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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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    Take on Mars, the space sim from Bohemia Interactive will soon be reader for wider consumption. According to a new Take on Mars development roadmap, the sim will go into beta at the start of April, with full release expected in June. The project is currently available via Steam early Access, but between now and […]

  • Can you guess the next Mortal Kombat X character reveal from this fatality audio clip?

    Mortal Kombat X will have at least one very liquid-sounding fatality. NetherRealm is revealing Mortal Kombat X’s cats one character at a time, and has promised a new reveal during a community Twitch stream tomorrow. It also provided the following teaser video – it’s audio only, and apparently taken from a fatality sequence. What’s your […]

  • Nintendo Creators Program now recruiting YouTubers

    Nintendo has opened a Creators Program designed to ensure creators get a slice of ad revenue from videos featuring Nintendo assets. The Nintendo Creators Program will launch on May 27, but is currently in beta and taking registrations. This is Nintendo’s answer to the knotty question of YouTubers making money on videos featuring its assets […]

  • Xbox Live issues under investigation

    Can’t sign into Xbox Live? Microsoft is on the case. Xbox 360 and Xbox One users report being unable to sign in to Xbox Live. Microsoft is already aware of and working on the problem. “Our team is hard at work right now trying to get this resolved. Thank you for staying patient while we […]

  • Make money from your non-Valve mods with Steam Workshop

    Valve has opened the money-making side of Steam Workshop to third-party titles, giving enterprising modders more ways to make money. Steam now hosts curated Workshops for Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, the first non-Valve games to support the scheme. What that means is that community members can create, vote on and eventually even […]

  • Check out DmC: Devil May Cry’s new manual lock-on

    DmC: Devil may Cry developer Ninja Theory has released a video showing off the new, controversial lock-on mode. The new manual lock-on is causing quite a stir, although its reception is probably better than the white-wigged Dante who makes fans even more upset than the original makeover. “The primary purpose of this video is to […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes looks pretty fun

    Dragon Quest Heroes is yet another Omega Force take on an existing property – like Hyrule Warriors or the One Piece games. And it looks pretty sweet. We haven’t heard much from Dragon Quest Heroes here in the west because it hasn’t been confirmed for release outside Japan. This isn’t terribly surprising as we still […]

  • Square Enix to reveal new PS4 game this weekend

    Square Enix is doing something pretty mysterious right now. The Final Fantasy publisher is teasing something called Project Code Z. The project, which Square Enix is tweeting about in Japanese, English and German, is due for reveal at Tokaigi 2015 on Saturday. It’s a PS4 game, but that’s all we know. There’s a website you […]

  • Tetris has crowned its first known western Grand Master

    Tetris fans have a new western champion. Tetris is one of those gaming obsessions that goes much deeper than you might expect. For example, did you know that some versions of the game assess your performance and over you the chance to become a “grand master”? Turns out that’s a thing, and according to Polygon […]

  • Ken Levine’s next game teased as “sci-fi-ish” small, open-world RPG

    A series of tweets from BioShock creator Ken Levine has shed a sliver of light upon his next project. According to Levine he and his team are considering something a bit sci-fi and contemplating first-person mode. The team is developing the game for PC with a large in scope, expandable, systems-based narrative where more can […]

  • Become a lynx in new Shelter 2 trailer

    Shelter 2 casts players in the role of a lynx, which makes for quite a different experience to the badger of the first game. The first Shelter game had you evading predators, but in the second, you becomes one yourself. That doesn’t mean there are no dangers to face, of course. Judging by the trailer […]

  • Why King of Fighters 13 isn’t coming back to Evo

    Evo, the premiere western fighting game tournament, has dropped support for a few previously favoured titles. King of Fighters 13 had a loyal following, but isn’t featured in the Evo 2015 line-up. “Many things go into what games makes it to Evo, but the most obvious one is, ‘Is the community playing this game?’” Evo […]

  • An average Evolve match takes less than ten minutes

    Evolve players are pretty quick at hunting each other down. Evolve developer Turtle Rock has released an infographic brimming with statistics garnered from its recent beta test. One of the key takeaways is that all three monsters, and all four classes, are working as intended – their performance in game matches Turtle Rock’s designs. If […]

  • Super Mario Amiibo can be pre-ordered on Nintendo UK, Mario and Peach sold out

    The latest set of Amiibo in the Super Mario series is now available for pre-purchase through the Nintendo UK Store. Each of the following sports a red base and will run you £10.99: Bowser, Luigi, Mario, Peach, Toad and Yoshi. It looks like Peach and Mario are both sold out, though. All six can be […]

  • The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 free to download now

    League of Legends has excellent music, and now you can have it too. The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 collects 15 tracks from the MOBA’s history, and is available for free. You can grab the music from iTunes, Google Play or via direct download. Tere’s an example track below to get you in […]

  • Super Bowl 49 update arrives on Madden NFL Mobile

    With Super Bowl 49 occurring this coming Sunday, February 1, EA Sports has updated Madden NFL Mobile with new feature enhancements and Super Bowl-themed Live Events. Updates include: League vs League Tournaments Obstacle Course Super Bowl Bonus Players Tom Brady and Richard Sherman Super Bowl Legends Super Bowl Moments Upgraded Auction House The Super Bowl […]

  • See Super Smash Bros.’ unused custom moves

    Super Smash Bros. was originally intended to have 16 custom moves per character. The final version of Super Smash Bros. only features 12 custom moves per fighter, but Nintendo left animations for some of the cut moves in place. A Youtuber called RED has dug these cut mvoes out of the brawler’s code, and displayed […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains 16 hours of sex scene mo-cap data

    Sex is nothing new to the The Witcher games, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is no exception. In fact, it contains 16 hours of sex scene motion capture data. Giggity. There’s a reason for the bedroom dalliances though, as Geralt is a flesh and blood human, or a modified human at any rate, with […]

  • Here’s the launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered

    A launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered has been released after an Amazon listing was revealed for it over the weekend. Key upgrades include: High-definition Graphics — All of the in-game textures have been meticulously recreated in HD for mobile and desktop. Widescreen Support – A true widescreen (not cropped) view strengthens the game’s […]

  • The open beta for Battlefield Hardline will be dated tomorrow

    The exact dates as well as more information on the Battlefield Hardline open beta will be shared tomorrow. This is according to the latest blog post from developer Visceral Games. “We’ll share the exact dates and info on the Battlefield Hardline open beta tomorrow,” wrote Visceral boss Steve Papoutsis. “Stay tuned, thanks again, and keep […]

  • Upcoming Hearthstone patch to apply balance change to Undertaker

    An upcoming Hearthstone patch will apply a balance change to the Undertaker card, Blizzard has announced. After the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Blizzard said it kept an “eye on the state of game balance” as more matches were played using the additional cards. Released with The Curse of Naxxramas, Undertaker is considered an overly […]

  • February Games with Gold offers up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

    The free games on offer in February via Xbox Live Games with Gold have been announced. Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One can download #IDARB during February. Xbox 360 users can grab Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from February 1-15, when it will be replaced by Sniper Elite V2 from February 16 -28. […]

  • Kinguin blames unidentified Russian for deactivated Far Cry 4 keys

    Third-party game key seller Kinguin is issuing refunds to those who found their games deactivated through Ubisoft’s Uplay service. Customers which purchased keys for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew and Watch Dogs are affected. Kinguin said 4,600 customer tickets were submitted over the last 72 hours and 35 out of 3,400 of […]

  • Video Unlimited to be re-branded as PlayStation Video starting in February

    Like Music Unlimited, Sony’s Video Unlimited service is being replaced and re-branded PlayStation Video. PlayStation Video will become part of PlayStation Network to streamline digital services for the over 64 million PSN users. PlayStation Video and PlayStation Music will be added to PSN which is already a destination point for the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, […]

  • Spotify arrives on PlayStation Music this spring, Music Unlimited closing

    Spotify will launch on PlayStation Network this spring as part of a new music destination called PlayStation Music. PlayStation Music is a replacement for Music Unlimited, and those with a PSN account can link to Spotify which can be used just for music, or when playing games on PlayStation 4. Existing playlists from current Spotify […]

  • Closed beta for Alone in the Dark: Illumination starts tomorrow

    The private beta period for Alone in the Dark: Illumination starts on January 29. Those who pre-order the game via Steam, will automatically be included in the beta, enabling them to provide feedback on the first campaign in single-player mode. An additional beta period will be announced in the weeks leading up to launch. The […]

  • Majora’s Mask Special Edition New 3DS XL available once more on UK store

    UK residents who want to get their hands on the shiny Majora’s Mask Special Edition New 3DS XL can once again pre-purchase it through the Nintendo UK Store. If you want one, you better hurry because units will likely go rather fast. Only one per customer is allowed, and once you drop £209.99 on it, […]

  • Nintendo Q3: 1.9M New 3DS models sold, Wii U lifetime sales hit 9.2M

    New 3DS XL has sold 1.3 million units as of December 31, 2014, Nintendo announced in its Q3 financial results today. New 3DS moved 580,000 units by the end of the same period. Lifetime sales of both systems combined total a little under 1.9 million. Combined global sales for current 3DS models available in Europe […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s exo zombies reanimate a familiar format

    Advanced Warfare’s exo suits manage to bring an undead format back to life. Dave Cook welcomes zombies back to Call of Duty. “The challenges start to spike early so seasoned zombie slayers needn’t worry about being coddled.” Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s first DLC went live this week, dropping four very solid maps for multiplayer […]

  • YouTube app and Maps will be removed from PS Vita

    Sony said that it will end support for the YouTube and Maps apps, as well as remove the “near” feature in an upcoming firmware update. Sony has revealed that a system update releasing in March will remove the Maps app and prevent the “near” feature from obtaining location address or display maps, making it redundant. […]

  • There is a Destiny loot cave Easter egg in Dying Light

    Dying Light is the latest game to take a jab at Destiny by having its own loot cave. Destiny’s infamous loot cave has been recreated in Dying Light, sort of. Of course the loot cave in Dying Light is only an Easter egg and doesn’t actually net you any loot. Instead, upon entering it, you […]

  • Resident Evil: Revelations 2 supports co-op in story mode, but only offline

    You can play the campaign of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 in co-op, but not online. 4gamer spoke to producers of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 and made out with a few details concerning story, setting and more. The site confirmed that while you will be able to switch between characters in the single player, and have […]

  • The Witcher 3 may have a permadeath “Insanity” mode

    Although not yet confirmed, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developer CD Projekt RED is working on a difficulty mode dubbed “Insanity” that will delete your save if you die. During Monday’s Twitch stream, the developer took a few questions from the chat and we’ve got a bunch of answers. There are many interesting little bits […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition is the most successful launch for BioWare, based on sales

    Dragon Age: Inquisition is responsible for the most successful launch in developer BioWare’s history, according to EA. During last night’s EA Q3 2015 earnings call, the publisher said that Dragon Age: Inquisition was the most successful launch for developer BioWare. Today, we get a bit more detail. “In particular, Dragon Age: Inquisition had by far […]

  • Here’s a walkthrough of one mission from Far Cry 4 Hurk Deluxe DLC

    Far Cry 4′s latest DLC pack, Hurk Deluxe, seems like good fun, judging from this video. The Hurk Deluxe Pack was released today on all platforms. It comes with five new missions. The video below takes a look at the “Call of the Wild” mission. In the walkthrough you’ll get to see some of the […]

  • Battlefield Hardline beta date confirmed on Xbox Store

    The beta date for Battlefield Hardline has popped up on the Xbox Store, confirming the rumoured date. The listing for the Battlefield Hardline beta is available for anyone to see right now on the Xbox Store. Granted, it’s for Xbox 360, but unless EA is starting this beta early on Xbox 360, this will pretty […]

  • GTA player flies jets backwards in impressive stunts

    Doing stunts with jets in GTA 5 can be impressive, but it’s nothing like flying them backwards. Making videos of your jet stunts has become too mainstream. Which is why the latest video from YouTube channel GTA5Videos is all about defying that. The video below features some insane stunts mostly done by flying jets backwards, […]

  • CoD: Advanced Warfare balance patch out, System Hack nerfed, HBRa3 buffed

    The latest patch to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is here with some major changes to game balance. Making good on the promise to nerf System Hack, developer Sledgehammer Games has released the latest patch to Advanced Warfare to do just that, and much more. The patch is out now on Xbox platforms, with PlayStation […]

  • Grinding three purples in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel may crash your game [UPDATE]

    Update: Gearbox Software has announced there’s currently a hot-fix in place for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as a temporary solution to crashes caused with the DLC update. Until a permanent fix can be made, the hotfix should correct crashing issues. All will be fixed in the next major game update. Original Story A bug that snuck […]

  • Havoc maps up the tempo for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

    Dave Cook dons his Exo suit to find the new Havok DLC maps a great change of pace for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Given that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare places great emphasis on verticality, it’s little wonder that Sledgehammer Games has designed the first of its four DLC map packs with elevation and […]

  • G2A responds to deactivated Far Cry 4 keys debacle

    G2A, one of the third-party sellers that were named in the ongoing episode of deactivated Far Cry 4 keys has decided to release a statement. G2A is a well known third-party key sellers online. Most users know it through its sponsorship deals with many YouTube and Twitch channels. The service sells keys both through its […]

  • Petroglyph’s Victory resurfaces with Korean co-developer

    End of Nations, Mytheon and Grey Goo developer Petroglyph Games seems to have salvaged a stalled project. Victory popped up back in early 2013 after Trion Worlds took End of Nations in-house. Petroglyph’s attempt to crowdfund the unusual strategy title ended in iniquity, but it vowed to do whatever it could to bring the game […]