Shooters. That's what the most ubiquitous genre of video games are colloquially called. They are the reason critics constantly say that video games are obsessed with guns. Since the early 1990s when titles like “Doom” and “Wolfenstein 3-D” popularized ...
Shooters. Thatâ€™s whatÂ the most ubiquitous genre of video games are colloquially called. They are the reason critics constantly say that video games are obsessed with guns.Since the early 1990s when titles like â€œDoomâ€ and â€œWolfenstein 3-Dâ€ popularized the concept of a gun-based game from a first-person perspective, shooters haveÂ dominated.
The bestselling video game of 2015? â€œCall of Duty: Black Ops III.â€ The bestselling video game of 2014? â€œCall of Duty: Advance Warfare.â€ Four of the five bestselling video games in May of this year? Shooters.Itâ€™s aÂ gun-obsessed medium thatÂ mirrorsÂ a gun-obsessed society.Â
But as mass shootings become an increasingly regular part of the news cycle, itâ€™s fair to ask:Â Did the industry create a monster?When the genre rose to prominence, one of its primary architects saysÂ the goal was simply to create some scares and some laughs.Â â€œWe were in ourÂ 20s, so it was the perfect age for that,â€ says John Romero, the legendaryÂ game designer whose credits include early and genre-making shooters â€œWolfenstein 3-D,â€ â€œDoomâ€ and â€œQuake.â€But why so violent?
â€œI loved watching horror movies,â€ he says. â€œThose were just great. It was just the fact that we could make something like a horror movie, but make it interactive and repeatable. It was something we had never seen before. We totally thought it was awesome when we made it happen. We were like, â€˜That was awesome! Let's make it cooler.â€™Â So we kept amping it up.â€Guns almost werenâ€™t theÂ weapon of choice forÂ Romero and his collaborators, whoÂ wanted a game that was fastÂ and mimicked the action scenes of Hollywood blockbusters.â€œWe made two first-person shooters before we made â€˜Wolfensteinâ€™Â that were not good,â€ Romero says. â€œWe were still exploring what is fun to do in first person. Rescuing scientists? Using a tank to kill monsters? Shooting fireballs at orcs? Finally settling on World War II weapons just gave us better feedback and sound effects and everything than the other stuff did. It just feels better when youâ€™re holding a weapon.â€But is it healthy?â€œItâ€™s super cathartic,â€Â Romero says.Â â€œItâ€™s a totally different kind of entertainment. Itâ€™s unique. When do you ever play against friends and call them the worst names ever and youâ€™re just joking and having fun?â€Of course, what started as fun and, well, gamesÂ among a group of gore-hungry young dudes has now overtaken an entire industry. And this has led to cringe-worthy moments for the still-growing medium. At this yearâ€™s Electronic Entertainment ExpoÂ in Los Angeles, the trade show that isÂ arguably the industryâ€™s biggest close-up, most mainstream titles emphasized kill-or-be-killed gameplay, be it the realistic grit of WW1 in â€œBattlefield 1,â€ a zombie bloodbath in â€œDays Goneâ€ Â or the gruesome creatures of â€œGears of War 4.â€Â Business as usual, sure, but this yearâ€™s E3 occurred just days after the massacre at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub that leftÂ 49 people dead. Violence surrounds us, in our digital worlds and in our real one, and suddenly it felt like too much. Even the supposedly still-coming virtual reality revolution is adding gun-like peripherals, just in case it wasnâ€™t clear that your virtual avatar is indeed holding a gun.There is, however, a growing nuance to many video games.Â The independent movement, in particular, brings us risk-taking titles almostÂ weekly. Games such as â€œGone Home,â€ â€œPrison Architect,â€ â€œFirewatchâ€ and â€œOxenfreeâ€ explore serious â€”Â and often emotional â€”Â terrain.Â Gun-based titlesÂ arenâ€™t excluded. This yearâ€™s â€œUncharted 4,â€ for instance, turns a film interactiveÂ and uses violence as a metaphor to explore larger themes of addiction and commitment.Â And whileÂ politicians or cultural watchdogs like toÂ singleÂ out video games as a motivating factor for real-world violence, Romero doesnâ€™t buy it.â€œPeople love playing video games with guns because target practice is really fun when you hit the target,â€ heÂ says. â€œYou know that what youâ€™re doing in a game isnâ€™t real. Itâ€™s a fantasy.Â We didnâ€™t look at it like, â€˜We shouldn't make this.â€™Â What we thought was, â€˜Why would we stop?â€™Â Nobody was conflicted.Â We were not religious. We were just making entertainment that we hadnâ€™t seen before and we totally loved.â€And games arenâ€™tÂ just toys, he says.â€œItâ€™s an art form,â€ he continues. â€œItâ€™s artistic expression. Itâ€™s a form of entertainment. People know thatâ€™s what entertainment is.â€While Romero concedes that not every game player wants â€œcrazy first-person shooters,â€Â recent releases show the genre is at least attempting overtures to new audiences.Â Or maybe shooters are just getting better at winning over the unconverted.There are still military-esque blowouts â€”Â the aforementioned â€œBattlefield 1â€ and a sequel to â€œTitanfallâ€ among them â€”Â but theyâ€™re no longer the norm. Today, the star of the genre is â€œOverwatch,â€ the team-based shooter whoseÂ tone is more â€œGuardians of the Galaxyâ€ than urban warfare. Outlandish characters are the center of the show â€”Â there areÂ cowboys, robots, Grim Reapers and even a woman who has the power to alter weather. All of them come with individual weapons and a smile.And though I still prefer to play with the chat functions off â€”Â strangers, in shooters, arenâ€™t always the most hospitable of folks â€”Â Iâ€™m charmed every time â€œOverwatchâ€ drops me into a game map thatâ€™s set in a cartoonish version of Hollywood Boulevard.Lesson learned: Diverse characters â€”Â and space guerrillas â€”Â make aÂ shooter more palatable to the uninitiated. â€œOverwatch,â€ instead of anger or fear, emphasizes silliness.Â And then there's â€œSuperhot.â€â€œSuperhotâ€ may not like you. The game may not even like first-person shooters, as it completely upends the idea of what theyâ€™re supposed to do. Instead of quick reflexes and fast action, â€œSuperhotâ€ places a premium on stillness. Time, in the game, only moves when the player moves, allowing bullets to linger in mid-air.
With its security camera-like cuts and abstract figures â€”Â enemies are red blurs that shatter like fine porcelain â€”Â Â â€œSuperhotâ€ imagines a frighteningÂ future in which everyone is a fragile, anonymous target.Â Â And it taunts. Are video games too violent? â€œSuperhotâ€ answers the question by implying itâ€™s too late to close this Pandoraâ€™s box. Midway through the game, the following statement flashes on the screen: â€œTry to disconnect.â€Â
Some battles have already been lost.Â On Twitter: @toddmartensMORE:
On TV, rage has become the new romance
Anger is an energy for a new wave of women in pop culture
Tom Morello on why activism in music matters: 'Dangerous times demand dangerous songs'
gamestop games gamestop hours games for girls gamestop near me gamespot games of thrones games with gold games for kids gamestop trade in