When chatting with the wonderful Alex Wen the other day about my distaste for a certain genre, he jokingly remarked that no games are my particular cup of tea. Initially taken aback, I soon realized this statement was more than partially true. We were talking RTS at the time, but he would have received the same response if the conversation had been about tower defense. Or simulation games. Or sports or puzzlers or shooters. I’d never recognized it from a piecemeal perspective, but my gaming preferences are quite close-mindedly defined. This reality was forced to the forefront once again as Jay posted his favorite picks from 2012. After looking through that short list and admiring its genre diversity, I told myself I’d branch out, try something new with the hope of discovering a surprise. Still weeks before another college semester begins anew, my present lack of serious responsibilities allowed for ample opportunities to test the less-traveled waters.
And so I chose a shooter.
An older one, mind you. Star Wars: Republic Commando, to be exact. A surprising pick only until you understand it’s the last remaining shooter in my minuscule collection of them that I haven’t played. Even then, I only own it in the first place because this five-game best-of Star Wars PC pack was the cheapest way to purchase Knights of the Old Republic in a sorry pre-Steam era. That said, Republic Commando would serve as my reintroduction to the shooter space.
I have no inherent hate for shooters, they have just never done much for me. Being the least competitive person in the world, multiplayer is out at the onset. As a typical entry tends to eschew a strong narrative for action-packed gunplay, there’s little for my story-obsessed self to be excited about. Exceptions exist, of course, with BioShock being the most obvious outlier, an example of something that sucked me into its enthralling little world, overwhelming my curiosity with an ambiance unlike anything I’d ever experienced. For everything else, though, it was left-trigger, right-trigger, run to checkpoint, rinse, repeat. Still, I chose a shooter.
And I think I understand them now.
First-person shooters are incredibly simple and straightforward when compared to my usual diet of loot-heavy RPGs smothered in a thick layer of stats and story. Every motion is methodical and you spend more time talking to folks, tweaking your character, or traversing the world than actually doing anything heart-racing. It isn’t boring — not when you’re so invested and immersed in the universe — but it’s easy to see why a gun-toting outsider would perceive these deeds as dull. In stark contrast, shooters are the essence of exciting. Instant gratification is key, spread galore as you’re shooting, reloading between shooting, or sprinting to another area that promises to be full of shooting. You don’t receive a second of down time to reevaluate real life, to stop to check a clock and consider doing something else with your free time. No, it’s go-go-go-go-GO! Just one more room to clear, one more checkpoint to pass, and that’ll be it. But it isn’t — certainly not so! — because some other crazy thing came up that you can’t ignore while on this surging adrenaline high. Hours pass unnoticed and, as a fan of the slow-going, it’s utterly unbelievable.
I get it now. I get shooters. I get why they’re so popular, why Call of Duty keeps selling on such absurd levels that no other game sales are compared relative to its sky-high success. Constantly satisfying and swiftly addicting to the unsuspecting me, first-person shooters infuse a feeling unseen in any other genre. Thoroughly enjoying every hour spent assuming the role of a Delta Squad Republic Commando in the Clone Army, I have come full circle on my opinions toward the shooter genre. What’s more, I intend to continue along this newfound path to seek out hidden treasures previously disregarded, jumping into genres I’ve absolutely ignored for ages based strictly upon derivative and years-old experiences nearly lost from memory. They won’t all be as exhilarating as my blood-pumping trek through the shooter, but it’s so very nice to pry open a narrow mind.
Now, what’s it take to get a decent RTS around here?