In this introduction to the aesthetic of the single-player First Person Shooter I want to present a narrative that can give some structure to the history of the genre so far, and suggest some key concepts to highlight central characteristics and distinctions.
I want to argue that a structure of generic coherence and diversity crystallised during the formative years of 1993 – 2003, unified by the distinctive traits of the subjective camera-gun. The aesthetic history of the genre follows two main trends. The first-person action-adventure as it was initially defined by Wolfenstein 3-D (1992) and Doom (1993) has developed towards a story-based, realistic, linear and cinematic adventure. This new dominant form has in part incorporated the arcade-action excesses of the early pioneers of the genre. On the other hand, the emergence of the tactical and squad-based FPS represents a radical departure from the genre’s action-adventure roots. The FPS Adventure and the tactical FPS can be described and analysed through a number of general binary oppositions.
To be published January 2005 in Matteo Bittanti & Sue Morris (Eds.) Doom. A first person reader. Ludologica book series