I’m unsure as to whether or not I classify myself as a gamer. Sure, I obsess over the five or so games I adore, but apart from them I’m certainly not a hardcore Xbox-hugging control-gripping game freak.
I do, however, love a good shooter.
Give me an FPS and I can go for hours (Unreal, anyone?). I’ve caught a lot of flak for this when I happen to mention it to people who are gamers but generally stay away from this violent genre. I usually get the “I hate shooters, they’re so mindless and boring,” or something along those lines, usually followed up by a defense for fantasy, RPG, or pretty much any other genre. In a sense, I agree. Take Quake, for example. There’s a “plot,” but it is grossly overshadowed by levels and levels of straight killing for killing’s sake.
Boring? Yeah, okay, maybe, but only if you take it at that value. Back in my “I’m seven years old and my fingers can barely reach the arrow keys on the keyboard” days, I didn’t really see Quake above that level because I really couldn’t. Physically, it was a challenge to finish the game. Once I got older, though, I continued to obsessively play Quake. Why? Two words: speed runs.
I’ve posted The Rabbit Run on here before, and I think it’s an excellent example of how shooters can be fun past the “MUST DESTROY EVERYTHING LIVING” mode of gameplay. Basically, if you can find another element to tweak while you’re playing, there’s far less focus on the mere shooting aspect and more focus on whatever other element you’re trying to maximize/minimize/perfect.
Another example of this for me is Gears of War 2 (thanks mainly to Aaron). Apart from the incessant stream of possible Cole Train jokes arising from the campaign mode, the main pull of this game for me is the Horde. In Horde (both single- and multiplayer) there are 50 levels, each with an increasing number and/or difficulty level of enemies that you must kill without being killed yourself. It’s not so difficult when you’re going through it with a partner, but by yourself it’s freaking tedious as hell. And that’s what’s so great about it, at least for me. Between rounds of freaking out about Multivariate Analysis and Linear Algebra back in spring semester 2009, I spent my time trying to work my way through all 50 levels of Horde in easy mode. It literally took me months to complete.
Of course, anyone who knows me in the slightest knows I love tedious, and that’s exactly what this game provided. Shooters, in my opinion, when played correctly, are horribly tedious. And that’s the fun part (it’s another reason I adore Fallout 3 as much as I do, too, now that I think about it). It’s why I get a bit upset when people bash shooters as these mindless violence trips. Sure they are, most likely, for some people. But for some of the gaming population like myself, we approach them and work through them like ten pages of matrix algebra.
And that rocks the socks off of a fox.