Are We All A Little Tired Of Shooting Things In The Face?

When I was 10 years old I cared mainly about two things: hadoukens and jumping. I was also interested in some freelance adventuring if the situation required it. But that was it

Yet there’s only so much jumping a 10 year old can stomach, and hadoukens take a lot out of a youngster, so I quickly got a little bored of all that. Slowly but surely, I succumbed to the simple pleasures of aiming cursors at virtual beings and shooting them directly in the face. I’ve been shooting things in the face ever since.

It’s funny, when we talk about video games and genres we tend to think of them as permanent fixtures that never erode. Part of the furniture, as rigid and immovable as the pillars of Stonehenge. That idea is wrong. The truth is this: the concept of genre is as malleable and sticky as lukewarm playdough and the prevalence of one genre over another is nothing more than a reflection of the market and its consumers. This is what people are buying right now, say publishers and creators. These are the games that we will make. End of story.

Case in point: In the early 90s you couldn’t move. Literally, gamers were sandwiched between two types of game: platformers and Street Fighter clones. Sure we had our JRPGS, our Zeldas and a few other types milling around but, for the most part, that era was completely dominated by those two genres. And back then, much like now, discourse was centred around how these games were all clones, how they were strangling creativity. ‘It was better in the old days, when we had more variety’ blah blah blah. It was a pile of old bullshit back then, just like it’s a pile of old bullshit now. Games and movies and any other type of media have been repeating the same old trick since the Chinese invented paper.

But there is always that turning point. The point at which the boredom felt at the core of those who played video games extensively spreads to the outer reaches of the market. In the late 90s fighting games stopped selling in grand numbers, people were less inclined to jump, less inclined to bash buttons and punch and kick one another. People wanted to do something different.

I wonder. Are we currently sitting at a similar cross roads. Are we all getting a little bit tired of shooting things in the face?

I ask this in the broadest possible sense. I’m sure there are groups of people who never enjoyed first person shooters to begin with, or only liked one specific series. I’m talking in general: is the gaming public tired of games that involve shooting? Is the market saturated? Are we about to transition towards something a little different?

Make no mistake, this sort of thing happens. I’d never be so bold to claim that platform games and fighting games died a death, but slowly but surely those two genres deteriorated to the point where they were on life support -- and it started with a general malaise. It started with saturation. And boredom.

These movements start at the centre. I remember very specifically the moment where I began to turn.

I sat in darkened room at an E3, I can’t remember which year. 2011 maybe? I watched what was probably the 14th shooter demo I’d seen in the last 36 hours.

I was jet lagged. Over it. Bored.

How long, I asked myself, could I listen to people telling me their video game is unique when I know, stripped of all its bells and whistles, this is yet another game with the precise same core mechanic. Aim this cursor at this thing in this virtual world and pull the trigger.

The wave of games I saw at that particular E3 have come and gone. People bought them. People played them. But now? The malaise is growing. Titanfall, perhaps one of the most innovative examples of the genre in years has come and gone. Sales were solid, perhaps unspectacular. In terms of discussion? More people, it seems, were more interested in talking about Dark Souls II.

Destiny. A game Activision has invested $500 million in. A new gameplay trailer is released and the general feeling amongst the sites and forums I’ve visited? A vague disappointment. Hollow. A realisation that this game might not reinvent the wheel.

Call of Duty. A core set of gamers have been underwhelmed by the CoD series for -- seemingly -- years now, but there’s a sense that it’s going mainstream. Sales are down. Slightly, but down. And enthusiasm for the next generation of Call of Duty games seems -- in my mind -- a little less intense than in previous years.

Halo. A series in decline. A series that has rapidly been losing relevance. How excited are we about a new game in the series. A little excited? At one point the hype would have the raw capacity to melt chunks from the surface of the moon. Now it feels like just. another. video. game.

Just. Another. Shooter.

It feels like gamers, as consumers, are getting over shooting things in the face. And pretty damn soon I suspect they’ll become wary of paying for the privilege. It’s all just too familiar, too worn out. We need a new verb to enjoy. Once upon a time we jumped. We punched and occasionally kicked things. Then we mostly just shot things. We’ve been shooting things for too long. What will our new verb be?

If I had to take a guess, I’d say that verb will be ‘explore’. I think it will be about new places to simply ‘be’ and I think virtual reality will be part of that. I think mysterious worlds like No Man’s Sky will be part of that. I think the impulse and feeling of becoming embedded and invested in these universes will begin to take more precedence. I’ve already seen this in the lore of Dark Souls, in the world of Mass Effect. I hope that’s where Destiny takes us.

I think I want to shoot less. Now I want to explore.


    If you don't play Destiny it means Hope rebuilt Cocoon for nothing!

      I find there is almost nothing I care less about than Hope. God he shat me to tears. I wish I coulda shot HIM in the face. *sob sob* my mum died *sob sob*

        Glad I'm not the only one with those sentiments. It drove me up the wall and was one of the reasons I gave up no that game (after much anticipation).

          I am probably in the minority that actually liked Hope as a character. He was one of the few that had anything resembling an arc through the story and actually matured as events took place. The rest of the cast to me had their character from the start, you knew their motivations and their actions were predictable and nobody deviated from the path that their character would otherwise take.
          All that and boomerangs, more games need more boomerangs.

          As to the actual topic, I am getting tired of shooting people in the face for the sake of shooting people in the face. This is mainly in relation to "gritty brown and bloom modern shooters" (I loved borderlands even though at that point I was over FPS games in general). If a game needs to have shooting in it, fine but I would rather see the focus on something else a la Uncharted, where you do a lot of shooting sure, but it isn't what the game is about.

            I did like the boomerang, it reminded me of Skies of Arcadia (what a great game, might be time to whip out the old emulator and fire up Vyse and Aika and co again) :)

            Last edited 10/05/14 1:47 pm

    I think the onus is on the developers to make it interesting... I finished Crysis 3 this week and was happy to get it over with I was so incredibly bored by the end of it. I marveled at Killzone Shadowfall, but will admit that it got by on it's graphics alone...
    At least with COD I know exactly what I am purchasing, so I'm not too harsh on it's mindlessness...

    But yes, Borderlands, The Last of Us, Uncharted, games that bring something new to the genre, and I have heard Titanfall as well, are more than welcome.

    I'm far from sick of the genre, but developers definitely need to keep striving for something more.

      I'm with you dude.

      Over the last 12 months, 95% of shooters I've played, I've played purely on how pretty they are, or maybe how extra pretty I can make them.

      Bioshock 3, Far Cry 3 and the Crysis series are the ones that come to mind first. Arma 3 and Battlefield 4 I played somewhat for the social aspect, but if they weren't as pretty as they are, I wouldn't have played them tbh.
      All of those games I listed (except Bioshock), I also modified to make even prettier than they were out of the box.

      Give me a game as pretty as those that ISN'T a shooter and I'd probably play it just as much. That said, I knew a couple people in my group who wouldn't play it because it isn't a shooter.

      There's also a conversation to be had here about breaking down gameplay mechanics into their rawest form. When you do that, you find we barely have a handful of different games out there...

    Nah, I don’t think so.

    It’s funny because I’m sure there’s less FPS games on the market than there has been in a LONG time.
    The cost of developing that kind of game and the dominance of a few (arguable stale) big franchises means that the random, one off FPS that existed during the 90’s just doesn’t happen as often anymore.

    You still get the occasional one, but remember back in the days where every man and his dog had licence the 3D Realms Duke 3D engine and were churning out random FPS games? At that point the market was saturated with FPS games that were all the same.
    Honestly I think since Half Life 2 set the bar as high as it did for single player FPS and COD/ Battlefield/ Halo locked down the multiplayer market there’s been less FPS franchises than ever and most of them are holding their own little niche.

    I was thinking just the other day that I’d love to see another Soldier of Fortune though. Call me a sadist!

      Interesting. I loved both SOF games.

      What was it in those games specifically that made you want a reboot?

      Soldier of Fortune was awesome. Games these days aren't violent enough. I'm sick of shooting people and having them just fall over with no blood or anything.

      I played Carmageddon Reincarnation last night and I was giggling like a schoolgirl every time I hit someone with the electro bastard ray and a shower of bodyparts would rain over the car.

    I'm pretty much like the first quoted tweet; with the exception of Borderlands, FPS games hold no interest to me at all. Hell, if it wasn't for the comedy in Borderlands, I wouldn't be playing that either.

      I couldn't elaborate in the tweet, but in Borderlands it's the story/setting that keeps me going, and the fact I can play it with friends in co-op. Much better that way.

        Yeah, Borderlands by yourself is a huge grind. Death in single player is huge eye roller.

        I can agree with all of that too. It's rare for me to do 4-5 hour gaming sessions these days, but when I get into a co-op game with friends on Borderlands, that's exactly what happens.

    I played Day of Defeat to absolute death. Since then I haven't been bothered with FPS outside of the occasional bit of Halo.

    Much prefer a hack and slash. God of War, DMC etc.

      lol. Me too. But I think my interest with DOD has a lot to do with the close knit community that plays it. With only a handful of local servers run by some very dedicated players I've been playing it non stop now for months on end. And to think I brought it in a Steam sale and let it sit for 12 months, before playing.

    I think it's the way you shoot people. Most games do the CoD thing of having you pull both triggers, watch the "hit" markers blink around your cursor, once they stop blinking immediately hit the X button and aim at something else. Rinse and repeat from the same chest high wall because small, regenerative health prevents you from moving.

    I've been playing a lot of Halo: Anniversary lately (recording purposes) and I am still in love with this game for how much you have to think and move in combat. If you neglect the magnum, all fights become a serious thinking game in which you have to learn how all weapons work, how effective they are against each enemy, when to use them and when to swap out.

    eg. The Plasma Rifle has some spread when you're holding down the firing button and overheats quickly, but if you pace your shots the gun becomes more accurate and wrecks Elites.
    The Needler, most likely going to miss with it, but it can target enemies behind cover and beyond its aiming zone, plus it can force evasive jumps as they are treated as grenades.
    Enemy types? Jackals shields reflect pretty much everything, requiring good grenade placement or Plasma Pistols/Plasma Rifles to effectively take out.
    Sentinels are highly resistant to human weapons, but a charged Plasma Pistol kills them in one shot.

    The Anniversary edition also comes with skulls that can really change up the gameplay. One skull makes all weapons reduce their ammo count by two for every shot, turning the magnum into a 6 shooter and the rocket launcher into 1 that requires both rockets to fire.

    I say we need to move away from 'twitch' shooters (sometimes it's more about being lucky enough that the cursor stopped on their head when you flicked the thumbstick as opposed to actually aiming towards it) and move towards more thinking shooters where victory isn't assigned to the person who say someone else first and to stop increasing the kill limit for a game to finish.

      This is my concern with the 'next gen' games so far. More and more of them coming out have become more mainstream than I would like. Killzone feels so much more like CoD for instance and Infamous has lost a lot of it's depth to be easier to play. Titanfall was fun but at times mindless and Sunset looks to be the same ADHD-guns-blazing-kill-hundreds-of-scrubs-in-seconsds, rinse repeat experience. And they aren't the only games. Unfortunately we aren't who they are aiming the games towards. They want the audience that buys CoD and Assassins Creed every year.

      And I find that sad. Shooters have lost the tactical feel. I remember the first time I played Killzone 2. If you were in a well designed room with 2-3 Helgast you could sometimes die (At least on hard etc) because wile you were shooting the one hiding behind the desk the other was flanking you and out side there was one waiting with a flame thrower, and that was enough. Every kill had weight to it. Now you are storming empty buildings filled with them and dropping them like flies for t' adrenaline.

      I don't think next gen has to be more/ faster killing or winning. I think we need to take a step back and get some depth back. But I don't think the twitch mainstream players want that, and so neither will publishers.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I enjoyed an FPS. Even games like Borderlands 2 etc I didn't find a great deal of enjoyment playing. I put it more down to personal taste changing over the many years I have spent playing games.

      Last one I really enjoyed and really looked forward to leaving work to get home and play was probably HL2 and it's two eps.
      Since then I've tried many fps's and they generally bore me to tears, even potentially interesting ones like Bioshock infinite, Max payne, even the latest hitman.

      Basically I am over guns I think. Still got a lot of time for almost every game involving swords and bows etc.

        This is pretty much what I have found as well, I really don't think an FPS has drawn me in since HL2 and it's two eps. Was quite underwhelmed by games my friends among others have touted as brilliant, Bioshock Infinite included.

        Give me a good sword and board RPG however nowadays and I am all over it.

        @deathcake Wow... I honestly hadn't even realized it but you're right, the last FPS game that really sucked my time away from me was HL2 and it's eps. The last time I invested as much time as I did in HL2 was for CoD Modern Warfare and Bioshock Infinite but that's way too long a gap between solid FPS games =\

    Since I have not played cod since the original modern warfare and the only online FPS I've played since unreal tournament is CSS/CSGO. Shooting things in the face is still fun for me. Imo nothing to date has been as good as UT2k4. too bad no one plays anymore.

    Porn has been doing far longer than games and it's not tiring yet

      hmm interesting... as it also usually involves shooting things in the face too ;)

    The FPS genre has needed to look at itself for a while now.
    Fortunately, we've had better recent examples of the genre, such as Borderlands and Payday, as well as smaller indie titles like Receiver.

    I think this article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun sums this entire topic up nicely:

    Two words: Metroid Prime.

      Good one, I'd temporarily forgotten it. Fantastic trilogy, with perhaps just a little too much back-tracking

      Absolutely. My favourite moments in the trilogy were not the shooty bits, but the moments where you could just explore a foreign world and admire its hidden beauty.

      Also, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I loved walking around, talking to people and discovering the world within the game. It made it feel like an actual living world. And the tension and suspense of stealthing your way through the game, as opposed to blasting everyone in the face, just made it more awesome.

    It's true, however I did love the new Shadow Warrior remake and the new Wolfenstein is definitely of the same heritage and will be something I'm sure I'll enjoy immensely (but that might just be a remnants of my childhood), beyond that I really don't care for FPS these days.

    I agree with this article, to the most part, but i like a bit of shooting in the face. EXPLORE would be nice for the next verb. No Mans Sky is looking super awesome, Limit Theory is Impressive - Space Games with Procedurally Generated Content is were it is next! Bring on the Exploration!

    Give me another STALKER game (i.e. RPG/FPS hybrid) or Fallout 4 and I'll be happier than a school kid in a candy store.

      Yes. STALKER was probably the most recently enjoyable and immersive shooter that I've played (and it's been a while).

      The point I'd make about Fallout though is that the mode of interaction is certainly not shoot everything- or at least it doesn't have to be

    I still love BF4 multiplayer (when it's working). Because of the time committment these things require (having to unlock stuff, etc), I only really have time for a single multiplayer FPS, and BF is it.
    Any other FPS's I buy tend to be for the single player campaign only. The single player campaign in BF4, however, is rubbish. I've been a big fan of the Killzone series from the original on PS2, mainly because it started out as something that felt different to every other FPS on the market. The big, heavy, chunky feel of all the weapons, very distinctive art style, etc, made it stand out. Each instalment since then has gradually become more and more generic feeling, presumably as a result of them chasing after the COD crowd. The end result being that Shadowfall has been a pretty disappointing experience for me - got it with my PS4 and haven't even got around to finishing it yet. Looks fantastic, but from a (single player) gameplay point of view, there's absolutely no reason to buy it any more instead of COD or Battlefield or whatever.

    On the other hand, Far Cry 2 and 3 were a couple of my favourite games of the past generation, so I'm still very keen on seeing Far Cry 4 (presumably it'll be at E3 next month). The open world nature of it gives it a different feel from the more rigid single player campaigns. And the fact it's obviously designed around the single player experience with multiplayer being obviously tacked on (instead of the other way round as with most FPS these days), I just find the single player campaign there being a lot more interesting for a lot longer than the COD / Battlefield / Killzone campaigns.

      Did you play blood dragon?? I FREAKING LOVED BLOOD DRAGON. 100% in one sitting. FarCry 3 is awesome. I recently went back to play FC2 on the hardest difficulty, and I found it to feel more survival horror then FPS.

        I played Blood Dragon more than I played FC3. The story etc was so boring in FC3 vs Blood Dragon.

        And it just keeps on improving, you get that last weapon and you think it cant get any better, then you get to use that "Special Vehicle" during the boss fight and it DOES get better!

    I'm really dying to play a game like CoD4 again. Every FPS that comes out these days is just packed with extra shit that I think really ruins the game like all these extra gadgets and utilities and obscene amounts of killstreaks and all that sort of stuff. Right up to CoD4 everything was relatively simple and there were so fewer variables that you had to deal with when you played a shooter. I'm really hoping Destiny takes it back to basics somewhat, because that game looks very interesting.

    I tweeted late, but I don't mind if face-shooting loses primacy in games, but I need it to still be there. I want - need - satisfying face-shoots. Sublimation of aggression into exercise and cleaning only holds so much satisfaction, only works for so long. I want to shoot fuckers in the face. Probably always will.

    Civilization is built on a mountain of skulls, and it'd be pretty naive to think that we could completely breed out in a few generations of 'relative peace' the impulses that have driven us to aggression and war since the dawn of man. Maybe it's just a by-product of high testosterone, but since teenage years, similarly to how I've always been ready and willing for sex, I've also rarely been without some base level of coiled-spring aggression, waiting for that moment that it'll hopefully never be needed. Those base, visceral, animal urges (hunt, kill, eat, mate) don't go away, they're part of the package for as long as the chemicals behind them keep coursing through the body. The face-shoot taps into... something that makes that happy.

    Often repetitious face-shooting eventually becomes a purely academic exercise, completely failing to generate the requisite adrenaline that courses through your body when dealing with REAL aggression, but at some level - passive and subconscious - it still scratches an itch for me. Let's shoot new people in the face! Video games offer a wonderfully uncomplicated fantasy wherein problems CAN be solved with a bullet, instead of what a bullet usually does, posing a million more problems and consequences.

    Me, I think the boredom I've had with the CoD games has been the focus on multiplayer. Titanfall I didn't even pick up because of that. ME3 multi, however... Horde mode, I'll play the shit out of.
    That visceral escape isn't about a 'test of skill'. It's about being an unstoppable death god, straddling a towering mountain of skulls. Conquering the world through violence alone in some gratuitious power fantasy. Not just jumping into the next lobby to play shooty-sports.

    I'm not tired of empowerment fantasies down the barrel of a gun, yet, can't imagine what it would take for me to get tired of it, and though I can grok it academically, I find it difficult to internalize the idea that others might be.

      What platform have you got ME3 on? I'm usually up for a game of it's horde knockoff

        Just PC, I don't think I got the 360 version to complete my set. Man... People complain about piracy, but the number of games I've bought multiple copies of, not even just across multiple platforms...

          Well I've got both PC & 360 so we should have a go one of these days.

          I've been platform-shifting a fair bit myself lately, trying to get as many of my 360 games on PC to prepare for the day my 360 finally dies, only getting them on sale for $5 or under but still paying for them.

    Nice article Mark and it shines a spotlight on companies that have been able to get away with rehashing the same mechanics year after year with a fresh coat of paint and calling it "innovative".

    FPS games are like fast food, people thing they crave it get try it and afterwards regret it
    Plus they turn them out faster then Mcdonalds does a big mac

    In the last 5 years Borderlands has been the exception to the rule, its new its fresh and its the BEST to play with friends.
    Destiny could be interesting as it give a bit of a borderlands feel, but I'm not running out and getting it

    I'm at a total loss to understand how COD is a yearly game with just new skins and maps yet it gets billions in sales :-(

    This isnt exactly an easy question to answer... i suppose it depends.

    Single player games? if the only mechanic is shoot, hide, regen, repeat for 8 hours, than yes im over it. EVEN HALF LIFE. yes, i find it boring and repetitive. no the story did nothing for me.

    introduce some interesting mechanics in said single pplayer game? sure why not.

    Personally, i enjoy competitive shooters like COD, BF, Titanfall. I have a spare hour at night? jump in, play some games, spend 15 minutes complaining to my friends about how "its not my fault, im just lagging". Its good fun.

    to put it simply i like social fps experiences, where i can play with friends.... i havent touched a single player mode of any fps for about a decade.... (since Doom 3)

    FPS's arent for everyone.... not everyone can invest 30-60 hours on an engrossing gaming experience.

    Also, I am vaguely amused at the question.

    "Hey, are you guys bored of this yet? I am, so surely everyone else must be, too, right?"
    "God dammit... stop doing boring things, I want us all to move on!"

    Reminds me of when friends/family sit down to watch a TV series or play a game on a shared screen or whatever.

    Last edited 09/05/14 3:42 pm

    I find it's because developers are mainly targeting Console users is why FPS is dying. I mean look at Titanfall it's an absolute blast to play on PC, it just feels so right.

    But EA and co spend all their advertisement on "TITANFALL FOR CONSOLE"
    If i did not know better I would though TF was for Console only.

    at the end of the day FPS fucking sucks on console.

      FPS on consoles don't suck. Dumbing down games to get that CoD money suck.

        Every time my cousin gets me to play COD with him on the PS3 I am baffled at how anyone is able to sprint.

        Holding the stick in while trying to steer is the hardest thing I have ever done.

 only need to tap it once.

            It felt like he would always stop sprinting if I let go of it.

              If you let go of the thumstick, yes. But you only need to tap L3 once.

    Am I the only one who is getting bored of games in general? I am 32 and began to get increasingly bored with games since my early to mid twenties. The last two years I have all but stopped completely, save a quick ten minute bash on a racer or on snes emulator for a quick nostalgia fix. The last FPS I attempted to play was Battlefield 3. Playing a generic US soldier fighting stereotypical radical insurgents in typical middle eastern townscapes. I prefer the escapism of sci fi Fps, but can't even bring myself to give Dead Space a try, so I can fight some generic demons in generic spaceship corridors.

    Are We All A Little Tired Of Shooting Things In The Face?

    Nope. In fact I'm looking forward to squaring off against the Nazis again in Wolfenstien in a few short weeks.

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