In Defense of the Shooter Genre

Watch Dogs had me interested until the guns came out. Like, why is it always necessary? There was such a great buildup in hacking devices I thought that if there was combat it’d involve taking advantage of devices, almost in a puzzle solving way like Ghost Trick. Aren’t people tired of taking cover and shooting dudes? It blows my mind that this still excites people.

Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson on Watch Dogs, one of Ubisoft’s e3 showings

E3 just wrapped up this week, and it was… well, mostly uneventful, sadly. I was excited to see more of games like Far Cry 3 and several 3DS titles, but overall the resulting energy levels were quite low. I want to move away from E3 discussion though and focus on the above quote. It’s from Arin Hanson, probably better known as Egoraptor, and he’s mentioning his disappointment surrounding Ubisoft’s newly unveiled stealth/action game, Watch Dogs.

I chose the quote because it represents a lot of what I’ve been hearing – and feeling – from gamers recently, especially since E3 happened and inevitably, more than several shooter titles were announced or shown off. Things like Black Ops 2, Last of Us, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and Watch Dogs, of course. I’m just getting this vibe that many gamers are getting sick of shooters and games that primarily feature guns.

This saddened me. First-person shooters have always been my favorite genre of games and probably always will, for several reasons. The viewpoint and perspective makes for some of the absolute best immersion and atmospheric focus I’ve seen in games (Fallout 3 and BioShock, for example), and this makes for excellent storytelling. Then of course, there is the shooting, which is good in some games and better in others, but is usually satisfying and varied enough to hold my attention thanks to a (usually) varied arsenal. These same strengths also apply well to multiplayer – which is the second reason I love FPS games – the competitive, do-or-die feel you get from taking on other players around the world. There’s nothing else quite like a straight-up 1v1 deathmatch – whether a casual LAN game between friends, or a MLG match – the intensity is always there. There’s always that driving force to win, to beat the other guy, to outsmart him in what feels like a cage match between cat-and-mouse.

Now that all said, I can see why people are tiring of shooters. The main reason – and the one you and are both thinking of at this very second is, you guessed it – Call of Duty.

Love it or hate it, COD is a massively influential series that has forever changed the model for what is a considered as a successful, fun-to-play, and engaging FPS title, in both multiplayer and singleplayer. At the same time, the over-saturation of its franchise and the way its many now-standardized game mechanics have found their way into so many other modern titles that it pisses people off, quite frankly. Many have figured out in the last few years that linear FPS games like COD are actually rather losing their appeal because of how tightly they hold your hand, that regenerating health is “cheap” and “easy,” and that quite frankly, shooting guys in whatever setting, with whatever gun, is getting old.

I get that. COD has not only over-established itself, but its now-questionable design choices and formulaic multiplayer design is finding its way into other games – which people don’t like, because consumers will never like too much of anything. I get that some are tired of cover-based shooters because of of how popularized the mechanics of one have become since Gears, and I get that people are moving from shooter to shooter, and saying to themselves – haven’t I seen this before?

But is that really enough to write off the shooter-genre as a whole?

If you’re sick of shooting people, take a break and play games from a different genre. Many probably got sick of the hundreds of 3D platformers that Super Mario 64’s success inspired in the N64 days – and guess what? That genre has slowed down significantly now because the markets adapted to what people wanted – which was less Mario 64 clones and more of something new and fresh. No, the genre is not dead – far from it in fact, but the popularity has been spread thinner since, and now the hot thing is shooters.

Now that shooters are on-top – and have been for so long – I’ve started noticing the inevitable wave of haters arise from their hipster-holes, shades in-hand. Inevitable, because this is the same shit that happens with everything popular ever. Something or someone gets big and gathers a huge following – almost too big – big enough that it becomes “cool” all of a sudden to label yourself as a hater, and therefor, a non-conformist.

But of course, hating something simply because it’s popular is absolutely piss-poor reasoning – but it’s become true for the COD series because of how many titles they’ve been pumping out lately. It really was never a question of the COD series being “good games.” It’s just an over-saturated franchise and people are catching on to that fact – thus spawning the haters. I’m sure there are people out there that genuinely don’t like the COD franchise because of how it plays – but more than anything, the hate is there because COD is simply popular. Sad, isn’t it?

Guess what happens with trends, though? Things that blow up all of a sudden? Exciting new things? The energy and excitement dies down after a while, and then just in time, something even more exciting comes along to take its place. Such is consumerism, such is basic human nature, really. We tire of certain things if they’re not taken in moderation to some degree.

And as subjective as the “I’m bored of guns in video games” thing is – guns and the act of shooting them is what makes the genre. Are you going to write off platforming as over-done and boring, too? Because there’s been platformer games around for several decades now and they’re still going strong.

I guess my point is, there’s always going to be a dominant genre in gaming, and to dismiss a popular genre as a whole because it’s currently “on-top” is really only worth doing if you’re trying to prove yourself as an arrogant hipster-douchebag. Which, if that’s your thing – have fun, I guess.

And hey, if you really do dislike COD from a purely gameplay standpoint – more power to you. Some genres aren’t for everyone, and I’m all for playing what you love.

But “I hate X because it’s popular?” Please.

Better reasoning is required. Surely there’s more to it than that?

-rav4ge

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thomas A., I really don’t understand what you are trying to prove. First off, I am “very” wrong (as if there are varying degrees to being wrong) in your opinion (doesn’t that mean that you just disagree with me, and I am not wrong at all? lol).

    Seriously, I judge pretty much all genres objectively, and COD is kind of responsible for a recent lack of creativity in the FPS genre. I didn’t judge the game’s content, really, though I am not a huge fan. Seriously, did you even read what I typed? Go back, read it over carefully, and then we can talk about this.

  2. Conor McCann, you are very wrong in my opinion, COD is one of the best games ever made even at the variation side, in fact most of the developments of other shooters today even the best ones were taken from call of duty.
    platforms will have their own stage in the world of gamers, but it’s different in nature than shooters, don’t you think you just might not like shooters so much, and your personal taste is towards platforms?
    and I take it you know more than me about platforms so which platform game got to be a winner in any contest lately ?

  3. That is a fair idea. People shouldn’t dismiss something because it is popular, and you are right because COD is the main culprit in bringing harm to FPS’s as a genre. You are also right in the idea that there will always be a dominant genre, and at one point, platformers were.

    I think that the main complaint for me and many of my friends is that the creativity in the genre is becoming limited. Again, I am not sure if the case is that there aren’t enough new fresh ideas being made behind it, if COD has sucked up potential fans like a vacuum, or, dare I say it, it’s a genre that might not promote much variability.

    The nature of platformers allows for a lot of new interesting techniques and design. However, I can only speak for my own time when platformers are made from time to time. Many shooters seem similar and repetitive, and as I said previously, maybe there aren’t original ideas being made or maybe the nature of the genre itself doesn’t promote new ideas, or rather, the solution just might not be as obvious.

    If more shooters adopted the nature of say, the Metal Gear series, it would remain with the label of a shooter, but take the elements of various other genres, it would be a genre with fresh new ideas. At the end of the day, I don’t think genres are problems on their own, it’s the lack of support of artistry in the gaming industry. This is what really needs to change.

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