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

Monday, 22 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 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]