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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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    Kodoku, the survival horror title from Carnivore Studio, has a new work-in-progress video available, showing you how the game is coming along. Announced for PlayStation 4 and Vita back in 2013, the game is slated for release sometime this year, and tasks the player with avoiding mythical Japanese ghosts using only magic and stealth. Thanks, […]

  • Current HoloLens prototype has noticeably “tighter” FoV compared to January build

    Microsoft’s augmented reality headset HoloLens is still very much in the prototype stage, according to various reports out of the Build Conference. Microsoft hasn’t discussed technical specs with the press yet as nothing is set in stone, but during a hands-on at Build, Ars Technica noticed the prototypes had a “x86 processor, 2GB RAM, 802.11ac […]

  • Silent Hills petition asking Konami to continue development has over 50,000 signatures

    A petition to save the Silent Hills game has been formed by fans in the hopes Konami will change its mind and bring the collaboration with Guillermo del Toro back from the dead. Konami confirmed on Monday the Silent Hill remake from film director Del Toro and Metal Gear’s Hideo Kojima had been cancelled, but […]

  • Attack on Titan has a US release date, title changed in EU over copyright claim

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains will be released under a different title in Europe, according to the publisher, and while a release date has been set for North America, the same cannot be said for fans across the pond. According to Atlus, a copyright claim in Europe has forced the company to publish the […]

  • Yooka-Laylee meets final Kickstarter Stretch Goal in less than 24 hours

    The Kickstarter for Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee sailed beyond its final £1 million ($1.5 million) Stretch Goal overnight, which will allow for a simultaneous release on all announced platforms. Once funded, Yooka-Laylee was slated for release on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One; however, a simultaneous release on all platforms wasn’t guaranteed unless […]

  • Not a Hero will miss its May 7 release date, but not by much

    Not a Hero will miss its May 7 release date, according to an announcement from Roll7. Not to worry though, it’s only by a week. According to the developer, the delay is due to “having undergone super-secret upgrades to crank shit up to 60fps.” The extra week will provide the additional time needed for tweaking […]

  • Assassin’s Creed, The Crew, Far Cry 4, other Ubisoft titles on sale through the Humble Store

    Ubisoft has put a number of its games on sale through the Humble Store. Franchises Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are on discount as are single release titles. The list of games on sale are below. For pricing in your region, head over to the Humble Store. Anno 2070 Complete Edition Assassin’s Creed 3 Assassin’s […]

  • Payday 2: Repeater rifle, Peacemaker pistol introduced with The Butcher’s Western Pack

    Overkill Software released the 21st DLC pack for Payday 2 yesterday, titled The Butcher’s Western Pack. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and other digital distribution channels. “For our 21st DLC we go back in time to visit the Wild West and the arsenal it was known for,” said the developers. “With it we’re introducing […]

  • The Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter just launched and has already met its funding goal

    Playtonic Games launched the Kickstarter campaign for Yooka-Laylee at 5pm UK, and in just over 30 minutes it already hit its $270,000 funding goal. You can watch the funding counter continue to roll over through the link. Yooka-Laylee is a 3D platformer where the characters use special moves such as Yooka’s tongue grapple and Laylee’s […]

  • Batch of hi-res Persona 5 screenshots released by PlayStation Japan

    A set of screenshots have been released for Persona 5, and while you’ve seen these before in magazines and on the official website, these are high-res versions. Some will even look familiar to those who watched the first gameplay trailer back in February. The shots were posted over on the PlayStation Japan Persona 5 game […]

  • Is Alien: Isolation getting HTC Vive support?

    Placeholder images for SteamVR icons have been found and it looks like there may be support for Alien: Isolation, so if you enjoy soiling yourself, get psyched! NeoGAF members found a thread on Reddit, where a little rooting around in a Steam directory unearthed the images. The list includes both games and apps, and as […]

  • Xbox Live multiplayer is free this weekend on Xbox 360

    Xbox 360 players in all Xbox Live regions can play multiplayer online for free this weekend. If you are a Silver member, this means you are Golden from May 1-3 and can play multiple games online with your buddies. All you have to do is log-in to Xbox Live.

  • Assassin’s Creed actor Michael Fassbender confirms film production starts September

    The Assassin’s Creed movie will start production this fall, actor Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, 300, X-Men:First Class) as confirmed. Speaking with ComingSoon.net, Fassbender said filming will start in September, which is inline with Ubisoft’s announcement in February. The actor will star in the film alongside Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard, both reuniting with their MacBeth director Justin […]

  • Eve Online boss states VR won’t be as big as we think next year

    I don’t think I’m the only one who wants VR to hurry up and manifest into a Sword Art Online-esque reality. Unfortunately, the chief executive officer at the studio behind Eve Online doesn’t think that will be happening any time soon. Talking to Venture Beat, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson touched on his excitement at the prospects […]

  • The Last of Us: Left Behind goes standalone in May on PS3, PS4

    Naughty Dog has announced that The Last of US DLC Left Behind will be released as a standalone experience next month. It can be purchased for both PlayStation 3 and PS4 through the PS Store and a two-hour demo of the Factions multiplayer will also be made available. “The Left Behind standalone game will have […]

  • EA’s annual E3 press conference takes place on June 15

    Electronic Arts has announced its annual E3 2015 press conference will take place the day before the show kicks off on June 15. EA, Microsoft, Sony and Ubisoft always hold press events the day before E3 officially starts, so this isn’t any surprise, really. The presser, dubbed “Live to Play”, will last one hour and […]

  • Steam exchange rate mix-up closes down community market

    The Steam community market was buggered up big time today after a mix-up with currency conversion had items selling from practically nothing, to millions of dollars. PC Gamer picked up on the news after a thread on Reddit appeared with screenshots depicting just how silly things were getting over there. The currency exchange rate data […]

  • Britney Spears signs five-year deal with Glu for new mobile game

    Pop star Britney Spears has signed a five-year deal with Glu mobile for a new, untitled game. The mobile game will feature her “voice, likeness, and creative influence,” and is due for release sometime next year. Glu also signed a deal with Katy Perry in February, so expect a game revolving around her to hit […]

  • Large Activision publisher sale on Steam discounts Call of Duty, Prototype, more

    Activision has put the majority of its library on sale through Steam this weekend, and if other titles weren’t included, it could be referred to as a Call of Duty sale. Below are a few standouts. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Gold Edition 25% off Call of Duty: Ghosts 67% off Call of Duty: […]

  • The Dota 2 International Compendium is out, second Stretch Goal almost complete

    The International Compendium has been released for Dota 2 with the prize pool sitting at a lovely $1,917,155 as of press time. Valve said over the weekend to expect the International Compendium to drop sometime this week. As with previous years, those who purchase the Compendium can earn rewards by completing challenges, making predictions and by […]

  • If permadeath RTS games are up your alley, check out indie project XO

    The Square Enix Collective showcases projects for a limited time to help drum up community support and potential backers, and RTS title XO from Jumpdrive Studios is worth taking a look at. The teaser trailer is fairly brief, but if you visit the page for XO over at the Square Enix Collective, it’s understandable – […]

  • GTA 5 PC patch disables mods. Here’s how to get them working again

    A new patch for the PC version of GTA 5 was released yesterday and, as it turns out, has wiped the ability to use mods with the game. The wasn’t great news for some players, but YouTuber taltigolt has already figured out how to play the PC version with mods after installing the patch. Matt […]

  • Xbox One ad stealth launches a mysterious Halo 5 competition

    A new Xbox One advert released today isn’t as straightforward as it appears. The trailer has a couple of pretty conspicuous ‘glitches’ throughout, and members of NeoGAF wasted no time in breaking it down. The first item of interest is the screen from the hunt the signal site, which displays an error message when accessed […]

  • Battlefield 4 Jungle map improved with latest update

    DICE LA has updated the Battlefield 4 Jungle map, adding more foliage and a new route. As demonstrated by Westie in the video above, the map now has the kind of foliage you’d expect in the jungle, helping to conceal infantry players. The update also tweaks positions of objective points and has added a concealed […]

  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate free DLC pack for May includes Metroid and Mega Man armour

    The May DLC pack for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate boasts some big ticket items, including Metroid, Street Fighter, and Mega Man gear. This big fat chunk of free DLC, detailed on the capcom unity blog, includes Hunter equipment: Metroid’s Varia Suit Metroid’s Zero Suit Metroid’s Arm Cannon Taiko Drum Master Hunting Horn USJ’s Star Rook […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for May 1, 2 – Hard Light edition

    Here he comes with his weird face, dealing goods and gear for Guardians. It’s Friday. Xur: Agent of the Nine is back in the Tower. Of Course he is. Got your Strange Coins? Here’s what’s in his bag this week: Ruin Wings [Exotic Titan gauntlets] – 13SC Don’t Touch Me [Exotic Hunter gauntlets] – 13SC […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC drops for PS4 on May 26

    Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC has now been announced for May 26 for PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360. The announcement was made on Twitter via the official Dragon Age account. Mark your calendars! #DAIJawsOfHakkon pic.twitter.com/mU1WfkSrQV — Dragon Age (@dragonage) May 1, 2015 The DLC was released for PC and Xbox One back in March thanks to […]

  • New Witcher 3 screenshots highlight Geralt’s questionable fashion choices

    Even though The Witcher 3 release date is drawing closer, it still feels like a million year away. So here are some more screenshots to tide you over until then. We got to look at in-game shots yesterday, but these new screens show Geralt riding through some gorgeously vibrant mountains, in the midst of combat […]

  • Sims Gurus patch out pregnant men

    Say goodbye to The Sims 4 unique take on fatherhood, as The Sims Gurus confirm that male pregnancies are no more. The Sims 4 players have been reporting high numbers of alien abductions, leaving their male characters with sore bottoms and a bellyful of alien baby. Kotaku reports that not everyone was getting their knickers […]

  • Black Mesa countdown probably points to Half-life remake release date

    Half-life remake Black Mesa may have a release date at last. Black Mesa is a Source Engine remake of the original Half-life, which like everything related to Half-life feels like it’s taking forever to come out. The first part launched in September 2012, and it looks like we might have a release date for the […]

  • Spector puts down rumours of troubled Epic Mickey development

    Epic Mickey seemed like a surprising follow-up project from the man who made Deus Ex, but Warren Spector has put down rumours of a difficult relationship with Disney. Epic Mickey displays several qualities found in Spector’s other games and which he has always espoused in interviews – heck, this is the man whose dream it […]

  • Ubisoft makes good on Child of Light promise with free eBook

    Child of Light fans can check out a gorgeous new illustrated book set in the world of Lumeria. Earlier this month, creator Patrick Plourde confirmed that there were more Child of Light projects on the way. As we expected from the cagey wording, at least the first of these projects isn’t a game: it’s an […]

  • Half-life episode from Junction Point would have featured a magnet gun

    Half-life seems to be on near permanent hold, but at least we can glean some insight into what might once have been. Junction Point’s cancelled Half-life game came up in Warren Spector’s Reddit AMA overnight. Commenting that he isn’t sure whether he’ll get into legal trouble for discussing the project, Spector gave a few comments […]

  • Destiny: exclusive shader, emblem on offer with Nepal benefit shirt

    Destiny developer Bungie has asked Guardians to offer their aid, and they’ve already responded in troves. A new Destiny shirt added to the Bungie Store is the object of a fundraising drive to provide aid in Nepal following a devastating earthquake this week. Bungie popped the pretty stylish shirt on sale earlier today, offering an […]

  • What does the creator of Deus Ex think of Human Revolution and Mankind Divided?

    Deus Ex creator Warren Spector seems pretty positive about the direction the sci-fi series has followed under Square Enix’s hand. Deus Ex was created by Spector and his team at Ion Storm, and remained with Eidos after the developer shuttered. When Square Enix purchased the British publisher, it put new studio Eidos Montreal to work […]

  • Protest Goat secures future for Elite Dangerous destruction derbies

    One of the stranger and more beautiful stories to manifest in the gaming world this week, I think. Elite: Dangerous has given birth to an unintended, emergent style of gameplay; a destruction derby like affair where players gather in no combat areas to both race and gleefully smash into each other until a victor limps […]

  • Destiny’s stunning landscapes captured in panoramas

    Destiny has some beautiful environments, which screenshots don’t necessarily do justice to. Walking around Destiny exclaiming over the lighting effects and the tiny animated details is the best way to experience Bungie’s tremendous achievements, but these panorama images stitched together from in-game screenshots are a good second. Click to see them fullsize. Redditor CenturyEagle made […]