An original history of first person shooters


The tireless @gnomeslair recently alerted his followers to this three part article by Rock, Paper, Shotgun that gives us a history of FPSs unlike any other. A history arguing that first person games as a genre were not driven by the industry… and that the most successful weren’t even shooters.

A few quotes, if I may:

Instead, we call Myst a “graphic adventure” and stuff it into the bottom of a locker in a closet in an attic. To give it a place in first-person history would be to highlight the lack of diversity and subtlety endemic to commercial practice in the genre today, and first-person history must remain the story of how a nascent manshooter empire became the hypermasculinized captain of the football team. That’s the story the industry tells itself as it faces its mid-life crisis and buys itself a Ferrari, and even its critics believe this narrative.

A “new monster” in Doom was a reskinned demonhog with increased movement speed. In Half-Life, a “new monster” entailed a custom modeled .MDL with UVs / textures / animations as well as C++ hooks for the squad AI to access animations, bone controllers, and weapon attachments. And now in Source, many modders feel a “new monster” requires them to bake a high-poly sculpt down to a normal map, configure ragdoll properties / joint constraints, and script response rules for lip-synced voice-over to react with battle line / squad assault coordinators… and so on.

I’m just trying to emphasize 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.

Amen to that. Go read it all, folks.