The Halo Effect

First Person Shooters (FPS) are controversial. I’ve talked about how parents fear them and given a crash course introduction to First Person Shooters. Now I want to take you into the mind of an FPS gamer and what I call the Halo Effect.

A Mind on Halo

When Halo came out fifteen years ago it was mind-blowing. It had an incredible hero, combat that left you jittery it was so exciting, and graphics that were cutting-edge. 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 like Master Chief.

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.

Hero and Combat of FPS: Halo (original)

Fifteen Years Later

Things haven’t changed much. Our first reason for loving FPS still holds true:

  • We love our epic heroes.
  • Combat is still way over-the-top
  • A comprehensive storyline still engages us (after 15 years)
  • Master Chief is still running around out there. I’m sure he’s getting arthritic or something by now, but we just can’t get enough.

Evidence: Just watch the opening scene of Halo 5 (2016)

Be Your Own Master Chief 

Every person that wants to know they made a difference. Video games, and specifically first person shooters, use this drive to their advantage.

You become Master Chief. You save the world. A lot. Okay, you nearly destroy it a couple times as well, but that is a different story. First Person Shooters are especially engaging because you see the story through the character’s eyes. Add to that engagement: An epic hero, incredible combat and an engaging story, and you’ve got far more than a simple blood-bath for entertainment.

Gamers who love First Person Shooters show a kind of determined optimism. We would do well to harness that in this world as well.