My love affair with the FPS genre is deep and strong. Now I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a western hemisphere gamer or because I’m American and we simply love to shoot things, but either way I’ve been hooked since day one. My first FPS was the granddaddy of FPS’s, Wolfenstein 3D. I used to play on my PC (floppy drive, 66mhz processer, Windows 2.0, and 100% gangsta) back in 1992. After that came Doom, followed by Quake, and as they say the rest was history. Fast-forward to the present and it seems that with every passing day, yet another FPS is being announced. I’m sure that there are plenty of gamers that eat these titles up, and at times I am guilty of it as well, but when will it end? When will developers stop thinking that the only way for true immersion is in the 1st person? I say the FPS is ruining gaming because it “borrows” from other genres but more often than not misses the mark. While it has developers and publishers of other genres feel as though they have to conform to the trend in order to sell games and this is where the problem truly lies.
The RPG Factor
Developers have this mistaken notion that if they include aspects from other genre’s into their games, it will draw in players that would normally not even take a second glance at their titles. The most recent are RPG elements popping up in titles that they shouldn’t be in to begin with. This concept of leveling up in order to rank up is good in theory but when you think about it, it makes no sense to have it in titles like Modern Warfare 2. FPS gamers are all about stats, not points. Not once have I gone into a lobby after a match to hear some one say “wow I got 2000 xp points last game.” No, most lobby conversations go something like this: “I just went 30 and 2…you are all my bitches”. I constantly hear people discussing stats like challenges and kill to death ratio but never XP-points. And when the game has a worthless ranking system (because you can’t level down and It is not a true measure of someone’s skill) like MW2, real FPS fans can care even less about said points. The system becomes more of any annoyance than anything else as I have all these numbers popping up on screen as if I’m playing whack-a-mole at a carnival. Hey FPS developers, want to immerse players with RPG elements? How about trying a story that is engaging, instead of the usual Hollywood action B-movie crap.
Multiplayer Not So Immersive
With the creation of the FPS genre came the natural evolution of the platform. People no longer wanted to go up against the computer, as there was no more challenge. Gamers wanted to face off against one another and with that in mind, multiplayer as we know it today was created. First with LANs (local area network) and then with the Internet coming into its own, it transformed into online multiplayer. To this day, and since its inception, it’s been online multiplayer components that keep FPS gamers coming back for more. Just like games continue to evolve, so have these online components. This current generation online cooperative modes have been all the rage, as they allow for you to take on the game’s A.I with the help of a friend or friends. Games like Left 4 Dead and Modern Warfare 2 (Special Ops) have pulled this off with great success. There’s nothing like taking on swarms of enemies with your buddy on the other end, but at the same time it starts to get a bit boring (especially if your partner is any good). And as far as getting lost in a game or being truly immersed, nothing says immersion like hearing your friend relieve himself in the bathroom while you fight off a swarm of zombies.
It isn’t just the FPS’s that are at fault here. No, no, no, there are also those titles that think they have to conform to certain trends in order to sell games. A lot like when FPSs try to be RPGs, it goes both ways. In the past 3 years we have seen more and more of these games, and I’m sure there will be more to come. Some standouts are (but not limited to) Bioshock, Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Borderlands. Ok so two out of the four, have the option of 1st person; but did any of the titles need them in order to be immersive experiences? Nope. Developers who make these types of games can take all of the extra resources and energy that they put into these 1st person viewpoints and use it to make their titles even stronger. RPG’s and action adventure titles are all about engaging experiences, and when you can actually see the protagonist you’re playing as, it allows you to connect to the player and the world he/she is in even more so than seeing a hand with a gun.
This past year was a welcome breath of fresh air. With the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, the gaming industry reinforced the idea that it is not a one trick FPS creating pony. The 3rd person action/adventure genre is still alive and kicking. If done the right way it can be as intense (and definitely more deep) if not more so than any FPS title, its all about game creators taking their time to make sure it is. I can only hope that most game developers can see it that way as well.
Final Thought (yeah just like The Jerry Springer Show)
It’s not that I suck or am no good at online FPS gaming (Level 70 with a 2.21 ratio in MW2 if that means anything), it’s that after playing through the two action/adventure games listed above among others this year, I remembered why I fell in love with gaming to begin with. There’s nothing like sitting in your favorite seat, in front of your TV and getting completely enthralled into a story and truly connecting with a character. It something that doesn’t require the first person view (or a lobby full of screaming homophobic racist teenagers) to accomplish that.