FPS Magic

Chapter 2 in Galloway’s Gaming focuses on the origin of the first person shooter. He cites several movies in which the “first person subjective” camera view was used, many of them Hitchcock films, and namely Lady in the Lake, directed by Robert Montgomery, from 1947, which is an admittedly creepy venture into first person film shooting and a great demonstration of what does not work in cinema. It’s almost like reading a novel in the second person: it just feels wrong. Take a look…

When I first read into this essay, I was thinking of the Predators’ thermal vision or the robotic HUD of the Terminator, both of which he mentions about halfway through, impressing the idea that the first person perspective is alienating and, well, predatory. I recall that looking through the Predator’s vision was just that- it was analyzing prey that was to be killed. It worked the same way in Alien, which Galloway also mentions.

What failed on the silver screen, however, has made millions in the gaming industry. Halo and Call of Duty come up yet again, being the most prominent and successful examples of first person shooters that I can think of. The James Bond games also used this to great success, and of course, who could talk about FPS games and forget the likes of DOOM or Castle Wolfenstein?

At first it was interesting and original, running around and only seeing the gun bouncing up and down in your arms, but no other part of you.

Then, cut to the campaign in CoD: MW2 in which the player gets first-person executed. Twice.

It seems to me that while getting killed in first person was a terrible shock and very unexpected at first, this move quickly fell into the short list of pet peeves I have with games.

I always love a good twist away from the expected. That moment near the end of the movie Kickass where the protagonist says “Don’t think I lived through this just because I’m narrating the story to you!” was always a favorite line of mine. It was comedic, yes, but hey, once you start thinking that he’s the invincible narrator, you might just walk into a trap.

But that felt over the top. Pushing the envelope a bit too much. Since then, I’ve seen even more FPS games, some good, plenty bad, but no doubt, a lot.

Evidently the formula still works. People still buy Call of Duty when it comes out, and each new installment gets hyped up just as much as the last. Some sit there and say “oh the next one is gonna be different,” and then get all pouty when they realize it’s basically quite the same, but with different guns. Nonetheless, there are still many people who play the games. Myself included. Halo, again, is the same way. And I can’t say I’ve seen many people get these games for the single player. I know I don’t anymore.

Apparently the FPS has its mojo working right now in the gaming world. Will that continue, or is this just a long-lived fad? I’m honestly tempted to think the former. The FPS may have been an idea carried over from the realm of cinema originally, but now that it appears to have found a home in games, I don’t think it will be going away anytime soon.

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5 thoughts on “FPS Magic”

  1. Aric, great points, really interesting observations and critique. I think FPS, like most initially popular additions to the entertainment world, it is vastly attractive and taking great strides to become dominate in the gaming world. In my opinion as long as they keep pushing the envelope people will continue to engage in this type of game or until something cooler comes out.

  2. Your post on how the first person perspective did not work in movies, but made millions on videogames, is a perfect example of an industry taking something that did not work for someone else and turning it into something exemplary.

    Do you think that there are any methods of storytelling that have not yet been explored in videogames? Or do you think that there are any features they already have that could be a lot better? You mentioned how each Call of Duty game that comes out is more or less the same as all the others; what do you think that the game designers could do to make it the new version everyone always hopes it will be?

    1. I find it hard to answer the first few questions there… I’m not really sure. As far as I can know, one can only get a story in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, or some variant thereof. Perhaps there’s a different way to arrange those that hasn’t been used much yet. It’s something worth thinking about, for sure.

      As for Call of Duty, I’d say the complaints are kind of paradoxical. As discussed, the signature fast-paced FPS that is CoD is what sells the game. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” seems to fit. If it were any different, I almost feel like it would deter sales, and on the whole lose more fans than they may be losing with their current rinse and repeat tactic. Though they’ve been trying small changes… tinkering with the perk system, fiddling with attachments and such, but all in all, the game, at its core, remains the same, and they have no reason to really do anything different until their repetition finally proves through falling sales that they need to do something different.

  3. I think first person in games somewhat akin to an actor in a movie. If the story and cinematography are good, how much does the lead part matter? For some, the actor can make or break a film and for others they could care less. But that doesn’t stop the actor from making films or the films from making money. I wouldn’t say it’s something that does or doesn’t work but something that simply is. Until we get into a new evolution of gaming first person will be something tolerated as long as there’s enough surrounding it. On the other hand, to play devil’s advocate to my own post, since more and more movies are involving CGI, there’s actually a movement to go back to more realism. The newest Captain America even boasted at how little CGI it had. Maybe first person is the best way to play, and we won’t know until we have something ‘better’

  4. Great observation!! I think that FPS is here to stay. The thrill and the rush that a gamer can feel when they see the action through their eyes instead of it being played out on the screen from two characters is very thrilling. And yes, even though FPS are technically the same games, we can’t help but to buy them. We know for sure that much will not change, but different scenery needs to be explored in FPS.

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