Okay, it’s been a couple weeks, but I’m returning to our conversation about why FPS (First Person Shooters) hold such a place in the gaming community.

If this is the first entry you’ve read you can catch up here:

Contrary to popular belief, FPS games can have storylines!

It seems like they should be more like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie:

  • Dude with huge muscles
  • Blow up everything
  • Kill everything you see
  • Mind-numbing one-liners

In fairness this describes probably half the FPS out there.

However, as you saw in the first installment, the best FPS can tap into something deeper in the player. To do this game designers include a POWERFUL NARRATIVE.


The Magic of Narrative

The FPS takes a bit from the Adventure Game in this way: You see through the character’s eyes.

This lets the player experience the character’s:

  • conversations
  • battles
  • successes
  • failures

This allows a certain ownership of the story line.

OWNERSHIP is why these stories are so powerful. Ownership means:

  • When your character suffers a setback, you get frustrated.
  • When your character achieves success, you get excited!
  • You care about the story line. They will quit playing a series if the story doesn’t hold true.
  • You refer to your character as “I”. I LOVE this one!
    • “I went around this corner and got blasted!”
    • “I’ve got you covered! Go!”
    • “I don’t think I can get there in time!”

It’s not actually US doing it. We don’t read a book and explain the narrator’s choices in OUR voice.

Person 1: “What happened in your book today?”

Person 2: “I went to the Misty Mountain and fought Smaug.”

In great video games, and especially FPS, the story gives you ownership that is rare. All of the stress of success is now directly on the player. As the plot twists, enemies multiply, options thin and the realistic environments continue to develop, it all adds up to an experience that can’t be matched elsewhere.


Let me set the scene: At the end of the first Half Life you destroyed a giant alien and the creepy skinny guy who shows up in this trailer, called G Man, gives you some cryptic message. Well, G Man is back.

You suddenly appear, without explanation, on a subway. Apparently time has passed from the last time you were aware.

JUST LIKE THAT you’re pulled into the story.

The opening scene is not a gun battle with explosions and panic. It’s an almost eerie calm as you come to grips with what is no longer normal in the world your character once knew.

This focus on suspense, on questions, increases the power of the story. You want answers:

  • Where are you?
  • If this is the world, what has happened?
  • What’s up with the crazy Storm Trooper looking guys?

Whatever is going on, you know it isn’t good. The shooting will certainly come later, but the ability to draw the player through the story like a movie without feeling overly forced is an art, and Halflife 2 was one of the first to do it really well.

Not all that glitters is gold

There are some games that aren’t worth playing. FPS give powerful experiences, yet that power sometimes comes from the creation of a world where the gamer is forced to participate in actions they wouldn’t choose in real life. These choices can leave the player feeling compromised and guilty.

Research out of Michigan State University and University of Texas Austin would argue that this shame-reaction is good: It is labeled as “moral sensitivity”. That’s called the Holy Spirit! You’re grieving what you were intended for. The knee-jerk is to try and DO BETTER in order to BE OK.

The answer to our problems isn’t in better recognizing how to fix it.

The answer is recognizing how little we actually can and trusting the one who has.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4-5)


Talk about gaming

Be mindful of what games your gamer is playing. Ask them:

  • Who is the hero of their game?
  • What is that hero’s goal?
  • What is the coolest ability of that hero? Who are their teammates?
  • Have they ever done anyhting they regret in the game?

Be thoughtful of  and what ideas, content and images your gamer is exposed to when playing. All genres can have a range of content, some of which is not appropriate for young gamers.


One More Installment!

You’ve read this far, that’s a good sign! It turns out I couldn’t fit it in just two installments. FPS Part 3 is on the way! I’m working hard to make it worth the wait. Thank you for reading!