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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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    We have 400 Lann Revamp codes worth €25 to giveaway for free to VG247 readers. All you need to do is enter your details in the box below and you’ll be given a code to redeem in game. The codes are for warrior character Lann and offer a 7 day unlimited Inner Armour pass, battle […]

  • US eShop update: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli, more

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli and a demo version of Azure Striker GUNVOL. Your full update is below. eShop Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars – Wii U, 3DS – Cross Buy OlliOlli – Wii U, 3DS – Cross-Buy Proun+ – Proun+ […]

  • Rock Band 4 confirmed for Xbox One and PS4: supports old instruments and 2,168 songs

    Harmonix has lifted the lid on the long-rumoured Rock Band 4, stating it will support 2,168 previously released tracks and last-gen instruments on PS4 and Xbox One. The game will be out this year. Harmonix has yet to reveal specific features for the game, but it has been built with a completely new engine. As […]

  • First run of Rodea the Sky Soldier copies on Wii U come with Wii version

    The first print run of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will come with the Wii version packed in, NIS America has confirmed. The publisher confirmed today in a press release that anyone who buys the first run of the retail version of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will find the Wii […]

  • Unreal Tournament 4 lets modders sell cosmetic items to players

    Unreal Tournament 4 is a game built with the help of the modding community. So it’s only natural that it will feature a marketplace where all cosmetic items can be sold. Epic Games has confirmed that it will allow modders from the community to sell the cosmetics items they’ve created on the game’s marketplace. The […]

  • D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is coming to PC – rumour

    SWERY 65 has shown off D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die running on PC at GDC this week, teasing that a possible port may be on the way. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is SWERY 65′s latest project. An episodic detective affair, D4 came out on Xbox One last September and utilised Kinect as its main […]

  • Valve’s Lighthouse, VR controllers and more explained

    Valve’s less-talked about prototype VR controllers and its Lighthouse technology have been shown in more detail. When HTC announced Vive, the VR headset it’s working on with Valve, it mentioned “base stations” and ergonomic controllers. Now we know what they meant by that. The controllers are still in prototype phase, and will look better when […]

  • Listen to two professional Counter-Strike players explain why Dust2 is so popular

    Hear what makes iconic Counter-Strike map Dust2 one of the most popular maps in shooter history from two former eSports players. Sal “Volcano” Garozzo and Shawn “FMPONE” Snelling are both retired professional Counter-Strike players who are currently working as designers. At GDC this year, the pair hosted a panel titled “Community Level Design for Competitive […]

  • Core Morpheus hardware locked in, no plans for wireless version

    Sony has finalised the core hardware for its VR headset Project Morpheus, and does not currently plan on releasing a wireless version. SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida spoke to Gamespot at GDC and confirmed that the core hardware of Morpheus is “pretty much done” but that “lots of tweaks and improvements” are still being […]

  • Watch the full Phil Spencer keynote from GDC 2015

    The full GDC 2015 keynote of Xbox boss Phil Spencer is now available to watch. In case you missed last nights’s Phil Spencer keynote at GDC 2015, the whole thing has been made available to watch on YouTube. The address is titled “The Future of Gaming Across the Microsoft Ecosytem,” and it’s where Spencer announced […]

  • Elite: Dangerous won’t be “dumbed down” for Xbox One

    The Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous will in fact be the same as the PC one. Elite: Dangerous developer Frontier came out on stage last night at GDC to announce the game making its console debut on Xbox One. Some have feared that the port would not provide the same experience as the PC […]

  • Virtual reality: by gum, it’s really happening

    Virtual reality has exited the realm of peripheral gimmick and turned into something that just might go mainstream. VR has an uphill battle ahead of it. The tech is going to be expensive, and there are a number of problems that need to be solved before it could be considered an inclusive technology (motion sickness, […]

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes Game of the Year at GDC Awards 2015

    And the winner is: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor beat out Alien: Isolation, Bayonetta 2, Destiny, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to win Game of the Year at the Game Developer’s Choice Awards 2015. Elsewhere in the awards, Ustwo’s mobile hit Monument Valley was a stand-out favourite, with wins in the Innovation, […]

  • Alien: Isolation was prototyped in third-person – video

    Alien: Isolation is one of the most effectively scary triple-A games in years, but it didn’t start off a perfect creation of pure terror. Creative Assembly prototyped Alien: Isolation in third-person perspective before they nailed down the final approach. The developer revealed this during a GDC 2015 presentation, and it’s a good reminder that games […]

  • Madden 15 added to EA Vault

    Madden 15 is now included in EA’s all-you-can-eat subscriber service. Madden 15 is the ninth game to be added to the EA Vault, a stash of games available on demand for EA Access subscribers. It's still Madden Season for EA Access members – Madden NFL 15 is now in The Vault for all members. Go […]

  • Source Engine 2 doesn’t have hidden costs or royalties – but is Steam exclusive

    Three major engines went free at GDC 2015, and each of them is monetising in a different way. There’s been a heck of a lot of discussion about development tools and the costs associated with them during GDC 2015. First Epic announced that Unreal Engine 4 would be free, bar royalities on successful releases. Then […]

  • Final Fantasy creator hates sequels

    Final Fantasy, a byword in prolific franchises, was created by a man who hates sequel. Final Fantasy games are famous for being reinvented with each core release, and it was not until series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi began to withdraw from the franchise after Final Fantasy 9 that we started seeing regular sequels and spin-offs. Speaking […]

  • Guardian complaints led to the closure of Destiny’s Loot Cave

    Destiny players are to blame for the shuttering of the much loved Loot Cave. Early in Destiny‘s history, many players got hugely excited about the “Loot Cave”. Accessible shortly after starting the game for the first time, this high-volume spawn point allowed players to stand in one place, taking out waves and waves of low-level […]

  • Xbox and PC games boss Phil Harrison to leave Microsoft – rumour

    Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business VP and EMEA head of games Phil Harrison is rumoured to have thrown in the towel. Microsoft has not issued a statement on Harrison’s alleged departure, despite repeated questioning by press at GDC 2015. Instead, word comes via multiple sources speaking to GamesIndustry at the show. According to the rumours, Harrison […]

  • Metal Gear Online commentated trailer explains stuffed dog – but not invisibility

    Metal Gear Online developer Kojima Productions has provided significantly more insight into how the multiplayer side of The Phantom Pain works. Metal Gear Online is the online multiplayer component of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Konami hasn’t shared a great deal about it yet, but we did see a very cool Metal Gear […]

  • Elite: Dangerous Xbox One trailer shows off space MMO

    If Elite: Dangerous looks this good on Xbox One we have nothing to complain about. Microsoft revealed Elite: Dangerous is coming to Xbox One this year during its GDC presentations today. We don’t know very much about the port, but I suppose we ought to have expected it; Frontier Developments has a very close relationship […]

  • Battletoads to appear in Shovel Knight Xbox One

    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]