This weekend I learned a disturbing new term: first-person shooter.
My daughter’s boyfriend attended a computer graphics technology camp at Purdue, and during the closing luncheon, one of the directors described various changes they plan to make to next year’s program. Attendees had indicated that they want a greater focus on video-game design. The camp director explained that they will do their best, but that “it’s hard to teach how to make first-person shooter games when you only have a 3-hour class.” It took me a minute to figure out what he’d said, to translate the meaning from the context, and then to get the mental visual of young men blowing away virtual opponents with high-caliber hardware.
According to part of the definition at Wikipedia, first-person shooter refers to a “specific type of game with a first-person view, almost always centered around the act of aiming and shooting handheld weapons.” GameSpot specifies that such a game must include “a devastating arsenal of weapons.” As the Gamer’s Guide helpfully explains, “You run down darkened hallways and kill anything that gets in your way.” A Google search brings up 14,600,000 links to sites that describe, rate, and sell these types of games.
I’m not sure why I find this term so offensive and scary. Maybe it’s the depersonalization of the human playing the game and, accordingly, the people/creatures that the player is killing. Maybe it’s the whole idea of shooting — we don’t even have toy guns in our house. (The only time my son has had contact with a toy gun has been when he’s borrowed one from a friend so they could film a take-off on a James Bond film.) I find guns intensely frightening, as I do the idea of millions of young men spending most of their free time pumping up their testosterone and adrenaline by slaughtering countless beings.
Call me an unrealistic pacifist, but in my version of the world, we’d have no concept of any kind of shooter, particularly from the first-person point of view.