Back in the very beginning of the history of video games, studios created titles mostly based on the technological possibilities of the time. Back when vector and pixel graphics were still rather simple, games had to be boiled down to a basic mechanic. The very core of shooters involves firing projectiles at moving and (sometimes) immobile objects or opponents. All you need in order for a game to be considered a shooter is a line indicating your projectile, a simple graphic for your protagonist, and other basic graphics depicting your opponents. This was the basis for a genre that would soon branch out into various other directions covering all kinds of game mechanics and subgenres.
What was once a sub-genre, soon became a full-fledge genre of its own. The first person shooter is as diverse as the genre it spawned from. While there might have been titles here and there in the 80s that could have technically been considered first person shooter games, the actual origin of the genre came later. There just had to be a certain technological advance in order for this type of game to successfully work! Why? Well, for starters, as the name of the genre suggests, it relies on a first-person point of view. And this perspective requires the third dimension, which is something that was quite novel in the early 90s. Many people consider Wolfenstein 3D’s release in 1992, as well as Doom’s major impact in 1993 as the beginnings of this genre. For the first time, players could actually slip into the role of their avatar and experience the digital environment through the eyes of the protagonist.
What defines a first person shooter? We already established that this genre is mostly defined through its perspective. This stands in contrast to pretty much any other game genre. There aren’t many (if any at all) that are so heavily defined by something as technical as their visual presentation. There is something special about slipping into the actual perspective of the character you are controlling. No other point of view is quite as immersive and allows players to identify with (and as) the protagonist of the game they’re playing in the same way. However, not every game presented in this point of view is necessarily automatically a first person shooter! Another central feature involves shooting. It can either involve a war scenario like in Call of Duty or a James Bond-like setting like in GoldenEye 007. It doesn’t have to involve shooting other humans. Take theHunter as an example for going out into the wilderness to hunt game.
A FPS is also less limiting than you might think. Yes, you need that specific point of view and yes, the gameplay needs to focus on shooting opponents, but in the past, developers have come up with smart ways to mix it up with RPG or strategy elements.
Check out our selection of first person shooter titles on SevenGames.com, which is truly extensive and varied: