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“I will never work on a first-person shooter, ever again” says veteran dev

Monday, 22nd April 2013 03:33 GMT By Brenna Hillier

SWAT, MAG and SOCOM veteran Charles N Cox has sworn off first-person shooters, admitting that it may be a career-limiting movie but affirming his belief that the games industry “is ready to do better things”.

“Money isn’t an acceptable stand-in for ethical behavior. Just as legality doesn’t equal morality, so too does profit fail to imply ethical superiority. Great, we’re all making these games. Should we? Did we ever ask?”

“Screw it, I’ve been in the business a full, stormy, self-doubting decade and the world can hear me loud and clear: I will never work on a first-person shooter game, ever again. Period,” the former Microsoft, Sony and Sierra staffer wrote in a post on his blog.

Cox acknowledged that action games are among the best-selling and highest-grossing titles the industry produces, and said that the incredible success of shooters has cast a kind of glamour over consumers and developers alike, so it’s unlikely they’ll stop being made and bought any time soon.

“The problem here is that money isn’t an acceptable stand-in for ethical behavior. Just as legality doesn’t equal morality (seriously, it doesn’t, spread the word), so too does profit fail to imply ethical superiority. Great, we’re all making these games. Should we? Did we ever ask?” he wrote. “I had an experience that forced my hand – I haven’t stopped asking since.”

Cox said he was working on a shooter title with an engineer who, thanks to the long hours development demands, had to bring his little girl to work with him some days. If she caught sight of his screen, the engineer would implement a solution of his own devising to remove all traces of violence, telling the girl he was working on a hide-and-seek game. In this way, he was able to shelter her from the very content that was his paying his wages.

“I don’t know how I’d have the courage to do what it took to protect my child from the visible, media-ready horrors we know plague us as humanity every second – and the more insidious, invisible ones like my industry friends experience every day: the fact that deep down inside, we love to shoot people on these giant screens and watch them fall into the dirt,” Cox said of this incident.

“It’s not his response to the situation that I take issue with. It’s that there’s even a situation like this that he feels compelled to respond to – that’s the shame, the ugliness of it.”

The developer said that he knows there’s huge demand for virtual violence and he still very much enjoys shooters himself, but that for a couple of reasons he no longer wants to support this cultural phenomenon. Firstly, he wants to be able to look parents like his engineer colleague in the face and “not to give them some bullshit line about the fascinating duplicity of mankind, and say that I’m honestly working to try to make the world that their children will inhabit a better one”.

Second, having established a new company, 4gency, he’s in the enviable position of being able to make a choice about what kinds of games he works on.

“There’s an amazing amount of innovation just waiting under the surface for us to tackle – and yes, perhaps violence will be some part of it; we are no simple beings. But we as a self-aware species of gamer – and game developer – can evolve to a more varied diet as a start; a one-course feast of blood and shell casings can perhaps sing its last with this generation and never return, a relic, discarded as the cyanide trappings of our adolescent industry and its hopefully brief era of strip mining for the social soul.

“We are ready to do better, and I’m prepared to do my part. No more first-person shooters will come from me.”

Cox’s full post is an absorbing and emotive read; do click through the link above and read it in full to gauge his arguments more completely.

Thanks, Critical Distance.

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22 Comments

  1. TMRNetShark

    As someone who is sick of shooters (except God Mode, that shits addicting)… I think it’s a good move. He wants to make good games. Let him do what he wants.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Jerykk

    Seems like this is more of an ethical decision than one driven by a desire to innovate. Shooters are indeed getting stale and the market is saturated by them but their gratuitous violence is what offends him.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. salarta

    I think the industry is very much suffering from the problems he just noted. We’ve been seeing franchises reinvented in terrible ways just to make a buck, which is just one of many, many problems in the same vein; it’s just one of the more obvious ones. When we’re seeing protagonists that were once admirable get reinvented to fit shitty stereotypes just because those stereotypes appear to sell more copies of games, we’ve reached a dark, dark point. That’s what this past generation of games has been dealing with. Survival horror franchises changed into action game wannabes, strong and brave female characters made weak and scared, unique and original character designs reworked into cheap knockoffs of the latest fads.

    For most high profile projects, the medium’s lost all semblance of integrity. And the people that actually do give a shit about quality, like Sakaguchi or Kamiya, aren’t getting the opportunities, sales or respect they should be getting.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Francis O

    @2 Shooters are getting stale? Shooters have been played out since Call of Duty World at War in 2008.

    I respect his decision, as many shooters offer nothing new, and have the same mechanics as every other shooter.

    Hold the L Trigger, then press or hold the R Trigger. It’s boring, old, and offers nothing new.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Joe_Gamer

    Wait till we’re playing Manhunt on rigs like this…
    http://www.vg247.com/2013/04/21/virtuix-omni-treadmill-demod-with-oculus-rift-kinect/

    #5 2 years ago
  6. stretch215

    Good. I like fps games, but I like variety a hell of a lot more. Plus, MAG was one of the worst mp shooters I’ve ever played. This guy should stay as far away from fps as humanly possible.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Bruno

    That’s pretty shockingly ignorant, to act like first person shooters are the only games on the market with graphic violence in them. This sounds more like someone bought into Feinstein’s “murder simulator” rants than a statement about lack of originality. And oh boy he wants to “make the world a better place for our children to grow up in” so he decided to make video games? How revolutionary.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Mjorh

    What a reasonable decision ! there is no innovation in FPS genre , nice to see someone really understand that !

    #8 2 years ago
  9. YoungZer0

    Okay, let me get this straight, this guy here, has a problem with the fact that videogames for adults are not suited for children. That makes sense.

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s a bigger problem that his colleague had to bring his kid to work?

    And wasn’t SOCOM always a third person shooter? So does that mean he has no problem with working on TPS? Seriously, as much as I’d like to stand behind him and applaud his decision, it’s seems rather ignorant.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Telepathic.Geometry

    “career-limiting MOVE” /ninja editor strikes again

    #10 2 years ago
  11. karma

    I’ve loved first person shooters since I first saw Doom and the realisation hit me that we could enter a video games world (albeit visually crappy at the time) and experience it through our own eyes. It wasn’t so much the shooting that drew me in, but the use of the first person perspective. I think there is something very immersive about that for a lot of gamers.

    Too bad that most FP games have only focussed on the shooting aspect over the years. Rather than FPS games being about pure unadulterated carnage, I want to see more of them that are slower paced, and engage me with other gameplay mechanics than just shooting.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. viralshag

    Is it really because “we love to shoot people” though? I think this is a real misconception.

    Some of the bestselling FPS games offer terrible story, often what sells them and keeps people playing them is the online multiplayer. What are some of the next bestselling games? Oh right, sports games and things like LoL.

    I think people are mistaking a love for violence with a need for competition. Gaming for a lot of people is instantly better if there is some form of competitiveness.

    Want to shield your kids from violent games? Don’t let them play it and don’t take them to work if that’s what you’re making…

    #12 2 years ago
  13. polygem

    shooters are fun. it works for a videogame. i think the genre must reinvent itself though. look at a game like oddworld for example. make the shooting interesting, mix it up a little with platforming, puzzles and whatnot. we´ve had way too many military, space marine scifi shooters recently. i like these games as well sometimes but the genre really needs to go a different path here and there. the mechanic of a shooting game, the fun when you releoad, the sound and animation of your gun: that stuff is great! devs should learn to put all this in a unique setting though and combine it with fresh elements. surprise the player.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. dotfaust

    @13 it sounded more to me that the man was forced to bring his daughter to work due to the ridiculous “crunchtime” of videogame development and in turn not being able to spend adequate time with his family. Obviously there would be ways to avoid that situation (babysitter, etc) but I’m sure once in a blue moon there would be no alternative.

    On top of that I do feel that violence and traditional videogames do very much go hand in hand, and it’d be great to see more devs break that tradition and make compelling games not focused on violent situations, or at least make these situations feel more emotionally conflicting rather than “blah, I just got a hundred head shots, but I need another hundred to level up!”.

    So in a nutshell, I believe that we do “love to shoot people,” but that state of mind could easily be changed if we (and more devs) gave it a chance.

    And I do agree with you about the multiplayer aspect… I just threw in an argument for the sake of argument. :)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. TheBlackHole

    I’d probably never want to work on FPSs again if I’d been responsible for SOCOM.

    That’s like saying that I’d never work on adventure games again after helping develop Leisure Suit Larry.

    (for clarification, I didn’t).

    #15 2 years ago
  16. dotfaust

    @16 lol

    #16 2 years ago
  17. _LarZen_

    There are to many shooters and to many bad ones. So this is good news…

    Now if other developers did the same, maybe we would start seeing more interesting games more often.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Cobra951

    As the more insightful comments above indicate, the motivation behind Mr Cox’s decision is political, and has nothing to do with the staleness of the genre. He is free to follow his beliefs, of course, as long as he doesn’t try to impose them on others.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Lengendaryboss

    Praise the lord, one less FPS :D

    #19 2 years ago
  20. theevilaires

    Never say never ;)

    #20 2 years ago
  21. atavax

    I am glad to see that his objection is over the violence more then the genre. I love the genre and i see a lot of potential in it, i think its ready for non violent titles. We don’t need blood and gore. Shootmania is an example, but there are probably a plethora of ways of reducing or eliminating the violence and keeping them fun, challenging, and engaging.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. RocknRolla

    Shooters getting better and better :) keep em coming DICE! but COD go to sleep bitch..

    #22 1 year ago

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