Shooter Special Part 1: Lower Your Weapons
Games thrive on shooting, and gamers love shooting; this is a fact right? Well, yes, it’s undeniable that ever since the first few pixels fired up the screen in Space Invaders, the act of shooting has played a massive role in the evolution of videogames as an artform and also in popularising it as a past time. But is all the gun-play being to grow a little stale?
In a (possibly rather telling) coincidence, two D+PAD contributors – Simeon Paskell and Dave Stuart – independently decided to take a look at this very idea, each taking a very personal look at their relationship with shooters and how they feel currently feel about the videogame shooter, which has – thanks to the likes of Call of Duty and Halo – become such an all-devouring part of our beloved industry.
Part 1 (‘Lower Your Weapons’ by Dave Stuart) can be found below; Part 2 will follow shortly. How about you? Are you tired of shooters, or can you really not get enough? As always, don’t hesitate to let us know what you think in the comments section below.
D+PAD’s Shooter Special Part 1: Lower Your Weapons
It happened gradually, now that I think back, but at the time the realisation hit me quite out the blue: I’m tired of shooting things in video games. Countless shooters, waves of enemies whether human, alien or other, weapon variety that bleeds into hegemony; the proliferation and standardisation of the shooter over the last decade or more has established it as the backbone of the gaming industry, but it is this uniformity of design and structure that has recently left me feeling disconnected from the sorts of games I used to enjoy.
Games have always been good at a few core things, and shooting has always been high up on this list. The natural feel of controlling a weapon, aiming and firing at targets mixes the interactivity and skill-based mechanics that separate games from other media, and the added adrenaline rush that comes from such visceral situations allows repetitive action to fill in the gaps in place of narrative and story. The fact is that shooting is what games do best, they work as power fantasy, as a way of engaging players with action and as immersion into situations most people are fortunate to never have to face in real life (believe me, when the alien invasion comes I’ll be down in the cellar, bravely protecting the food supplies). But whilst this experience was novel 20 years ago, the seemingly 3D hallways of Wolfenstein and Doom were such an advancement on the limitations of what had come before it was no wonder they grabbed so much attention, now technology within video games has reached such a peak that the notion of being able to walk around and interact with a virtual world no longer holds the same sort of inherent thrill.
Couple this with the fact that the genre has virtually fallen into stagnation in terms of basic gameplay design and you have vast swathes of the gaming landscape that no longer hold much appeal for me. But the issue goes deeper than just the modern military shooter, it extends to third person cover-based shooters and even action games. How many people does Nathan Drake kill over the course of the Uncharted games? As has been discussed before this not only leads to sections of the games feeling like a slog through bullet sponge enemies (and this is coming from a big fan of those games) but it also causes a fundamental disconnect between the character in the story Naughty Dog are trying to tell (flawed, charismatic and goofy adventure hero) with the mass murdering competent marksman who leaves a trail of bodies throughout the game.
This is but one of the problems that come with trying to tell more nuanced, human stories in modern games, whilst maintaining the gameplay template of what has come before. There are no easy answers though, if you aren’t to spend your time shooting things, then what is it you would do for 10-15 hours in a strongly narrative driven game? One path is that of adventure games, where the emphasis is on exploration of environment, conversation and puzzle solving. But these games are often slow and unengaging for many used to the frantic pace of modern games. Rockstar’s flawed but ambition LA Noire looked to bridge this gap, similarly David Cage’s output from Fahrenheit to Heavy Rain and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls have a heavy focus on character and story with little or no traditional gunplay.
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