first-person shooter

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.

6 responses to “first-person shooter

  1. I agree that it is diffucult to understand the desire to virtually run through a house or outdoor setting and shoot anything that moves. A sign of a dark spot in our shared human experience.

  2. I think it’s interesting that you experienced the ultimate “first person shooter” when you were playing laser tag, but didn’t seen to have any averse emotional effects to the experience. Many FPS games involve shooting creatures that are obviously not real, such as goblins, monsters, aliens, and so on. In that regard, how is this different from shooting your friends in a non-lethal way?

    My house is obviously a bit different. I own two rifles, a shotgun, and an ancient handgun (more of a relic than anything). Both of my sons have fired “real guns,” my motivation being to remove some of the “fear and facination with the unknown.” They both know enough to know basic gun safety, and have proven this in social situations where they were around friends who owned guns and weren’t as closely supervised as they should have been.

    As far as video games are concerned, my youngest son has shown some minor interest in FPS, and with my prior review, owns a couple of this genre. Interestingly, this has not increased his interest in the guns that I own, or in taking up hunting in any way.

    I respect what you (both) are saying about the desire to live peacefully and without the need for violence. At the same time, even though I don’t consider myself a violent person, I acknowledge the necessity of it in certain situations, or more accurately, my unwillingness to stand by and watch others being victimized. Each of us have different limits, for a variety of reasons. As such, I don’t see this as a case of my opinion being right and yours wrong… just different.

    Make sense? – Tim

  3. Tim, I am in shock!

  4. Playing laser tag once was fun. If I was completely immersed in the game, doing nothing else for hours and days on end, that would surely be a problem — particularly if that aggressive, killer tendency began to manifest in my everyday relations with the rest of humanity. Similarly, shooting aliens in the occasional video game is not a big deal. But if a teenage boy is spending 8 or 10 hours a day on Grand Theft Auto or another FPS, maiming and killing human beings as rapidly and grotesquely as possible, then I think that’s a problem — and I’m convinced that such immersion in violence, even if it’s virtual, can’t help but affect that teen’s interactions with other people.

    It’s interesting to note that if our kids were close friends, we wouldn’t let our son stay overnight at your house because of your guns. We’d have a serious discussion with you before even letting him come visit, to determine how well-secured your personal arsenal is. The accidental death statistics from kids — particularly boys — accessing supposedly locked-up guns and playing with them are just too scary.

    I refuse to add to our culture’s seemingly insatiable appetite for violence by supporting death-based entertainment or the ownership of deadly weapons. We can’t become a country or a world at peace until we’re each individually willing to take steps toward nonviolence.

  5. Oddly, you the writer are the kind of person I most worry about. Your inability to instinctually separate fantasy from reality is the very reason some youth turn to violence to resolve problems in their own lives. It would seem your lack of remorse for laser tag versus your remorse for video games represents a deficiency of some sort. That you would prefer real simulated violence to pure simulated violence is beyond me.

    Additionally, it seems unlikely we will ever be a world at peace as long as people believe differences in opinion can be settled through violence rather than through rationality. Death itself is an integral part of life so far as we know it, and as long as the politics of the human species supports it art itself will be a reflection of that very situation.

    In a country where weapons are a fact of life, is it better to teach your children about gun safety or keep them in the dark and hope for the best? Know that it would be your fault if your own child mishandled a weapon having not been taught about such things. Know that despite what the courts might say, you would spend sleepless nights knowing that you could have done something to prevent such a tragedy.

  6. You are the kind of writer that I love to hear and appreciate as a citizen of the world. Letting our kids “play” violence does nothing but increase violence and decrease empathy and the value of human life. We don’t give our children cigarettes to avoid lung cancer, and we should not give them guns to avoid violence.

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