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.