The Story That Drives the FPS

John Scalzi “points out on his blog”: that the Writers Guild of America has created a new award for videogame writing. This brings into sharp relief again one of the elements that has me so hooked on the Halo series.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m really not an FPS gamer, at least not as a rule. There are only two FPS games that I play with any regularity – Halo (duh) and Rainbow Six: Vegas. Before Halo, I had played a little Duke Nukem multiplayer in college (and got smoked every time) and toyed a little with Wolfenstein. I quickly gave up on both. I never could quite manage the controls – using a keyboard and mouse in smooth coordination was always beyond my reach – and frankly, the games themselves never really inspired me to master them.

The first – and only – FPS I ever fell in love with was Halo, which surprised me as much as it did my friends who knew how much I disliked FPS games. So what made the difference? For starters, all the controls were contained in a single controller that actually had logically placed triggers for firing weapons. It took me a little time to get used to manipulating two sticks for movement, but that was actually a small hurdle.

What _really_ gripped me with Halo, however, was the story. Here finally was an FPS that actually had a fascinating storyline that gave some reason for the madness of fighting one’s way through hordes of enemies. Duke Nukem never had than a shallow story at best, and Wolfenstein’s story – well, I never played long enough with that one to know what kind of story it had.

_Halo: Combat Evolved_ grabbed your attention right from the first cutscene and held it all the way through the game as the UNSC and Master Chief explored this huge ring-link structure and uncovered some of the most ancient mysteries of the universe. This story has caused the formation of avid fan communities that continue to push Halo to the top of the bestseller and most actively played lists in the gaming industry. The storyline that powers these games is robust and lush, providing enough material for four novels. Between the story and the community that sprang up around it, not to mention the way that Bungie continues to revolutionize gaming, it should be no wonder why Halo is one of the most successful FPS series to date.

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