The lights are on
Series like Call of Duty and Battlefield dominate the
market, but recently the gaming community has been gripped by a disturbing new
trend – people complaining that they want to play more than just shooters. However,
there's a reason games with guns have always been – and will always be – massively
popular; they offer everything a player could possibly want.
The jaded among us often characterize their unfounded hatred
for gaming's greatest genre as "shooter fatigue," stating that they're tired of
always doing the same old things in game after game. But if they feel their
actions are repetitive, that's their problem – shooters offer players a
stunning variety of different gameplay styles. Like nonstop action? Shoot things
with a machine gun. Prefer stealth and subtlety? Shoot things with a silenced
machine gun. Looking for gameplay that's as intellectually stimulating as it is
exciting? Shoot things with a sniper rifle. Just want some lighthearted fun the whole family can enjoy? Shoot things with a bazooka.
Player choice is an oft-repeated buzzword that the
industry's whiners endlessly
demand from games, but it makes me wonder if we're playing the same games. Shooters
are riddled (pun most definitely intended) with gameplay choices. Do you shoot
a lot of bullets at your enemy, or take the time to carefully aim every shot? Do
you empty entire magazines at a time, or neurotically reload each time you pull
the trigger? These kinds of player-driven choices completely change the feel of
the game. Not to mention all of the other non-gun-related options that shooters
present players with, like grenades and knives! Most shooters offer dozens of different
guns to shoot things with at any given moment, plus myriad gun-customization
options – how much more player choice could you possibly want?
Indie gamers love to wax poetic about "emergent storytelling,"
lauding the concept over the heads of shooter fans at the snooty wine and
cheese parties I assume they throw while lamenting the state of the video game
industry. Hello: Shooters are on the vanguard of emergent storytelling. Sure,
the overarching plots of most shooters might be linear (aka handcrafted and
good), but there's plenty of player agency as well. For instance, when you
finally meet the villain face to face, do you shoot him once in the head like a
cold and calculated professional, or shoot him a hundred times in the crotch
like a vengeful anti-hero? Completing a quicktime event the moment it pops up
on screen transforms your protagonist into a resolute soldier who knows what
must be done for the greater good; waiting until the last moment to press the
button conveys a wavering commitment – a man struggling with his internal
demons. If that's not emergent storytelling, I literally don't know what emergent storytelling is.
Over the past few years, the video game industry has become
obsessed with the issue of gender, calling into question why more games don't
feature female protagonists. Once again, shooters are on the frontlines – this
time in the battle for gender equality. Shooters have featured numerous
memorable female characters over the years, such as Anya from Gears of War and
Multiplayer Skin #12 from Battlefield 4. Moreover, most female characters in
shooters behave exactly like men because the developers are literally just swapping
in different character models and voice samples. No attempt whatsoever is being
made to differentiate their personalities or behaviors from their male
counterparts – it's like the developers can't even see their gender.
That's like the epitome of gender equality!
Some gamers would love nothing more than for shooters to
disappear from the video game industry completely. But think of all the amazing
gameplay experiences we would have missed out on over the years if shooters
never existed. From classic FPS adventures like Doom, to the next-gen
juggernauts of the future like Doom, shooters are responsible for everything
video games are today. The future of the industry will always be bright – as
long as you're viewing it down the barrel of a gun.
Editor's Note: This article originally ran on April 1.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.