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Why I'll Never Work on First-Person Shooters Again
by Charles Cox on 04/19/13 06:56:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 



Microsoft has a term they like to throw around: a Career-Limiting Move (CLM). Refuse to take point on a major project from your manager? You’ve just committed a CLM. Accidentally send that witty, opinionated email to a wide audience that includes your Group Manager? CLM. Stand up and throw an iPad at Steve Ballmer at the annual Company Meeting? CLM!

Just maybe, what I’m about to say is a Career-Limiting Move of its own. Maybe it’s a convenient, portable, travel-sized way of ensuring I never get a job again in the industry I love, the industry I threw away every other opportunity (including the chance at a respectable four-year degree) to join, the industry that represents the fastest growing revenue segment of every digital platform ever developed -- but screw it, I’ve been in the business a full, stormy, self-doubting decade and the world can hear me loud and clear:

I will never work on a first-person shooter game, ever again. Period.

Sacrilege

Drunken ramblings!
Prosletyzing from a youthful cad with visions of superiority!
Mass hysteria (it’s going around this season, you know)!

Action games of all stripes make up about 20% of worldwide sales -- run n’ gun games made up 3 of the top 10 grossing games of 2011. Over 20M copies sold of Call of Duty: MW3. 10M for Battlefield 3. Those two games alone made up $1.5 billion at retail in 2011. Even if the publisher only nets $20 per copy, and a wild pessimistic guess at $100M for production costs (2x what it cost to make MW2) MW3 alone pulled in $350M in pure profit on that one title in launch year alone.

The amount of cash up for grabs in the business of Shooting People in the Face is simply staggering.

I understand. It’s not just the money. There’s a magnetic, almost shamanic aura that pervades our favorite shoot-em-up games. We’ll wait in line at 2AM to buy the new consoles that feel like they were built for these games. We’ll eagerly plunk down hundreds of dollars for deluxe editions with extra digital uniforms, special guns, or plastic tchotkes that bring the game closer to an idyllic reflection of ourselves -- truly, our own lives, own hopes and dreams are wound up in these experiences -- the fact that thirty million other people believe and contribute to this shared vision only adds to the intoxication we feel.

Perhaps as an expression of just how embedded I’ve found myself in this world over the last decade, six of the eight professional titles I’ve contributed to are first-person shooter games. I wish the percentages were different, but money follows money. Corporations and people both are caught in the whirlwind. Even when I toiled away in my education at Digipen at the turn of the millennium, I had half-drawn designs of shooter games; building them represented then the absolute apex of my career. If I could get the money, I thought, this would be my dream.

I'm not alone in this new world, fuller than ever of nascent game developers, would-be professionals, clawing at the walls to make a name, a life, a career full of shipped titles and rabid fans screaming for more. First-person shooter development packs and helper classes are among the most popular -- and highest priced -- items in the Unity Asset Store.

I’m not here to say there’s no room for innovation in this space, especially from its fans and enthusiasts. For a great understanding of how non-developer involvement has grown and changed in the space, see the excellent post from Rock Paper Shotgun -- A People's History of the FPS.

The problem here is that money isn’t an acceptable stand-in for ethical behavior. Just as legality doesn’t equal morality (seriously, it doesn't, spread the word), so too does profit fail to imply ethical superiority. Great, we’re all making these games. Should we? Did we ever ask?

I had an experience that forced my hand -- I haven’t stopped asking since.

Introducing Superdad

It was a blustery pre-winter at Studio Q. (Call it whatever you want, I’m holding onto at least some plausible deniability here.) Another day, another paycheck, another generic shooter project for the ten-foot experience on a high-def console.

I spent a lot of time building communication channels among engineering, art, and design, disciplines that have often stormy relationships with one another. Putting coalitions together to fix the most critical issues and build up new game features was my self-selected job at the company; playing peacemaker comes naturally when you grow up in a divorced household.

The wide reach meant opportunities to survey dozens of my fellow game developers informally, and ten years in the business hit me all at once. I found many who were excited to work on anything at all. Glad to be in the industry. Maybe I’m supposed to be one of those still, if I know what’s good for me. Many who knew no better or no different. And still others who wished, who hoped against hope we’d make something different one day.

And there were those who were resigned to the mechanism of the industry -- who knew that they’d work on whatever was profitable, and that meant, at least for the forseeable future, a lifetime of making shooter games. And they’d worked out their own coping mechanisms.

The man I remember most, Superdad, was an engineer with a young daughter. Like many of us in the business he had to work long hours, during many of the weekends where he’d spend time with his little girl. To try to please both sides, he brought his daughter, probably only 5 or 6 years old, into work and had her play with her toys in his office while he did his coding. He had no choice, really -- this industry works people overlong and threatens them with excommunication if they complain, knowing full well that enthusiastic young talent will gladly come fill in at a lower wage.

Superdad was one of the old guard. A bandolier of shipped titles slung across his chest, he had survived layoffs, buyouts, new console launches, mobile versions of games; all manner of weather sprayed across the decks of the sailing ship Development. And he’d had enough time, consideration, and that true engineer thoroughness to come up with a unique solution to a problem that faced him every other weekend: explaining to his young daughter what it was he did for a living.

It was inevitable. His daughter would look up at the screen during a debugging session, see bad guys jumping to and fro from cover points, sneaking through the bush, guns trained dead-on at the eye-point of the player, and she’d be curious. She’d say “Daddy? What are those men doing?”

It’d be a lot harder to explain if the guns were firing, bullets were flying, blood was spurting from flayed carotids and torn femorals -- but they weren’t. Not a shot. No gunpowder, no blood.

Superdad had programmed in a hardware switch that stanched all gunfire, instantly. He smiled, and with a gentle voice, he leaned over to his daughter and explained:

“They’re just playing hide and seek, honey.”

Curtain Down

I’ll admit it: I’m terrified of children.

My fictional maybe-ones that I may or may not have some day, and the children of my friends and colleagues. I don’t know how I’d have the courage to do what it took to protect my child from the visible, media-ready horrors we know plague us as humanity every second -- and the more insidious, invisible ones like my industry friends experience every day: the fact that deep down inside, we love to shoot people on these giant screens and watch them fall into the dirt.

That fear may have something to do with why I feel an overwhelming sense of awe in remembering Superdad's actions. The man is a hero to me, plain and simple. Caught only a worker in the great industrial revolution of digital violence, the Great Blood Gold Rush, he did what he had to in order to feed his family while protecting the delicate hope and optimism of his child, to give her a chance to see the world as it might better be seen, than as it is.

It’s not his response to the situation that I take issue with. It’s that there’s even a situation like this that he feels compelled to respond to -- that’s the shame, the ugliness of it.

And this drama -- this tightrope walk between building virtual violence while fashioning a safe space for the next generation -- was forced to live in the same building that received countless letters, forum posts, YouTube videos, and more from angry gamers that threatened us -- and our families -- if we didn’t deliver them the bloodthirsty experience they wanted, the one they demanded. The pressure in these pipes does not let up, not from any source. Experience it, and you can begin to see why executives feel they have no choice but to ride these rapids to the hazard of all.

It’s entirely reasonable to tell me that the story is the same whereever you go. Whenever you’re addressing a crowd of millions, you might say, you’ll get hate mail. You’ll accumulate moral debt. You’ll get a crisis of conscience. Just a cost of doing business.

Well, sorry; that’s a cheap escape hatch, and I’m not using it anymore.

If I blame anyone for Superdad’s situation -- it’s not him, it’s all of us. What we buy, what we line up for, what we clamor for in great digital mobs drives our next generation of production, fuels the generators and oils the wheels of capital that drive our next wave of industry.

The sad truth for me is that I am just as drawn to shooters as I’ve ever been. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever shake the response I’ve developed to the bursts of adrenaline, the short-circuited route to endorphins triggered by lining up a 32x32 pixel crosshair over a collection of triangles, now acid-etched into my brain as if it were its own printed board of chips and gold-coated bus lines.

But I am drawing the one line I can draw, starting now, for a few good reasons.

First, for the other Superdads out there, I want to be able to look them honestly in the face, not to give them some bullshit line about the fascinating duplicity of mankind, and say that I’m honestly working to try to make the world that their children will inhabit a better one.

Second, my new company, 4gency, built after plenty of time in an industry I couldn’t change, now has the opportunity to pick and choose the games it builds, and the ethical stances those games exhibit. If there’s any time along the singular diode path of my life to take a stand for something, anything, this is it.

So I’ll say it again:
I will never work on a first-person shooter game, ever again. Period.
Not with my company. Not with any company.

I’ve been inspired by a variety of titles, including those in the much-hated “casual” space. I don’t think there’s a need for more Cowclicker 3000’s, but as a glimmer of hope, a shining did-you-know: strategy games made up 28% of the PC game market -- the highest grossing genre for that platform. Of course you did; that fact alone does not a lifetime of riches make -- but I see more, and better, ahead of us.

There’s an amazing amount of innovation just waiting under the surface for us to tackle -- and yes, perhaps violence will be some part of it; we are no simple beings. But we as a self-aware species of gamer -- and game developer - can evolve to a more varied diet as a start; a one-course feast of blood and shell casings can perhaps sing its last with this generation and never return, a relic, discarded as the cyanide trappings of our adolescent industry and its hopefully brief era of strip mining for the social soul.

We are ready to do better, and I'm prepared to do my part. No more first-person shooters will come from me.

I've said it. Have I destroyed my career?

Am I just minutes away from receiving the famed “you’ll never work in this town again” email from the Gaming Illuminati?

Have I invited a hundred million gamers to tell me I’m going to hell for not capitulating to their demands for a life filled with entertainment that leads with the gun and leaves all else to ruin?

Maybe.
Fire away.

I've got a company to run.

Reprinted from Charles N. Cox Dot Com.  


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Comments


Melanie Struthers
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I hear Nintendo does a good job of making games for all ages without always relying on violence...

Nick Harris
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Kirby sucks...

Justin Goffinet
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Like a Hoover.

Maximilian Garling
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But I like Kirby... =(

Kirby Super Stars was one of the best SNES games of my childhood, I truly had fun with it.

Michael Pianta
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@Maximilian

I think they're joking... at least, I hope so.

Russell Carroll
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Nintendo does, and they get attacked for it.

It's perhaps ironic, that the fans of shooters + the video game media, in an attempt to be ??? (cool is my best guess?) will commonly and ruthlessly malign anything Nintendo does.

I say ironic, b/c there is something of a consistency with the characters in shooters who are trying to save humanity, while at the same time treat the other characters (mostly NPCs) with little to no respect or sense of humanity, and how Nintendo games are treated. There is some consistency w/how women are denigrated in core games and how Nintendo is denigrated for not following the same core path with their games.

It seems that if you try to stand for anything other than blood, headshoots and mindless TnA you are guaranteed to be ripped to shreds by the masses.
...and that's why Nintendo is constantly being ripped by the masses. B/C they choose to go another way and not participate.

That's sad to my eyes.

Benjamin Quintero
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@Russell I agree that it's pretty low to just bash on non-violent games. Honestly my only issue with the article is not that he's chosen a path of hand-holding Kumbaya-singing gameplay but that first-person or even shooting is at the core of the problem. There are plenty of alternate game experiences that are more violent and have nothing to do with first person or shooting. If the guy is burnt out on FPS games I don't blame him. I am suffering from much fatigue myself, but I don't blame CoD for my woes I just stopped playing it and moved on to better experiences.

And yes I'm pretty sure this comment thread is a joke. Because if not, Kirby might have to shank a fool up in here =). Don't mess with big K. Like Kratos, his skin is stained with the blood of his fallen enemies.

Matthew Calderaz
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Isn't the more fundamental and egregious issue that SuperDad was compelled to have to work on the weekend with his daughter present in the first place?

And I wouldn't worry about any perceived lack of market for non FPS games... many old school gamers are sick of the lack of variety in AAA titles. Good luck in the new ventures!

Charles Cox
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When I was at the studio, it was 80-hour weeks, and I was newly married. It was tough, and I didn't even have any kids - I can imagine that being so much worse.

I have plenty of thoughts about "crunch time", and I've made sure at least in my own startup studio to not force my teams through it. If we're behind, we don't pretend killing ourselves is going to catch us up. We cut features or move the release date.

That won't be as realistic, perhaps, when I've got a publisher or my investors breathing down my neck to hit a key release date, but - like my sentiment in this article - I'm trying to encourage good habits in myself so I can stick to them when things get tough.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Maximilian Garling
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I would suggest to delay the release date over cutting features. Quality stays over time more than quantity, unless you do have to give quick results that could affect negatively the direction of your company if you don't do.

I appreciate the effort of helping employees with their individual lives, hopefully your games will entertain kids and adults with good action over violence.

(Sorry about my english.)

Corey Cole
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I decided long ago not to work on shooters. I have a lot of reasons for this: They make me seasick (at least when the frame rate is slow or choppy), I don't really care for the "message" of ultra-violence, and I find them me-too, same-old-same-old boring. The most exciting innovation I've seen in FPS games was when Ultima Underworld took an FPS engine and made an RPG instead. Shame the experiment mostly died after UU2 and Thief.

This decision has greatly restricted my choice of industry jobs, but I have no problem with that. Those projects are not for me.

scott anderson
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Experiment died after UU2 and Thief? There have been a ton of RPGs that use FPS style view\controls and RPG\FPS hybrids since those games... Many of them massively successful (Deus Ex, Elderscrolls, Borderlands, System Shock, Bioshock and Fallout). Your comment seems out of touch.

Dillon Rogers
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Interesting. When it comes to Ultima Underworld, it's usually seen the other way around - Carmack took inspiration from UU's texture mapping engine and combined it with his raytracing engine to create Wolfenstein 3D and later, more prominently, Doom.

The unfortunate problem with the first-person shooter genre is that it's financially less risky. It's a shame, really. Today we exist in a market over-saturated with (generally mediocre) first-person shooters.

Yet, First-person shooter mechanics don't HAVE to be seen as a pedantic, stale addition to a game. Half-life, BioShock, Portal, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Far Cry 2 are all good examples of FPS's that show how much the genre has changed since its Doom clone days.

There's such a large difference between designing the game around the mechanic than band-aid wrapping the mechanic around the game.

Johnny LaVie
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I agree with Scott. Without experience in the last 15 years of games, you pretty much don't have a leg to stand on with the "experiments mostly died" comment.

I can add to his list:

Monster Hunter
Valkyria Chronicles
Dragon Age....

Amir Barak
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@Johnny
Non of those games are first person shooters...

Also, massively successful does not mean good just means massively successful, "Twilight" is also massively successful... Avatar (by James Cameron) is also massively successful (I'd rather read Twilight fan-fiction by the way than watch it again).

And he said "mostly dead" which also mean (to quote someone smarter than me) "slightly alive".

scott anderson
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@Amir

If critically and commercially successful doesn't mean good, then I'll also back up my claim by saying I personally have enjoyed games in all the series I mentioned and think they are objectively good.

Dave Smith
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different strokes. Personally, I prefer to mow down hordes of meat sacks from the comfort of the godlike, topdown/isometric view of RTSs and old school RPGs, but a third person view will do in a pinch.

Kevin Fishburne
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I too love mowing down hordes of meat sacks, from any perspective or projection matrix as long as the camera and controls are consistent and smooth.

If RPGs used FPS gameplay as inspiration for enhanced gameplay mechanics you would have options like: name, job, bye, steal, attack, make/keep unconscious, kill, fuck, eat, translate, rotate, etc. A RPG to evoke initial Doom reactions, made even more insane by the tight social bonds of its players.

Meat sacks.

Alan Rimkeit
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Dead Nation is a great exaple of this system of gameplay that is very well executed. Massive amounts of awesome gore from a topdown/isometric view. The controls are smooth as butter. The difficulty levels for the game ramp enough to keep the game fun but hard enough to keep is challenging. I LOVE this game. =D I highly recommend it. IMHO, it is a seriously under rated game.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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But 3rd person shooters are ok, right?

But seriously.

"Iím terrified of children"

Kids are awesome, and nowhere as fragile creatures as people think. Remember that what they see on TV or games wont influence them by 1% compare to how they see their gardians act. TV and games arent raising kids, gardians are. My baby son doesnt care much about what he sees on tv (probably because we dont watch it) or advertisement... he cares about his kick ball. Dont try to take it away from him! But his parents are always polite to him, and with others, so if you ask him to put it away, he will do it himself. Kids are awesome. And when he's asleep, well, playing some Farcry or whatnot is a good way to vent the frustrations of the day.

Gotta agree with Matthew, though. There's not job thats worth enough for me to bring my kid at work on weekends.

Justin Goffinet
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Kids are influenced by their role models. As a parent, your kid is going to look up to you and learn from you for years. They're also going to decide someday that they like some ditzy pre-teen on the Disney Channel acting like she's in her 20s and talking about dating and kissing and so-forth (I never thought I'd actively frown upon the kids' content on the Disney Channel) and want to be like them too. Mommy and daddy kiss, what's-her-name kisses, I should too... at 10 .. or 12, or.. it really doesn't matter, they're too damned young.

Yes, kids are resilient and you have the opportunity to counter so much of what they see by instilling them with good examples and morals, but that doesn't mean you're going to filter out all of the undesirables. Kids are scary, on levels very few can really appreciate without having kids of their own, even if they're already terrified of the thought.

At least this guy is taking a stand for something that matters to him. More people making a conscious effort to build the gaming industry into a better place is always a good thing. Compared to music and movies and TV, it seems like you see a lot more desire to improve their craft as a whole these days in the creators of video games than other industries.

B Smith
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"At least this guy is taking a stand for something that matters to him."

This isn't something intrinsically worth anything. Westboro Baptist Church is taking a stand too.

"More people making a conscious effort to build the gaming industry into a better place is always a good thing."

...what is "better" in relation to anything in the article? That he seems to assert that an entire genre/interface style somehow itself possesses any "ethical" component? That he seemingly suggests that impersonal mass combat in RTS/TBS is somehow "ethically superior" to individual action? What a load of hogwash.

What's "better" are sane working hours. Not "I'm burned out on some component of gameplay and want to try something fresh".

Adam Bishop
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Actually children are hugely influenced by things like what they see on TV. Advertising has a far greater impact on children than it does on adults. There's lots of good research into this topic:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/6/2563.full

I know it's nice to think that parenting has some kind of overwhelming effect on kids that drowns out other environmental factors but it's simply not true. Kids are hugely affected by their environment, including things like the media they experience.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Media, which, as a responsible parent, you control the exposure to.

Sharon Hoosein
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Even good parents don't really have much control over the media when kids are over at a friend's house, in school with kids whose parents who are less controlling, or around the "big kids" they think are so cool but who make them feel terrible/stupid for being "so naive".

Jack Nilssen
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Good. I wouldn't want my shooters made by anyone whose heart wasn't in it.

Llies Meridja
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I am glad that I've given up on being a "hardcore gamer" for the very reason that it's full of murderous junk. The industry could have gone another way when it was shaping up a few decades ago but some dick(s) decided to make it entertaining to shoot people into oblivion in very graphical ways. Sad really.

Justin Goffinet
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Curious what being a hardcore gamer has to do with murderous junk?

Gamers have put literally years of game time behind the keyboard just in EverQuest or WoW, either or. Other players pour hours and even more money into so-called casual games. What lifelong hard-core gamer in their 30's has not only played but invested a hundred plus hours into the many Zelda games?

Heck, look at the MLG.. not even half the games fall into the murderous junk category, most of them are fighters and/or Starcraft/LoL. Not to say these are games lacking violence, but they're decidedly not bloodthirsty in their pursuit of portraying the violence. It's a cause and effect, not the end goal itself, combined with an aesthetic that's decidedly not unicorns and rainbows.

B Smith
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"I find it a little bit disturbing, that people believe "heart" should be involved, when it comes to making games where the core mechanic is moving a crosshair over the head of a man shaped character and pressing a button, just to watch it explode into millions of tiny brain- bone- and meatpieces."

a) You're equivocating. "Heart", as mentioned by Jack, means something akin to motivation, craftsmanship, dedication. Maybe English isn't your native tongue, but the phrase "having heart in something" is an idiomatic expression of that.

b) Your reductionist example of the "core mechanic" is intellectually dishonest. The violence in games, generally speaking, is about good guys vs bad guys. Are there some people fond of blood and guts in games? Sure, but there's also people fond of blood and guts in movies. It's a fallacy of composition to conflate that subset of persons with the whole.

Kujel Selsuru
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@ Llies Meridja: I assosiate "hardcore gamer" with teenage twits with no taste other then mindless violence so I've never called myself a hardcore gamer.

Jeremy Reaban
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That's commendable, but I don't think FPSes are even close to the worst thing the game industry does. Do they glorify violence? In many cases, sure, with a handful actually trying to send the opposite message (though doing so in a mixed manner thanks to how they are marketed). But does that actually harm anyone? Probably not.

On the flip side, F2P does actually harm people. Games are designed with psychological techniques in order to spend money and gamble, some of them even targeting children.

Joe McGinn
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I don't even find it commendable. Offensive, actually. I've made shooters - for adults. I fail to see how that makes me morally inferior to the article author. As a *creative* chance, I understand this article. As an anti-crunch stance, more so. As a moral statement it is nonsensical.

James Prettyman
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I concur with Jack Nilssen. On another note, think about what message you'd be sending the media. Are you then validating their hysteria over gaming?

Jakub Majewski
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Well, naturally, it's better to lie and pretend everything's fine, just to avoid "sending a message to the media".

...Unless, of course, you value your integrity more than you value the industry you work in. I'd like to think that's the case for most people - sadly, I know it's not.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I was a bit worried that I made a CLM in my second interview with Steam last year when I told them "I'm a pacifist". Well it did certainly keep me from getting a 3rd interview, but now a year later I work with two companies larger than Steam that don't seem to mind my aversion to head shots. I had assisted a company prior to that interview monetize a FPS for Europe, but I refused to actually play the game which made the Chinese dev studio a bit anxious. I was desperate for work back then, so I can relate to the plight of Super Dad who may not have had the luxury of saying no to companies offering him work.

Kevin Fishburne
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Having an aversion to what you're portraying could make the resulting images more powerful. It could be an asset and you could still feel good about indirectly conveying your pacifism. Not saying it is, just that it could be for any of us with strong beliefs.

Charles Edward Florendo
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I really like you blog. I myself have reservations with violence in video games and I find some of them really dumb. In some RPGs for instance, we earn points for killing innocent creatures and by-standers. I was writing an RPG script which would eliminate it, but that was really a CLM. I know it's just a game, but I believe that every little thing we do in the virtual has its effects in the real world. No one will ever really be able to prove if teenagers shooting each other have anything to do with the violence we present in these forms of entertainment, but it doesn't mean it has nothing to do with it either. Many good things come our way when we choose things based on our convictions, congratulations!

Ramin Shokrizade
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My opinion here is that games don't make us more likely to shoot people, but (like every skill we train in games) it DOES make us much BETTER at it. That confidence might allow us to do something we might not have the courage to do if we were bad at it.

B Smith
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"it DOES make us much BETTER at it"

Having been in the military and trained with a variety of weapons, and also having been a gamer... I can't say that I agree. Using a game pad or mouse is nothing like using an actual weapon.

It's like suggesting playing a racing game makes you a better driver. That's not really the case; to get better, one needs to actually drive. Some secondary knowledge can be learned, like engine mechanics or perhaps how to take corners at speed...but these things are learnable from anywhere.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I feel the research is leaning heavily against your opinion. Study after study has shown that gamers have faster reflexes, and that similar activities do promote crossover adaptation in the cerebellum.

Maria Jayne
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I think there is both an element of truth and fallacy to this statement. "It does make us much better at it".

I live in a country were firearms are so rare I've only seen a real gun about four times in my life and never held one or heard one being fired. I don't for a second believe I would be a good shot, but I do believe in the context of not knowing what a "boom stick" is, I am much better at operating a firearm since watching movies, reading books, playing video games and being on the internet.

Before you say it, I'm aware real guns have significantly more operating needs and requirements then games and movies. I'm talking about firing a loaded gun, not keeping and maintaining a gun.

You may not know how to throw a rock as far as possible, but you already understand the principle of trajectory, propelling force, relative distance and arc. Not forgetting nobody is designing rocks to be easier to throw, people are designing guns to be easier to use.

In this instance I believe Ramin is correct, I would find it much easier to fire a gun, what I have no experience of would be the results of that action in real life. Which sadly all too many people learn when it is too late.

Eric Salmon
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"I feel the research is leaning heavily against your opinion. Study after study has shown that gamers have faster reflexes, and that similar activities do promote crossover adaptation in the cerebellum."

You don't need quick reflexes to shoot unarmed people. You just need to know how to get a gun, how to use it, and be just disturbed enough to do so. Also, the last shooting that got people up in arms here in the U.S. was Adam Lanza - a kid diagnosed with mental illness and personality disorder on psychotropic drugs whose typical side effects include violent outbursts and thoughts of suicide, and whose survivalist mother trained him to use guns kept in the house. I'm sure it was those video games he played that finished the job, though.

Johnathon Tieman
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@Ramin: Can you cite any of those studies? I have been paying attention to this subject for quite a while, and I've certainly never seen anything like you suggest.

Putting that aside for a moment, many things result in better reflexes. Playing sports, dancing, ballet, hell, even driving can improve an individual's reflexes. People with better reflexes are not somehow more likely to commit violence. And like B Smith said, shooting a gun in a video game is nothing like shooting a gun in real life, so there isn't anything similar in the process to promote crossover adaptation.

Ramin Shokrizade
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@Johnathon: I'm glad you asked! If you Google "do gamers have faster reflexes than non-gamers" you will get flooded with studies that support what I am talking about. Here is a good abstract on Kotaku, but really this kind of research has been going on for many years now:
http://kotaku.com/5636665/video-games-help-us-make-faster-decisio
ns

Johnathon Tieman
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@Ramin: I should have been more clear. What studies exist that support your claim that playing video games makes someone better at shooting a gun? I already pointed out that reflexes themselves are not not related to violence, nor are video games the sole way to increase reflexes. I don't see what simply having trained the body's reflexes has to do with the subject under discussion - namely, that first-person shooters somehow contribute in any significant way to real-world violence.

Eric Pobirs
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Faster reflexes do not equal greater ability to handle a weapon. The sole benefit is to succeed or fail faster.

Somebody who thinks they have any concept of what firing a real gun is like because they've done it many, many times in games using a mouse or controller is in for a severe shock. It is no more a preparation for reality than playing Donkey Kong daily will prepare you for leaping over rolling barrels in real life.

The people playing Airsoft or Paintball on weekends are leaps and bounds closer to understanding the reality of close combat than anyone whose sole basis is hundred of hours spent in something like Call of Duty. There is real exertion, real weapon handling skills, etc. The video game doesn't even come close.

Rik Spruitenburg
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If Ramin will allow me to defend his position, he's not saying that people who play games are more likely to shoot people. He is saying that it's a form of practice. Person A spends 2 hours a week at the practice range firing a real gun. Person B spends 2 hours a week at the range and spends 40 hours a week playing a first person shooter. At the end of a year do you really think, all other factors being equal, that Person B isn't a little bit better were he to find himself in a Zombie Apocalypse?

Michael O'Hair
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Our beloved monsters.
Enjoy yourselves.
We are what we eat/consume.

Dave Smith
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except we aren't in respect to video games.

Michael O'Hair
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How we entertain ourselves is certainly indicative of the kinds of people we really are, or at least want to be.
What we create is indicative of the kinds of worlds we would like to live in, or at least visit for a time.

The first-person shooter tends to satiate the male power fantasies of the bored and the disenfranchised, people with a little too much time on their hands and those who seek to express themselves through forceful action but lack the capacity or motivation to do so in the real world. Perhaps the broadening pool of people who enjoy playing games is indicative of more people, male and female and young and old, feeling more and more powerless or having more and more time to waste in the real world.

Computer and video games provided a space for the adolescent male (and now, female) to exercise fantasied ambition in a space where they would not be judged or reprimanded, without real consequence. They could pretend to be bloodthirsty barbarians or heavily-armed space marines without fear of being cleaved in half or vaporized. Those kinds of experiences filled a need within growing minds too timid to exact their will in the real world, to express themselves according to the idealized heroic macho stereotype portrayed in popular media that was too unrealistic for everyone to achieve. Games were an escape from a world which the older generations had made too safe and sterilized, a world that seemed more and more devoid of adventure.
And so many of us turned to games in order to... go on adventures.

The claim is often made that computer and video games are methods of innocent escapism, isolated experiences where nothing is extracted and brought to the real world. But to suggest such things is to disregard a potential strength of games; the ability to place the players in situations they might not otherwise experience from which they can learn and grow, safe places where they can fail repeatedly without consequence until they "get it".

Instead, games are content chasing greater visual fidelity by way of more and more detailed head explosions and ludicrous gibs. Bigger BFGs and mega-er textures. Virtual promotions and leaderboard prestige by way of simulated mass genocide. A near-infinite supply of problems, and the only available conflict resolution tool fires 650 rounds per minute.

In respect to video games, we buy and play those experiences which we most enjoy experiencing. And the most base and visceral of experiences tend to sell very, very well.
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/184637/
Nothing against sports or flailing about to music, but four of the listed best-selling titles of the previous year were games where the player is some guy (or woman) with a gun.

And to be absolutely clear, I don't believe that video games make people violent.
What I do believe is that people with few or no outlets by which to exact their will or express themselves find video games the most readily available means to feel empowered.

I think that's a problem.

Kevin Alexander
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And the first caveman who painted depictions of the hunt on the wall, was he not too exercising his own introspection, inner wills, and desires?

You cannot inhibit peoples abilities to express themselves, nor are their newer outlets of doing so particularly different than even the most ancient ones on a cerebral level.

Humanity, is a beautiful thing, and sometimes we just have to accept the bad in favor of all its good.

Eric Pobirs
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I don't think it's a problem. I think it's a solution.

Shocking as we may find the big events of violence, such as shooting sprees or bombings, we in the developed world lead much less violent lives than our recent ancestors. What passes for wars these days are tiny compared to the world that was normal for our parents or grandparents, who were into middle-age before video games became anything of note. (I'm old enough that my father enlisted the day after he turned 18 and was shipped off to the occupation of Germany a couple months after the surrender.) We spent much of the last decade agonizing over a casualty count for the entirety of conflict, yet that same number could be exceeded by a single battle during the World Wars. for all the virtual body count in our games, we take casualties far more seriously in real life today than in the past.

The stats make it plain. The world where video games are common is far less violent than what came before it. If video game have any involvement in that it appears to be a positive one.

David Pierre
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You know, if you replaced the position of your first and second lines, you'd have a haiku.

Dane MacMahon
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My enjoyment of fictional violence is really beyond self-evaluation at this point. I was watching Bond movies and crappy 80's action flicks since I was a little kid. When I switched to PC gaming in 1994 I was flooded with shooters for the next 20 years. I enjoy them, I feel no shame in it, though I am smart enough to realize I was socialized to do so and can't really make a value judgment on it in an unbiased fashion.

That said I think we're animals at heart, having to resist our baser instincts, and violent media is a way to vent those feelings in a peaceful and socially accepted manner. Same with sports.

Michael Joseph
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not all animals are killers.

I dig what you're saying but in your second paragraph there is a bit of a contradiction. You suggest that your personal views are biased by some level of cultural conditioning but then you attribute it all to genetics "we're animals at heart."

I think so much of philosophy is about going beyond whatever animal instincts we have.. BECAUSE WE CAN. And so perhaps we SHOULD and MUST. Our survival may depend on it.

Lewis Wakeford
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"not all animals are killers"

Humans and all their closest relatives are...

Charles Cox
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Dane -

I'm still playing shooters, and I will for the rest of my life. Just part of my programming now (and c'mon, it's Double Weapon XP weekend on BlackOps II, who can pass that up?)

We're going to be drawn to experiences that call to us, and it's a struggle to resist. I'm trying to make sure the big-ticket items are thoughtfully considered. If I've got a team, and funding, and the ability to spend and make $1M (as a hypothetical), the proverbial hammer is much bigger than my $50 I spend at Gamestop, and I want to think about how to wield it a bit more than my monthly gaming wallet.

I agree that shooters - and violence in video games in general - serves a cathartic interest. It gives us a way to let off the steam. But, if that's the best that can be said about them, I feel like I won't miss working on them much.

Thanks for the comment.

Darcy Murdoch
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Bravo sir, bravo. I cannot possibly express in words how much i hope you succeeded in your endeavors.

Dave Smith
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As long as you irrational, oversensitive types dont support legislation censoring the kind of games i make and enjoy (and I have absolutely no worries about increasing violence in the slightest), I couldnt care less what you do.



If you think headshotting semi realistic renderings of monsters is any different than stomping turtles off of cliffs, You are part of the problem. Its make believe. Every healthy adult and child knows this.

Dave Smith
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In terms of its effect on increasing real world violence or damaging the oh so fragile societal fabric, no, it wouldnt be any different. I cant believe we are still having this conversation today.

although a more accurate comparison would be killng, raping, burning, newborn bashing realisticly rendered fictional characters vs killing raping burning newborn bashing cartoonish ones.

Michael Joseph
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Dear Dave,
Are you rational? Are you a real man... you know the kind that never cries and is not oversensitive?

Seems to me a lot of irrationality is viewed as both rational and conservative these days. I personally find todays notions of "conservatism" to be wrought with liberalism and irrationality. Darren Tomlyn if he set his mind to it, could have a field day on this subject I suspect! :) Most conservatives are liberals and they don't even know it. Some liberals are conservatives and don't know it. Up is down. Left is right.

TO ME CONSERVATISM IS VERY SIMPLY... RATIONALITY. It is NOT IDEOLOGY.

Therefore true conservatism is dynamic. It is adaptive. It is not stagnant. It decides based on what makes sense. It most certainly values science.

Rational people don't simply dismiss conscientious people as irrational and oversensitive without argument. It's not rational.

Words are powerful indeed. They're so powerful they've gotten many of us to not even know who we are.

Conservatism today is mostly used as codespeak for "how glorious (we think) things use to be..." It means anti-change as it affects historical privilege. That is not rational.

There is a reason why in Europe, American conservatism is referred to as neo-liberalism. I view it as a philosophy that attempts to define the hypocrisy that stems from power and privilege. Might makes right. Absolute morality is irrelevant. If you really want to understand a liberal (what you would call a conservative) throw logic out the window... it's just whatever they say. I say this because ultimately it's not about what they believe, because their beliefs are whatever happens to be good for them and not based on actual principles.

Conservatism died at least 60 years ago. When you get right down to it, we're all varying shades of liberal.

B Smith
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"Then it would be 100% ok to make a game, were the aim is to set homeless people on fire, smash the head of newborns against a wall, beat people with another skin tone then the player to death and have forced sex with NPCs?"

a) Define "ok". Should it be "allowed"? Yes; censorship and criminalization of speech and expression is never a good thing. It's purely a personal value judgement if someone wants to make a game with such subject matter, or if someone wants to play such a game.

b) A good guy defeating a bunch of bad guys, even with a bunch of headshots, is nothing like rape or child murder. Your sliding slope alarmist equivocation is not very conducive to intellectual consideration of things.

"the most successful games in this industry only allow murderous and tortures interactions between human beings"

If an enemy soldier is trying to invade your country, or a gangster is trying to rob you, or aliens are wanting to probe you... it's not "murder" to fight back. Recklessly bandying about the word like that causes it to lose meaning and ethical connotation.

"these killing simulators"

If you had ever served in the military, police, or been in a real-world violent situation (such as the Boston Marathon bombing), you would very well know that this sort of nonsense is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest. Further, the word "simulator" has very specific meaning in recreational computing, and that doesn't meaningfully apply to to cartoonish action games. Also, statistically speaking most shooting victims survive the event - so these "simulators" as you call them don't simulate anything very well, when an enemy can be taken out by repeated hits to the foot for example.

"only in games reflection is seen as something evil"

Nonsense. Propaganda. Misrepresentation.

James Margaris
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The idea that media consumption has zero effect on individuals or society is spectacularly irrational.

Dave Smith
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@Christian: "murder simulator" is jingoistic nonsense. sell that somewhere else.

In addition, games are not violence only, and never have been. Its not even an inherently bad thing if it were. These so called ethical questions have been answered time and time again: its not a big deal. And if something has no real world negative effects on society (and you seem to suggest it doesnt have an effect on violence levels), how could it be unethical?

I suppose you think it might have other, diversity-in-art related effects on society, but there is nothing stopping people from making the games they want (as I can draw whatever I want and present it to the world if I wish), so I doubt that as well. Seems people are just pouting that the games they like dont sell as well as CoD.

"only in games reflection is seen as something evil" what world do you live in?

Christian Allen
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"strategy games made up 28% of the PC game market"

Ones where you kill lots of people?

Charles Cox
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Hey Christian -

You're absolutely right. There are scads of games (heck, whole series-s) of games that abstract a level up and allow the player to inflict casualties on a grand scale. It can be mighty bloody, too.

Is it the same as a first-person shooter where your choices are where to take cover, when to pop up and shoot, and when to move forward?

I'd argue it's not the same. Any time I play Civilization V, for instance, and war is an option, I'm aware of the _cost_ of that action. The choice - and the consequence of choice - springs to the forefront.

I had a similar interaction with the new Xcom (which I absolutely love), when I went into Ironman mode. No more infinite saves, no more run-n-gun-n-load-whenever-the-result-was-bad: I had to think about the cost of the choices I made.

I don't believe that my moving away from FPSs is going to fix everything. I don't even think that I can realistically say that I'm moving away from violence in video games entirely. But, as I said above, I'm interested in doing better. Strategy games - some of them, anyway, have included a layer of consideration over the violence that I think yields a better results.

We think, before we act. I like that.

Thanks for the comment.

Dave Hoskins
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Good for you Charles! One great thing about doing a game for all the family is the lovely moment of seeing your elderly relative or your niece sitting down and enjoy playing the game you've helped create. It must be an amazing feeling I have yet to enjoy myself.
A lot of shooting games are basically Doom clones which is in turn basically a duck shoot! Ha! ;)

Andy Cahalan
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As a child, I hated nes duck hunt! Why shoot an innocent duck?!! I actually found Doom less morally confusing because my antagonists were demons, zombies, etc...

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Replace "digital violence" and "virtual violence" in the above article with "fantasy violence" and you can see how borderline childish this line of argumentation is.

Yes, them fantasy people be shootin' them fantasy guns. I roll a d20 to crit with my sword.

Charles Cox
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Hi Aleksander -

You make a good point; I'm still an active "d20" RPG gamer (okay "d6", Shadowrun :)) and there's violence there, too. But if you apply a strictly abstract lens over it, you miss an important connection between the gaming world and the real world.

Sword makers aren't partnering with games to sell their products en masse. Gun makers are.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/business/real-and-virtual-firea
rms-nurture-marketing-link.html?pagewanted=1&hp&_r=0

It's not top-of-mind for me why I'm leaving the business of FPS games, but it plays a part.

Games don't exist out of time, and out of the societies they're consumed in. Like books, movies, or music - they are going to have contextual connections to the world and the time they live in.

I find that working on FPSs puts me in a place where digital violence mirrors real violence a bit _too_ much, so I made the pledge above. Levels of abstraction ("d20 to crit with my sword") matter - it's a question of degree.

Thanks for the comment.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Charles, your "contextual connection" is tenuous at best and not proven or supported in your article. Such a statement of connection has to be established first as both necessary and sufficient, as long as you don't, it is purely opinion.

But never mind that.

The discussion of ethics/morality from the position of superiority has simply no place in fiction.
Its funny you mentioned books, movies and music but left out comics.
We already had that exact same "discussion" 50 years ago for comics and its institutionalized manifestation was the CCA. It was equivalent of the comic industry collectively shooting themselves in the foot as history illustrates.

I accept your -personal- decision, however, the framing of your article as a universal moral superiority argument is simply asinine.

Eric Pobirs
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Actually, there are companies who've licensed swords and other weapons from games and market them through magazines and other places that pitch collectible items. Long before games it was fantasy novels. You could find a nice replica of a particular artist's depiction of a sword from a popular series at any con back in the 70s. This was when video game graphics were still so crude that you only knew the character was swinging a sword because the instructions said so.

Swords are rarely used for the purpose of violence these days because it takes considerable skill and training to wield them well. The majority of those sold are hanging on walls or worn as part of costumes at cons. Guns, OTOH, while still requiring to training and practice to be their most effective, can be applied by a much larger range of people and are far better suited to self-defense. They are thus are more mainstream product today.

Swords are a specialized market, mostly a collector's item, while guns are more a part of modern life. That they are more widely marketed is a natural follow-on of that status. If their were a large market for swords there would be the marketing as well.

Michele Kribel
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I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter. Whenever I play pretty much any game at home, she's going to come over to the couch, stare at the screen for a few seconds and go like: "why are they fighting, daddy?" My answer is, "it's just games, girl. Many of them are about fighting." Nail on the head with your article. Way too many games involve conflicts, enemies, etc. And usually the only available conflict resolution tool in games is violence... And I have no idea what to answer my girl when she asks me why...

Anton Temba
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Just be honest. The worst thing you could do is to brush it off with an excuse, you'll only alienate your daughter by not being real with her.

And also be honest with yourself. Figure out why you're enjoying shooters and embrace it. Trying to stomp it down will only serve to limit yourself as how you can enjoy life and explore it. Be true to yourself and others, brother.

David Paris
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I've always been mindful of what games I play around my kids, but largely only found that I was editing my choices to avoid anything from the horror genre. I admit I'm not much of an FPS player by default, so there wasn't too much that cropped up there but I specifically never wanted to fill my kids heads with images that would disturb them. Many FPS had a 'no blood' option, which was fine, but scary images/pacing/music are scary regardless. I always smile thinking back at playing a fantasy MMO with my daughter on my lap and having her exclaim No Daddy, too many Golems! as I ventured over-bravely into an ill-advised beach.
rn
rnNow that they're teenagers, I don't have to dodge anything, but don't find much has changed about my gaming choices. I'd be fine if my kids choose to play shooters now, but they don't. Simulation and Strategy gaming for my daughter, MOBAs and Platformers for my son. I admit I always expected one of them ( my daughter mostly ) to end up playing shooters, but I guess the fact that they never excited me somehow spilled over onto them ( though my own tastes lie somewhere between my kids - heavy Strat/RPG/MOBA these days ).
rn
rnAnyways, my advice - avoid anything that _feels_ wrong, and let your kids have a pleasant world for as long as possible. The ugly aspects of life will definitely catch up, but you don't need to hurry that day along.

Tom Aram
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The term First-Person-Shooter defines a camera perspective and part of a control scheme, nothing in there requires violence. Your epiphany could have been better aimed, perhaps you needed to scope - It sounds as though you are unhappy with the idea of creating violent videogames, not with the idea of creating games seen through the first person perspective with a crosshair. That isn't violence, it's a mechanic, by your own wording:

"Itís unlikely that Iíll ever shake the response Iíve developed to the bursts of adrenaline, the short-circuited route to endorphins triggered by lining up a 32x32 pixel crosshair over a collection of triangles, now acid-etched into my brain as if it were its own printed board of chips and gold-coated bus lines. "

Lining up a pixel crosshair over a collection of triangles, there's your appeal, what keeps people playing these titles are the mechanics, not any implied links to real violence. A brutal head-explosion animation and acutely bloody visuals are an easy way of hooking teens into your game, but the people still playing it in multiplayer months down the line? They don't see the blood anymore, they're looking at the triangles.

The history of FPS article you linked asks the question "What if we take the shooting out of an FPS", well the answer to that is, you lose a game mechanic that is unquestionably entertaining and adds a great deal to the genre. Here's a better question, what if we just stopped calling it "shooting"? The mechanic is lining up a crosshair over a triangle, or more interestingly lining up a crosshair over the predicted route of a triangle across a game world accounting for travel time of some form of projectile as well as inherited momentum and splash radius, or any variation on that theme.

I remember deliberately turning off blood and gory pieces while dropping texture detail to the point where it resembled lego while playing Quake online. I didn't do that because my hardware was insufficient, nor was i morally opposed to imaginary violence between collections of polygons, I cut out the gore because it helped me see the triangles better.

Team Fortress 2 is one of the most succesfull FPS games on the market right now, it presents a cartoony visual style with a heavy emphasis on comedy. In TF2, players will pay real money to unlock a mackerel that they can hit other players in the face with instead of a lethal weapon. Are mackerels child friendly? Well if not there's also a lollipop, it deals 195 crit damage.

If you find the idea of polygons pretend-killing eachother in a video game to be morally objectionable, why not take the opportunity to make a non-violent game that plays on the same mechanics which everybody apparently enjoys?

Tom Aram
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"And the narrative in every FPS is one about killing - the detail levels may vary, but the narrative is always the same."

So Portal is about killing then? Or is Portal not an FPS because what you "shoot" isn't a bullet? What about a paintball game? What about an elaborate game of tag using fruit fired out of catapults?

Thinking about games as an alternative way of expressing a film narrative is a mistake, a game can exist as nothing more than a collection of rules. Throwing an aesthetic ontop of those rules that vaugely equates them to something that you may do in reality is a convinient way of inducting the player into the game, but firstly isn't at all necessary, and secondly isn't necessarily violent.

[edit:] and that was supposed to be a reply to the guy above me

Luis Guimaraes
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"Thinking about games as an alternative way of expressing a film narrative is a mistake, a game can exist as nothing more than a collection of rules."

Exactly.

Thou everybody have their own reasons to like FPS games, I'd put the game of angles above all else. An FPS in an empty blank map-less level is one of the most boring things one can play.

However, it's too late to change the name of the genre to something else, so we have to stick with the aesthetics-originated label.

Stephen Richards
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I liked this article. I'm actually surprised this is still an issue, I thought Call of Duty and Halo had killed off most other shooters by now. The fps market may be the most profitable, but it's definitely a select few which are taking the lion's share.

In a way I wish your comment about being replaced by 'fresh young talent' was true. The reality is that it's very hard to break in and get those first few years of crucial experience. Most companies don't want inexperienced workers because it means spending time and money training them up to the level of an experienced employee.

Benjamin Quintero
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FP is just a camera angle...

Carlo Delallana
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And with it comes a change in experience.

Dave Smith
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so side view is fine, then?

Benjamin Quintero
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Thanks Carlo, I'll remember to feel less when my Chaos blades tear an elephant man from neck to taint so that it exposes his innards. It's a good thing there are a couple extra meters between the camera and the man, because then I'd really have something to worry about.

Christopher Pons
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I really would hope that people would realize that an FPS game doesn't automatically mean it's going to be violent. Shootmania and COD are both FPS games but Shootmania is hardly violent. It's basically freeze tag, there isn't even any gore or anything violence you would expect from a Gears of War game (I know it's a TPS but it's still violent).

I think your reaction is too extreme personally. If you are fed up with creating shooters because they are all basically variants of battlefield and CoD I would understand. However, there are many other ways to design a shooter so it isn't violent. Take a look at a game like Mirrors Edge. It had guns, and it had shooting. If you wanted to call it an FPS game you could. However, it's hardly violent, it isn't even focused on violence or even guns.

Furthermore, if you wanted to create a shooter, that has all of the important design elements of a shooter (aim, positioning, etc) without the violence, you could use story elements to explain why the game is basically furturistic paintball or freezetag. In this way you have a game that isn't violent but still feels like a shooter.

David Fisk
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This is one reason I got out of working in the game industry. I have a family, and I was tired of the long hours and working on games that just weren't seeing the light of day, or just crap in general. I haven't played a game on my consoles in quite some time because of the lack of good, original games. I can't stand shooters. They are all the same. Action/Adventure games are all just re-skinned versions of Prince of Persia. It goes on and on. I am now working in a different industry working less hours under less stress and I get paid a lot more for it. The abuse that people working in the game industry put up with is astounding to me.

Joe E
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we were young and foolish indeed.

Dave Smith
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I like Battlefield. Its actually a pretty great game. CoD is pretty terrible though.

Glen M
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Sounds like "I will never drink again", seriously though Nintendo and the Apple AppStore (Angry Bird, Doddle Jump, etc.) have done very well with non-violent games. I think the point that the studio pushes to have their devs there 24/7 is a good one as well. But I love a good shooter especially if it also has a serious twist or story to it like BioShock of Portal or Half-Life 2. I thought 1st Halo did a good job of a more shoot the aliens with purple blood style and I have to think Team Fortress did well because of its cartoon style.

Good luck in your non-shooter game deving...

Michael Gotshall
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I may be one of the very few...but I do not believe bringing fake violence in the home put's more real violence in the world. Quite the opposite. Like many things in the world I think giving unique creative outlets for people to experience darker sides of creation by choice and in a manner they choose, quite possibly opens their eyes to the reality of the world. Possibly even prevents them from taking their fight to the streets. Dee Snider fought this battle when people thought records and music summoned Satan. So if the majority, and based on the numbers they are the majority, want to play the same game in a different wrapper and the people want to continue to have jobs designing these jobs I say good for them. Almost every job is repetitive and many that I have had are unfulfilling, but my desires and ideals do not pay the bills or feed my child...my job and my work do. Maybe one day when I have a revolutionary idea of how to change for the better, I will give that a go, in the meantime I am just happy to be part of "the machine" and do my part to bring enjoyment to somebody...anybody...

So if violence and creativity are your problem I hope you are successful at presenting a better, more innovative non-violent game that helps change the tide. In the meantime, without destroying your integrity, do what is best for your survival and the survival of those who depend on you and have a more positive look at what it is all for.

Nathaniel McClure
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After 5 years on COD I quit and started my own studio. We created a non violent shooter, Real Heroes: Firefighter. It actually went on to get a Shooter of the Year nod from IGN. I thoroughly enjoyed and understood your post. I wish you all the best with 4gency.

Andy Mussell
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The author is not the only person asking this sort of question - PBS Idea Channel did a recent episode on a related question, whether purchasing a FPS that licenses models of real-world guns from gun manufacturers is a moral choice to support guns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeIHH0XEs6E

I don't have anything personal to add, although I do applaud the author for taking a moral stand that he believes is the right thing to do, particularly as it may not be in his own short-term interest.

Simone Tanzi
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I am kinda disappointed by the whole article.
Do not get me wrong, I actually dislike FPS, they simply are not my cup of tea. And on the other side I LOVE PC strategy games.
The problem I see here is that you made the decision for all the wrong reasons.

You imply a moral dilemma that do not exist
Making the world better by not making FPS.
I have to guess that you actually blame videogames for the violence we see in the world.
I'm sorry but deciding to not work on FPS is kinda irrelevant compared to blaming Videogames for the violence people commits, that's a real CLM.
Violent people exist in a various degree, from the simply mean person to the truly clinically psychotic ones. I SERIOUSLY doubt that psychotic people would stop shooting people in the face because they don't have access to FPS.
People do not become more violent by exposure to FPS (or any other violent videogame for that matter) I mean, I am a huge fighting game fan and the only occasion I was in a fist fight I was in the receiving end without even trying to answer to the violence.
The real problem is the lack of Superdads.
we make children and we leave them on their own... we buy them games (sometimes violent ones) to make them quiet and not have to care about them.
They come up with no guidance at all, and we blame the things we have left him with (tv, videogames and such) instead of blaming ourselves and our non existent parenting effort.

I hope that in the future, the same superdad will reply in another way to his daughter.
That he will tell her "they are shooting each other, but is fine because is just a game" and his daughter will grow as a healthy kid that knows the difference between games and the real world.
Kids don't need to be sheltered, you can't shelter them anyway....
They just need a healthy perspective on the world... the nice parts of it and the darker ones as well, otherwise they will have to face them alone and without guidance.

Jakub Majewski
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If that's really your view, Simone, I truly hope you don't have any kids.

Of course kids need to be sheltered - it's just plain idiotic to think otherwise. Why do you think we have laws against pedophilia, for instance? Because kids need to be sheltered. Why do we even forbid instances of consensual sex between an adult and a teenager? Because kids need to be sheltered.

You may disagree on where the line needs to be drawn - that is, on what kids need to be sheltered from. I certainly would like to shelter my children from violent and sexual content. And of course, the degree to which I shelter them from these things depends on their age - as children grow older, they need to know more about the world and the things they will encounter in life. But the general rule stays the same - I want to shelter my children, to spare them from things they do not need to endure.

You may disagree on the details, but if you disgree with the basic concept, there's just plain something wrong with you.

Simone Tanzi
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@Christian: "they burn people, torture them to death, crack babyskulls, rape people, but is fine, because is just a game"

well, kinda ... but we are either stretching the point or I totally misunderstood the kind of games the author used to create.
Are we talking about games with shocking displays of graphic death, kinda like dead space or something like that. Of course in that case there is no way I would show that kind of content to a kid.
I was assuming (probably I am wrong) that we were talking about content that is ethically wrong (killing people) without any visual content that would scar a child for life.
The whole part about sheltering was not meant to be a "throw your child into the wood" way of thinking... quite the opposite.
You cannot expect to make a child transition from childhood to adult life without being exposed to violence and morally wrong situations... the world is full of them.
You would rather let them face those things trough an harmless game rather than the real deal.
And you don't want to "ban" some themes because "children have to be sheltered" simply because you cannot shelter them, is just something you don't have the power to do.
Again, I'm talking about themes, not about gruesome display of gore. Your child will be exposed to the fact that war exist, that there are people who kills other people, but it doesn't need to be exposed to brains splattered on a wall.
Your child will learn about the world, the good part of it, and the not so good parts.
You really want to be there when a child relates with the darker parts of it.
That's why I think is wrong to say "they are playing hide and seek" and I would rather say "they are fighting a war" because I know war is real, war is something a child will have to relate to later in life, and I want to be sure To be there to guide and explain rather than letting the child see war through his eyes and think that "war is awesome".
War games may be awesome, but the real deal is horrible, and I want to be there to be sure that my child know the difference between the two.
Is that so wrong?

About the thing with the vice president of the USA.....
School shootings is a phenomenon that is "almost" a USA exclusive.
Violent games are not.
The other thing that is an "almost" USA exclusive is the easy access to firearms.
Ban Firearms like every civil nation in the world does and the problem will be gone.
Giving free access to everyone to lethal weapons and supporting death penality and then complain about the violence is a hypocrisy I will never understand.

Alan Rimkeit
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removed by user. duplicate post.

Alan Rimkeit
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"Ban Firearms like every civil nation in the world does and the problem will be gone."

This is not going to happen in America. Ever,. It is part of the Constitution and there fore it makes all but impossible to do away with the Second Amendment. So in reality everyone can forget about it.

Scott Rudi
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After working for years with Charles, I can tell any doubters out there that he's legit and a great dev.

I'm a dad of 2 young kids and still make shooty games, and probably will for the rest of my career. I love making them even more than I do playing them.

I don't have the least bit of an issue with Charles opting not to do so, and I respect his decision. I'm also looking forward to playing the games he makes at his new studio, and to hopefully play those games with my kids.

Good luck Agent - you've already got a customer here!

fred tam
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Hitler was an aspiring artist, he admired other artists, the greats, the nazi's were all collectors of beautiful art, spent their time on "high culture", so where is this correlation between your past times and your morality?

There simply isn't one. If anything the correlation is the other way around, violent games are a good outlet. Just as porn is a good outlet for pent up sexuality, countries with the most repression like saudi arabia or places where sexuality is repressed like the catholic church don't breed more healthy people, quite the opposite.

Speeds Speeds
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So you'll gladly work on fighting games like, Mortal combat, or 3rd person stealth like Manhunt?
Or maybe you should change the title and some of the article to address the problem of violence in games instead of blaming one of many genres where the problem is existing.


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