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Every year the gaming charts are dominated by a slew of games that all revolve around the same key concept – pointing guns at people/objects/things and pulling the trigger to earn points. Some games are very graphic with it, others are more comedic with it. But they are all basically the digital equivalent of air rifle ranges at fairgrounds, point at the target, shoot and earn points and prizes for doing so. The gameplay is often repetitive, some games companies release effectively the same game year on year with slightly improved graphics and slightly different weapons and abilities.
The reason they are so popular is the multiplayer aspect of them. It takes it from being just a repetitive slog of pointing and shooting into a very social activity. Most shooting games have a multiplayer mode – The first game to really show people how fun this is was Goldeneye on the N64 which allowed you to play against each other split screened in your living room. Since then games have developed better and better ways of allowing people to play against (and with) each other – testing their skills against other equally skilled opponents and its seen as necessary that modern shooting games have an online mode these days.
The multiplayer often has a selection of different modes:
- Fully co-operative – where it is you and others against the programmed enemies usually increasing in difficulty or needing ever more complex tactics to beat. There’s even a mode called a ‘horde mode’ where you try to survive against many enemies all coming at you at once.
- Free for all – every man/woman/robot fish (yes in time splitters 2 you could be a robot fish) for themselves. Whoever is the last person standing, or the person with the most points after killing the others wins. The current fad subset of this is Battle Royale – 100 players on a map at once, only 1 person (or team of 4) can win.
- Team-based – 2 or more teams face off against each other racing to see who reaches the objective first. That objective could be capturing an enemy flag, capturing a position, painting the map all one colour, killing the enemy team, or getting the most kills as a team.
When you are playing with other people the events become much more satisfying. On fully co-operative you are watching each other’s backs, taking the mick out of each other for silly mistakes and you get to have a good laugh together. You learn to work as a team, pre-empting the others’ actions. It’s different for Free for all modes – on those it is all about adrenaline and practising skills, pushing yourself to get better and better. The satisfaction of winning and the digital rewards you receive – often in the form of in game skills you can use, or points you can use to get items that you can use to show off your prowess in game (often called skins as they change what the ‘skin’ of your character is). Team-based gives a combination of both of these and is undoubtedly the most popular category in the list for games to use. There are huge competitions called E-Sports events usually built around team based shooters where the winning teams can receive millions of dollars, it is slowly being accepted that gaming at this level is a sport as you require many hours of practise and very highly tuned reflexes.
These multiplayer things are not solely the realm of shooters, however shooters are the games that most commonly have all 3 types. Anyone can get used to playing them and can see an improvement in themselves as they play. They trigger the same endorphins as team based sports do and go a long way towards helping people learn to socialise…..if monitored correctly.
This is where many shooting games fall flat for people. The communities built around them can be incredibly toxic and filled with trolls who like nothing better than making you feel bad for not being as good as them. It was in the shooter Halo that the act of ‘tea-bagging’ became a thing, where you mock the player you just defeated by squatting repeatedly over their corpse. I wont explain any further why it’s called teabagging, I am sure you can figure that out for yourself!
Luckily the games companies are becoming wise to it. There are multiple ways to report people who are being rude or being trolls and they will often get banned when enough reports come through about them. Blizzard is particularly good for this as they have clear rules of conduct for anyone in their E-sports competition. Others solve it by not allowing any voice communication at all and limiting you to pre-set sentences or pictures. As a parent you can also set up your console so your children can only talk to people on their friends list. Though be warned you may still find shouting and bad language being used as the adrenaline will be pumping and it is similar to sports setting where that’s also quite common if not adequately policed. I must admit I am guilty of this as well, particularly when I am having a bad session or if I am against people who are much better than I am!
In summary shooting games aren’t all that bad. They encourage fine motor skills, hand eye co-ordination and teamwork skills. The problem comes from the online community and from the graphic nature of some games. However not all games are graphic, so here are some suggestions of games for your child/teen as well as some games to avoid unless they are 18+.
Reminder – see disclosure at top of post about the following links
Splatoon 2 – a team-based shooting game where the aim is to paint as much of the stage in your teams colour as possible. You can knock out enemy players using paint as well, but there is no death. PEGI rates it as 7+ though it may be better for 10+ as the controls require complex hand eye coordination that under 10s may struggle with.
Destiny 2 – my personal favourite shooting game, it is fully co-operative with only 6 very small missions forcing you to play alone. In it you play as one of 3 ‘classes’ each of which have different abilities. It has a strong story and a fun player versus player mode – unfortunately it isn’t quite as fun as it’s predecessor Destiny but it may get better over time. PEGI is 16+ as the enemies are clearly humanoid however I would say it is definitely suitable for 13+ – just be aware of voice chat and make sure the settings only allow friends to talk.
Overwatch – a hero shooter where you pick your character and your abilities are based on the character chosen. The game modes revolve around the attacking team escorting a bomb into the defending teams base before the timer runs out and the defending team trying to stop them. PEGI rates this as 16+ due to the fact the characters are noticeably humanoid. I would say it is more 13+ and suitable for slightly younger with parents discretion.
Fortnite – the battle royale you are probably fed up of hearing about! 100 players enter with no items or weapons, they must find them, build defences and then be the final person to survive. PEGI rates this as 16+ as the shooting is against clearly humanoid characters however all the violence is cartoony, the terminology isn’t that violent you knock out enemies rather than kill them and there isn’t any visible blood. I would say it is 13+ with younger at the parent’s discretion. The battle royale mode is freely available – hence no link.
Star Wars Battlefront II – re-enact key battles from the Star Wars Universe and have the ability to be heroes or villains for short periods of time with powerful abilities. There are various game modes allowing you to play as just small teams, huge set battles or in vehicles. WARNING: This game is the poster-child for in game microtransactions – where you can buy things using real money. Ensure your account is not set up to allow automatic payments! Again a PEGI 16 game but I would say 13+ with younger at parents discretion – it basically allows kids to re-enact battles like they would with their toys. When buying make sure to go for this box art as there is a much older version called Battlefront II
Halo– this is quite an old series now and is a poster-game for the Xbox – so much so the latest Xbox One has a tiny version of the main character stencilled into it. It is renowned for its great storyline and multiplayer. New games in the series are still released occasionally. You take on the role of Master Chief, a genetically engineered super soldier as he fights to protect humanity from the Covenant – an alien race. As with the other suggestions this is 16 on the PEGI ratign but I would say it is acceptable for 13+.
Call of Duty – every year there is a new Call of Duty game released, and each one tries to one up the previous on its graphics, its realistic kill shots, and how gorily dramatic the story can be. In modern warfare 2 it forced you to gun down innocent civilians in an airport to prove yourself to a terrorist cell, in advanced warfare at the end of the very first mission you watch in first person as a robot tears your arm and leg off and beats you with them….definitely not for kids! However the multiplayer is very good and challenging and worth a try if you are old enough.
Battlefield – As with call of duty these are released every year, and try to one up each other each time with its realism. Again not suitable for children but good fun for adults.
Doom – Really fun game where you play as a soldier in space having to fight off a demonic invasion in the bloodiest and goriest ways possible.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds – this is the one that started the Battle Royale theme, it works a lot like fortnite but with realistic graphics and without the ability to build things. The graphic nature keeps it an 18+ for me.