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Why are first person shooters so popular?

3 years ago

2 experts and 2 parents have answered

expert answer
James Brodie expert
James Brodie Test Director Birmingham, GB
Technologist expert

Well this is a subject very close to my heart as an avid gamer for over thirty three years I have scene this genre of game develop through the ages. One of the first games I remember playing was the like of midi maze, but also attack of the computer people and they were offering a type of gaming experience and game mechanic which was different from other offerings. The one thing that computer games have over film is their interactivity and connection. In first person shooter you are the centre of the story, or you are the enabler for an element of a larger story, however to truly understand the nature of the first person shooter you need to look at the multiplayer side of the game. That is absolutely the key driver behind the popularity of the genre. For me modern FPS started off with Wolfenstein and Doom on the PC. When I was at uni I had a Pentium 60 and there were a number of us that use to connect our machines via a Lan and we played Doom and Wolfenstein to death. First of all at the time, the graphics were amazing, there was a real frenzy behind the game play, but multiplayer was amazing. Running after your mates and blasting them was a huge amount of fun. However there still required a certain amount of technical ability to link up the machines. Then came along games like Quake, Duke Nukem, Hexen which included more a storyline but again the focus was on the multiplayer. These games were also pushing the PC hardware at the time and so with each updated graphic card and spec of machine, there would be a new level of game to play and if you were into the scene then it would be how to get the game to look best on your rig and that would then give you a competitive edge in the gaming arena. This cycle would continue for a number of years because at this stage the consoles didn't have the processing power to meet the PC and so for a long time the FPS was scene as a niche market. Seminal titles like Half Life 1 and especially 2 broadened the wider appeal as these has amazing storylines as well. However FPS really entered the mainstream when Halo came out on the Xbox. Halo was the game that people bought the Xbox specifically to play I originally scoffed at the thought of an FPS on a console, but they got the controls and game mechanic spot on. The success also proved that there was a wider market for the genre and so then came games like Golden Eye and Timesplitters on the consoles of which all of them were hugely successful. Being able to play against other people and proving your superiority of prowess was the driver to play the game. I was playing a number of games fairly serious as I worked in the games industry that fed my interest in the genre. Medal of honour was also proving to be a big success and was actually more successful than the first Call of Duty game which were mainly set in the second world war which was scene as a rich breeding ground for the majority of stories for such games. However I guess the major turning point was with the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The key things here were the connectivity. The ability to jump into a game and either play for half an hour or for a couple of hours meant that people could be 'social' although in reality it usually involved mouthing off at people. However people also joined clans. Something which was the mainstay of PC gaming. This really took off and people would arrange times to team up with their friends to then go and play on the servers. What really caused the Call of Duty phenomena was then they changed the background from World War 2 to the 'Modern Age' . Two whole generations of people had seen the Gulf Wars and there were perceived bad guys in the wider world, so now you could be part of the war on terror. A mixture of clever marketing and relevance to the audience propelled the games so that they overtook film as a money making vehicle. However I still maintain that Call of Duty Modern Warfare is probably after Halo the best non PC FPS.

So I appreciate I have spouted on a bit there, but it is important to understand the history of one of the more controversial genres of computer games. In summary the reason for the success of the genre has changed. Originally it was a PC niche but became the mainstream on the back of the consoles. Big franchising and marketing targeted at a particular demographic also keeps the game in the public eye. Staying relevant, offering fantastic visual will keep gamers interested, but it the multiplayer element that is king. People will often buy the game and not even bother with the single player. Just see the Battlefield franchise for reference.

3 Reply ( 1 ) Share:
Fact 3 years ago
Tom Baker writer
Tom Baker Staff Writer Derby, UK

When you ask someone to imagine a videogame, chances are they'll be picturing a first-person shooter. Even if you're asking a big gamer, in fact, since franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield encompass both the best selling titles and the public perception of games. What makes them so popular, though? One psychologist reckons it’s because they're the ultimate in immersive games.

Psychology and video games have a rocky history. Video game addiction isn't a new concept, which actually has a lot of scientific evidence to back it up compared to, say, claims that games cause violence. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has a much more specific, and compelling, theory though: the way first-person shooters are framed (literally in the 'first-person', as I you're the person on screen wielding the gun) makes players especially immersed in the game, making it easier for players to achieve what he calls 'flow', 'a condition of absolute presence and happiness'.

Which sounds a little new-agey, but it's backed up with science. Studies have found that first-person shooters are way more absorbing than third-person or casual games, and the sense of control is what appeals to players. It's easy to see how people get hooked.

Here's a nicer way to look at it, though: perhaps the reason these games are so popular isn't just down to a total escapist fantasy. Maybe it's the opposite! A big part of Call of Duty and the like is the online multiplayer, which means immersion, except with other people – far less anti-social a concept. Not that your kids should be playing them anyway.

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Opinion 3 years ago
Laura Celada admin
Laura Celada’s Editorial intern London, GB

There is an increasing number of teenagers and adults who dedicate all their time to playing all types of games, online, offline, on their phones and tablets. Some just want to reach that next level, while others have completely abandoned the idea of having a social life.

Nowadays teenagers seem to be addictive to games such as, Angry Birds or World of Warcraft. But, although they may be addictive, they're also engaging, entertaining, challenging and limitless on imagination and user’ s options. You only should know your kid well enough or believe that they won’t get carried away with the game. And make sure they do homework first

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Opinion 3 years ago
expert answer
Linda Breneman expert
Linda Breneman Managing Ed., Seattle, US
Gaming expert

James Brodie, you are right on. The social factor is huge now with shooters. Another reason I think shooters are so popular is that so many of the technically fancy, cinematic, graphically cool games are shooters. (Maybe that's because people buy them so much--they make money to justify their big budgets--a bit circular, but there you are.) They are fun, they are fast, and they are immersive. Sometimes they get repetitive and unoriginal, just like Hollywood blockbuster movies. I love the Portal games ( ) because they get creative with the shooter mechanic. Your big gun shoots magic holes in walls and lets you solve puzzles to escape the big, bad artificial intelligence that's keeping you prisoner. Sometimes I wish game studios could diverge from the shooter model more often.

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Experience 3 years ago

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