Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rant 30: Why the FPS genre is killing console gaming creativity.

Ok this will be extremely touchy to the modern "Hardcore" gamer. Now I'm not a big fan of the FPS genre but there are a few stand out titles that are exempt from this rant, these games are the Bioshock series, Duke Nukem and Fallout 3. Sure I "could" have added Halo and Resistance to the mix but the truth is they are part of the problem as well. The FPS genre is unfortunately the most stagnant genre at the moment because of the fact that you can't improve on shooting a target. As an art form gaming needs to grow and unfortunately the FPS genre is crippling it because of the fact that the major majority are the same and this is a HUGE problem. Let's look at the facts.

The FPS genre is generally summed up in a quote used in Neon Genesis Evangelion, "Position target in the centre and pull the switch. Position target in the centre and pull the switch." Now shooting targets isn't boring to the modern "hardcore" gamer but let's face it, we've killed the same stuff over and over! What do you kill in most shooters? Nazi's, Vietnamese, Russians and recently Terrorist. Now games like Halo and Resistance managed to crack the FPS mould with having you fight alien and mutant but to be honest Duke Nukem and Doom did it first but most people experienced Halo and Resistance first. I did play the modern shooters in the past but I didn't like them like everyone else does. Some FPS games help the genre but that's because they are PC successors like Bioshock and Borderlands also shook up the genre with a RPG element added to the experience, unfortunately it was MMORPG elements. Fallout 3 managed to show you a truly great example of the evolution of the FPS genre but Bethesda didn't perform enough QA testing before and after the release and Fallout:New Vegas is even worse!

On top of the fact that they are samey the next big problem is REALISM! Realism is unfortunately a double edged sword for gaming. Realism changes the game from a game to a simulator. This is also a part of the argument against games like GTA and others. Realism itself isn't a bad thing for games but in the first person perspective, which is a more immersive experience it becomes even more of a simulation. This is why some people can be very violent over Xbox Live when playing games like Call Of Duty. Realism in the third person perspective isn't as bad in theory but it still has a problem of how realistic the backdrop is. This is where a game like Halo almost redeems itself because while it uses realistic looking backdrops, it has you fighting aliens instead of humans. Sure you may find that a weak argument but it far removes it from simulator and it doesn't use real weapons either.

Another reason it's killing console gaming creativity is the fact that it's the only genre guaranteed to sell these days. Unfortunately this is the truest of the facts because a lot of games on the shelves are FPS and the sales of Call Of Duty, Halo and Medal Of Honour back this up. Game developers are using the FPS genre as the main focus because other genre sell as well as they used to. This can be blamed on the Xbox believe it or not because the original Xbox was designed to bring the PC experience to the consoles and while it did bring more games to the table for the console gamer, it pushed the original dominating games into the shadows. The FPS genre stunts creativity because you can't really create new things to shoot since they've pretty much done everything over the years and you can't really come up with something new if the idea barrel is empty. It just extremely limiting and unfortunately when you DO think outside the box it's a gamble, Bioshock is a gamble that just worked so damn well. It took a big risk by mimicking the PC's greatest shooters like Deus Ex and System Shock and using narrative as the driving force of the game instead of choosing the enemy and telling you to kill it.

Pretty much in terms of the mechanics of shooting in games we've perfected shooting and with the Unreal engine most of the work is done for people. It's hard to make the shooting better without engaging all the senses. I'm just paraphrasing The Game Overthinker's "Worse Person" Video on Screw Attack's website in this section but it's true because unfortunately all that can be done to actually improve on the shooting can't be done with the current technology.

I don't hate the FPS genre, just the majority of games in the genre. Until a new genre becomes popular or the modern "Hardcore" gamers grow up or find something else to do it's going to keep circling the drain and dragging the game industry down with it. I hate to say it but gaming was better when realism was the last thing in developers minds and games like Super Mario, Final Fantasy and Megaman were the dominating forces of gaming. Gaming will be considered an art form in the future but the FPS genre is stifling this from happening with realistic shooters. I would like to see more games like Bioshock and less military simulators like Call Of Duty.

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