As I wrote in last week’s post, Parents fear First Person Shooters, there are plenty of reasons to have concern regarding First Person Shooters (FPS).

I ran out of time before I got to talk about how FPS can be an incredible and engaging genre as well.

No, it’s not appropriate for all ages, neither are movies such as Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan or, heck, even The Passion of the Christ for that matter. Yet these movies deliver powerful and engages experiences that draw throngs of viewers to give up their hard-won money and limited time in order to see them.

FPS 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.

Why we love FPS

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

  • Epic heroes and combat
  • An immersive narrative
  • Mind-melting graphics

I’ve included videos that showcase each aspect we’re focusing on to give you an experiential understanding of the FPS genres.

My goal is that even if you don’t like them you will at least understand how someone else could.

 Reason #1a: Epic heroes

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.

Reason #1b: 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.

The Reality

General William Tecumseh Sherman,
General William Tecumseh Sherman,

Our real world has real battles and wars where people really die.

  • We know that isn’t good
  • We know that some bravely die to keep us safe.

In an honest moment, almost all of us can understand what Civil War General William Sherman meant with his

sentiment that “War is hell”.

So when we’re confronted with the idea of an FPS, simulated warfare for entertainment where we blow our friends and other non-combatants into smithereens while we all play at being warriors, we can find it very disturbing.

Yet that isn’t the premise in the mind of the gamer. In the gamer’s mind they are a hero, they are needed and saving a cause that is worth fighting for. The danger is great, the odds are slim and they know that with enough luck, skill and awesome weaponry, they can save the day.

The Halo Affect

The Halo series has made incredible heroes and combat their bread and butter for the last fifteen years. Master Chief is a perfect spot to start when we look at how an FPS can be engaging.

I’m going old school to show you this.

source: Bungie, Microsoft
No one kicks space-butt quite as much as Master Chief. Image source: Bungie, Microsoft

The first game in the Halo series came out nearly 15 years ago. Halo: Combat Evolved, puts you behind the visor of a futuristic super-soldier called a Spartan. Your name is Master Chief and they’ve just released you from a sort of deep-freeze because they are in a desperate time of need.

The game designers were so clever they actually use your character being disoriented as a segue to instruct your complete lack of knowledge as a gamer for how to play this darn game. That overlap was a powerful hook to getting the gamer feeling like they were actually in the game.

The scene proceeds as aliens have somehow made it onto the ship and you take part in an unraveling combat where you aren’t the central pivot point. You take part in it, but the skirmish goes on around you, behind you and others are fighting with you and against each other. The feeling that you are part of something greater, and interaction with non-player characters (NPCs) are both powerful aspects of making a great FPS.

Not to mention you get to pistol-whip some aliens. That’s always a perk.



Fifteen Years Later

Things haven’t changed much. Our first reason for loving FPS still holds true: We love our epic hero and we want our over-the-top combat so we can save the world! Master Chief is still running around out there. I’m sure he’s getting arthritic or something by now, but we’ll have to see.

You should definitely check out the new trailer for the upcoming release of Halo 5. WATCH THE TRAILER HERE


In the next post:

So it turns out there’s more to say about this topic than a single post can handle! To make it manageable I’ve broken it into three parts. Installments 2 and 3 are on their way with more videos to help keep things interesting. Thank you for reading!