A History Of The Modern First-Person Shooter And Its Unsung Heroes

Level designer and writer Robert Yang has written up a fascinating "People's History of the FPS" as a three-part series at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. In it, Yang posits that first-person gaming and first-person-shooters are not, as we tend to think of them, just an industry-dominated gorefest with a linear evolution, but rather, have always been influenced highly by the communities that play them.

It starts with a look at how the first-person perspective became a hit in gaming, with Myst's successful 1993 launch almost immediately overshadowed by Doom's release three months later. But it wasn't just the guns and combat that made Doom so overwhelmingly popular, Yang argues: it was the very file structure itself. The ability for players — amateurs — easily to mod Doom and games that came after influenced how the games were made, who was making them, and how fans engaged with them.

While at one point, Yang explains, players "modded because modding meant you could quit modding," and gain entry into AAA development, the current scene is much more fragmented. Game mods are designed as criticism or as art, or taking the form of maps and servers with specific configurations. The line between amateur and professional has blurred, and the process has become ever more granular and modular.

And where is the current wave of modding zeitgeist taking us? Even Yang doesn't know, but looks forward to finding out: "I'm just trying to emphasise that we're on the brink of something different and fantastic here, a place where we're thinking of games less as fixed products / spaces that 'gamers' and players consume, but instead as a conversation with everyone all at once that expands if people want it to. ... Doesn't that sound pretty?"

Yes. Yes it does.

A People's History Of The FPS, Part 1: The WAD [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]

A People's History Of The FPS, Part 2: The Mod [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]

A People's History Of The FPS, Part 3: The Postmod [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]

Top image: Rock Paper Shotgun


    Wow, that's an ugly screenshot of The Witness. If you disregard the jpg compression artifacts from Mist's screenshot, it would be clearly superior, with much more detail. Those rock and soil textures in the Witness look like the very first option in the drop-down menu of the most basic 3D modeling software out there and the surfaces themselves look bumpy and inexpertly mashed at the seams. I seriously hope that's a very early prototype draft for the alpha of that game.

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