First-person shooters or the paradigm of videogames

Article written by Aarón Andrés Rodero.

Article edited by Ricardo Dorado & Jesús Marín

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First-person shooters: the videogame experience of a whole generation

For years, videogames have been matter for discussion, inside and outside of the industry: whether they should be considered an art or a means of entertainment, whether they cause violent behavior or they are just demonized by the press, whether they are a childish media or may conversely be regarded as a mature form of entertainment, featuring unique storytelling and delivering an interactive experience as no other media is capable of. Meanwhile, apart from rhetorical considerations, they have gained a place in our society as one of the most popular and profitable forms of entertainment, exceeding by far cinema and music. Played by adults, teenagers and kids alike, no matter gender or culture, the fact that they have earned their place as a relevant part of modern culture admits no possible denial; and, as such, there are videogames for every taste, or, more precisely, a whole lot of genres: movie-looking, retro, adventure, action, platforms
But introducing a newbie to videogame basics is not always a simple task, even when this is a rather new media, spanning through just a few decades of history. So I asked myself, how could I introduce someone to this wonderful world? The answer came as a fairly clear truth:

First-person shooters are the most characteristic genre in videogames history

First-person shooters, as a genre by their own right, stand not only for a competitive spirit, sensation of evasion and tradition as an easy-to-use and entertaining product, but for the prejudices of those who don’t understand this industry as well.  First-person shooters directly evoke one image: A man or a woman wielding a gun.

Videogames have widely evolved in their short life, but this genre is a special case and quite a paradigm because, having rebuilt and revamped itself with every new wave, it has either learnt from others or led the way. Thanks to this, its popularity has never declined, ever.

It all begins with one of the first and probably most popular videogames ever created: Space Invaders by
Toshihiro Nishikado. It wasn’t a first-person shooter per se, but it settled the foundations of what would later become the modern concept of first-person shooter, that is, the player, alone, against a horde of enemies. Using our skills and intelligence, we have to survive, not only by pulling the trigger, but by aiming, calculating the bullet trajectory, and ducking or defending. Does it sound familiar?

From Space Invaders on, and into evolution

Obviously, Space Invaders was pretty limited. You are allowed to move just horizontally, in a two-dimensional scenario and from a third-person screen view. The next iconic big step was ID Software’s Wolfenstein 3D. In this first-person view  shooter, our character carries his weapon in the forefront, with limited ammunition available plus a health bar. Wolfenstein also made the genre popular on personal computers (PC)
Then, it came the ultra-famous DOOM. This title harvested such big a popularity that every game that came after was labeled “a copy of Doom”. Next, there was Valve’s Half Life. The importance of Half Life lies not only in the improvements in the gameplay and game mechanics, but in the storytelling too. Your avatar is a scientist, Gordon Freeman, member of a big company, Black Mesa. One of the company's experiments goes wrong and all the building is taken over by hordes of aliens, transforming you from a simple scientist into a real action man.

This title included enhanced dialogues, a linear and defined story, interaction between the avatar and the non-player characters (NPC’s), real-time rendered scenes and other improvements of the like.

Goldenye introduced the stealth mode and helped the first-person shooter genre to properly land into game consoles. Grand Theft Auto brought the open world and sandbox. Resident Evil mixed first-person shooter elements with a horror ambience, branching off and into the horror genre. Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena made the multiplayer genre extremely popular. Then, the new millennium gave us Halo, Max Payne, Call of Duty.
As of then, Gears of War happened. It took the genre back to the visceral, pure fun origins, and set a precedent for almost all the first-person shooter titles to come, making them evolve into adrenaline-driven games, with action and violence galore.

All of these games defined the genre along with our idea of videogames in the last decade. Without them, every game you might know wouldn’t be the same.


I am going to leave some useful videogame terminology here, in case you are not yet familiar with some of the terms you have found all throughout the article:


Game mechanics are constructs of rules or methods designed for interaction with the game state, thus providing gameplay.


Gameplay is the specific way in which players interact with a game. It is the pattern defined through the game rules, and and serves as a connection link between the player and the action, its challenges and how to overcome them, the plot and how the player reacts to it. 


Avatar is the graphical representation of the user or character. An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game.


Health bar is the graphical representation of a character’s status of vitality or health. If it reaches zero, the player may lose a life or their character might become incapacitated or die. Also, when the health bar of an enemy reaches zero, it may be defeated or die and the player is usually rewarded in some way.


First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered around a gun and other weapon-based combat in a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist.


Rendering is the automatic process of generating images from a 2D or 3D model by means of computer programs.


Non-Player Character (NPC) is any character that is not controlled by a player, which usually means a character controlled by the computer via predetermined or responsive behavior.


Multiplayer is a video game in which more than one person can play in the same game environment at the same time. Videogames are often single-player activities, exposing the player to preprogrammed challenges or AI-controlled opponents.


Open world or sandbox are videogame categories in which players roam virtual worlds and approach objectives freely, as opposed to games with a greater presence of linear gameplay.


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