How FPSs Affect the Brain

By Dia Ascenzi

First Person Shooters (FPS) often get a bad rap as a less sophisticated type of game compared to the slower-paced RPGs and the real-time strategy “war-chess” games like StarCraft. One of the most reaction-intensive types of games, FPSs are associated more with younger gamers, and are assumed to require less intelligence, and less abstract thinking.

It’s true that anyone who has played Call of Duty multiplayer online is well aware that the stereotype is not entirely without merit—there are plenty of nasally 11-year-olds eager to tell you what they plan on doing to your mother—but every community has its negative elements at the lower-skilled levels. Anyone starting out in League of Legends or Dota can confirm that bad behavior abounds in video games of all shapes and sizes.

But not only are FPS games dismissed without merit, there are aspects to the specific style of gameplay that real, rigorous science has shown to be especially beneficial compared to other games.

FPS Gaming: A History

The first actual FPS game was Maze War.  Debuting in the ‘70s, this game set the stage for FPSs in the future. It was very, very basic, to be sure. The player was only able to move one square block at a time, and only left, right, forward, and backward, much like a boardgame. But hey, it was a start.

As FPSs became more popular in the ‘90s, huge titles like Doom and Goldeneye 007 really began to set the stage for what FPS games could be. Doom was the first game to successfully integrate multiplayer mode into gaming. This alone played a huge part in the growth of FPS gaming, and all gaming, for that matter.

Goldeneye 007 went on to perfect the capabilities of FPS gaming. Released in 1997, it eventually became the best-selling Nintendo 64 game in the U.S.. It was the first FPS to have an especially extensive single-player story mode, and features like the sniper rifle and headshots. After these games became ridiculously popular (and they still are in 2016), FPS gaming would forever be a huge staple in the gaming industry.

With the growth of multiplayer gaming that started with FPSs, LAN development became really popular. LAN (Local Area Network) parties were a chance for gamers to get together, with their own consoles or computers, and play a game together on a larger scale, against or alongside each other. This reduced the need for games to include great AI development, as developers wanted players to play against each other, not the AI. This left even more room for perfecting gameplay and multiplayer capabilities.

With the growth of online capabilities in gaming, online competitive play has since become the go-to form of FPS gaming. If you are playing Call of Duty, Halo, or Counterstrike, you are almost definitely playing against other people online, not single-player. These games, along with team-based FPSs like Team Fortress 2, have now become the gold standard for FPS gaming.

FPS Good for the Brain?

30 years of studying the cognitive effects of gaming has left us with some pretty good knowledge of what games affect your brain, and in what ways. Gaming has shown a diverse range of downstream performance enhancements, as presented in this review, such as spatial visualization, visuospatial attention, visual search, and temporal order judgments. Basically, gaming allows us to learn and exercise skills that would be pretty hard to exercise in everyday life, and FPS does this better than any other type of game.

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