Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

First-person shooter

A first-person shooter (FPS), is an action video game where the player's on-screen view of the game world simulates that of the character. The term first-person shooter derives from the game's first person perspective, and from the fact that the gameplay tends to emphasize shooting. In its most basic sense, the phrase simply means any shooting game with a first person perspective (which would mean games like Wing Commander, Crossbow'' and many combat flight simulators, etc.).

However, the vast majority of people use the phrase to describe a very specific genre which id Software spawned (no pun intended) with Wolfenstein 3D. In this genre, the person shooting is not in a vehicle (though recent FPS games such as Operation Flashpoint, Battlefield 1942, Delta Force: Blackhawk Down, Joint Operations, and Halo have combined vehicular elements into gameplay), and the game is tactical rather than strategic. Although the action features many weapons, the tone of some games can seem rather arcade-game-like, with the numerous enemies who are easy to kill, while the protagonist is relatively hard to kill, often being able to sustain large numbers of gunshots and recovering by using a first aid kit.

A sub-genre of the FPS game style, commonly referred to as First Person Tactical Shooter, places less emphasis on health (bars or meters), and more on "Shoot first, shoot to kill." type gameplay.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 History
3 Controversy
4 List of Notable First-person Shooters
5 Additional games


A large percentage of all new games nowadays are FPSs, almost all playable over the Internet (on non-console platforms), giving rise to another enormous 'net subculture (usually called Clans, especially regarding Quake).

Another characteristic of FPSs is the ability, either designed or hacked-in, for players and enthusiasts to create their own levels (see level design) or indeed overall graphical appearance for distribution to other fans, called modding (normally, this distribution must be done for free in order to abide by the developers license). This has contributed to the longevity both of the genre and of individual games. Some games now include the software the designers used to make levels, such as UnrealEd.

Many FPS games are designed with a core game engine, separate from the graphics, game rules, and levels. This enables developers to license the core software to other games. This "plug-in" design allows amateur programmers to add new elements to games, such as new rules, characters or weapons. This process is known as modding.

For many, the appeal of the FPS lies in immersive frantic blasting with a touch of verisimilitude, humour, puzzle-solving and claustrophobia. For others, the single player mode in story oriented games can have compelling narratives which allow for added element of drama in the games.

FPS are among the most demanding users of computing resources, persuading many users to upgrade computers that are still suitable for more mundane tasks. The two pieces of the computer which are most stressed by FPS are the CPU and the graphics card. As a result of FPS, graphics cards began to support 3d hardware rendering. FPS have been the catalyst for development of 3d graphics cards and high end CPU's.

id Software is regarded as, if not, the ultimate creator of the FPS genre, certainly the populariser and refiner of it, with the Quake series regarded by many as the definitive games of the genre. Epic's Unreal was also hugely popular and much-imitated . As well as developing games themselves, these two companies actively license their game engines to third parties for use in other games(for example:UbiSoft, the creaters of the Rainbow Six series, bought the rights to use the Unreal engine in their lates installment Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield).

Sub-genres include the stealth-based game (also known as a "first-person sneaker") and the tactical shooter, which use a similar viewpoint and mechanics, but respectively emphasise avoiding detection and team-based tactics. These are now regarded as being distinct from FPSs in computer games magazines. Thief exemplifies the stealth-based game; Rainbow 6, Ghost Recon, and other games based on novels by Tom Clancy are seminal tactical shooters.

Players can make manoeuvres such as "grenade jumping" which is an action that allows the player to either gain an extension to normal jumps by blast effects; or to avoid or lessen the impact of a grenade fired or thrown by an opponent. The extended jump is possible with other game weapons and can so have different names, in the Quake series a "rocket jump" is possible.


The original FPS was the game Spasim published in spring of 1974. It was a wire-frame 3D universe resembling the 2D game Empire (which became Netrek). Spasim lacked even hidden lines but it was multiplayer over the world-wide PLATO network.

The first flat-polygon (hidden surface) game was the single-player Colony (1987?). It lacked textured walls, floors, etc. Other FPS games of the flat-polygon era include Faceball 2000, and MIDI Maze (for Atari ST), notable for its networked multiplayer feature (using the MIDI interface, of all things).

Other early examples of first person games are Rescue on Fractalus, The Eidolon, Way Out and of course various simulators such as Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The first first person shooter with colored walls, floors is probably Hovertank 3D (April 1991), but textured walls and the concept of showing the player's hand only appeared in Catacomb 3D (a.k.a. The Catacomb Abyss) (late 1991).

But it wasn't until Wolfenstein 3D (1992) from id Software the term first-person shooter had to be invented. Wolfenstein 3D was shortly supplanted (1993) by the genre-defining DOOM, which introduced network multiplayer capabilities and thereby guaranteed the persistence of the FPS in gaming formats; the real thrill of these already-atmospheric games comes from blasting colleagues, strangers, spouses etc.

Of historical note, among the early heirs of Spasim were First Person Shooter 3D games such as:


Some groups have blamed first person shooters - the usual poster boy for video game violence - for certain spree killings, particularly using sniper rifles. For example, there was much contreversy in the United States that the Columbine High School massacre was a result of the attackers having played a great deal of the FPS DOOM. In fact, one of the attackers created levels for DOOM, which can still be found on the internet to this day as the Harris levels. Years later, there was much speculation in the UK media that the Beltway sniper attacks were inspired by first-person shooters and games such as Grand Theft Auto that have first-person shooter elements.

As of yet, there is no clinical proof that violent video games such as FPSs contribute to violent behavior. Gathering actual evidence for such a subject, however, is difficult and hard to verify. Some psychologists claim that such games actually prevent violent behavior by providing a safe outlet for aggression. But opponents to this view counter that the aggressive behavior is actually encouraged by this genre of games. Today the controversy rages on, with little hope of a resolution.

Most FPS games have a voluntary ESRB rating of T (for Teen) or M (for Mature audiences), but sale of these games to children was not moderated or enforced until late in 2003, when it was announced that a number of major retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which account for a large share of video game sales, would begin restricting sales of "M"-rated games to people above the age of 17. There is no national law prohibiting sale of such games to children, but bills have recently been proposed that would prohibit the sale of games to customers under the ERSB rating's age. Video game industry professionals oppose such a law, citing that the ESRB is a voluntary rating and similar rated materials are not regulated, such as the MPAA film rating system's minumum age for movie patrons.

List of Notable First-person Shooters

The following is an attempt at listing the more "revolutionary", "ground-breaking", and "influential" games from this genre.

Additional games

See also: list of computer and video games