw a wide audience. If we were to compare video games to movies, great FPS games would be like some of the best action movies:

  • Die Hard
  • Gladiator
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • heck, even The Passion of the Christ for that matter.

These movies are not appropriate for all ages. Yet they deliver powerful and engaging experiences. First Person Shooters are similar in this way. There may be a time and a place for them. They are certainly not for every time and place.

First Person Shooter Crash Course

It is possible you haven’t seen a First Person Shooter (FPS) for yourself. To bring you into the fold, I’ve created a crash-course in FPS gaming that will help show you, more than just tell you what makes FPS games special.

My goal

Even if you don’t like them, you will at least understand how someone else could.

Why gamers love First Person Shooters

The modern FPS really sets itself apart from other genres because, when done well, it combines three powerful story-telling features:

  • Epic heroes
  • Fast-paced combat
  • Engaging stories

 Reason #1: Epic heroes

Master Chief. pc: Bungie

A major appeal of the FPS genre is getting the gamer to be a hero well beyond the bounds of what they could be in real life. A good FPS makes even the dangerous parts feel exciting. To do that, the hero has to epically save the day.

No hero is more epic than Master Chief. We’ll return to him in a bit.

Reason #2: Engaging Combat

Combat and the hero in the combat are intricately tied together in the FPS. In real life we go through our days dealing with real-life conflicts, overcoming them with our real-life abilities and incurring the results of our real-life decisions.

first person shooters - Bioshock Infinite - Narrative
Bioshock Infinite is known for it’s mind-bending plot.

Reason #3: Engaging Story

Games like Doom and Half-Life gave an immersive experience in an engaging story. These games paved the way for Call of Duty to create epic, cinematic-style games. Games like Bioshock Infinite even tackle philosophy while blowing up baddies.

The Reality

General William Tecumseh Sherman,
General William Tecumseh Sherman

Yet our real world has real battles and wars where people really die.

  • This isn’t good. Brave lives are lost. Innocent lives are ended. War is ugly and it’s not a game.

To quote Civil War General William Sherman: “War is hell.”

The First Person Shooter Problem

FPS confront us with a problem:

  • Simulated warfare for entertainment
  • Gamers blow friends and other non-combatants into smithereens
  • Meanwhile we all play at being warriors while real combat is occurring. This can be very disturbing.

The FPS Gamer’s Mind

Yet most gamers do not see these games as slay-fests. In the gamer’s mind they are a hero. Not just any hero. A hero who is:

  • Desperately needed
  • Fighting for a cause worth saving
  • In incredible danger
  • Given very slim odds of victory
  • Equipped with incredible luck, awesome weaponry, and world-class skill.

As this hero, they can save the day.

This leads us to what we can call The Halo Effect.