Inspecting Video Game Historiography Through Critical Lens: Etymology of the First-Person Shooter Genreby Carl Therrien
Documenting, understanding and transcoding the history of games into narrative form is a daunting task. Confronted with such an enormous quantity of traces, historians are naturally inclined to rely on testimonies and subjective accounts for some aspects of their narrative. As Paul Ricoeur pointed out, voluntary witnesses must be confronted with involuntary witnesses â" all the other traces â" in order to properly document, explain and format history into a proper narrative. In this paper, the first-person shooter genre and its integration in journalistic and academic accounts are inspected through a rigorous etymological study. The genre has been associated with a major cultural shift that corresponds with the release of popular titles from id Software at the beginning of the 1990s. Through an in-depth inspection of the available documents, this paper highlights the problematic cultural biases that permeate historical accounts, and demonstrates that engaging the complexity of the mediumâs history can lead to strikingly different stories.
Keywords: Video game history, Historiography, Etymology, First-person shooter, 3-D, Virtual Reality, Technological attraction
âAssuredly, testimonies represent only the class of âvoluntary witnessesâ, whose empire on history must be limited with the help of the âinvoluntary witnessesâ that are all the other tracesâ (Paul Ricoeur, Temps et rÃ©cit, 1983, p.144; freely translated)
In a recent New York Times feature, Daniel Engber sets out to answer the question: âWho Made That First-Person-Shooter Game?â (2014). The article celebrates the release in the early 1990s of id Softwareâs Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Doom (1993), and more specifically the perspective âshiftâ they are said to have introduced in the video game world. âThat shift changed the way that people playedâ, proclaims Engber, echoing John Carmackâs self-congratulatory statements quoted throughout. This is, after all, part of the âinnovationâ series of the journal.
Video game history has been documented thanks to the availability and generosity of key historical figures to a large extent. Steven Kentâs Ultimate History (2001) builds on Leonard Hermannâs Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Video Games (1994) with more than 500 interviews. For Replay (2010), Tristan Donovan met with more than 140 game developers and entrepreneurs. Even more specific histories such as Jamie Russellâs account of movie related games are documented through dozens of encounters (2012). When it comes to media histories, video game historians enjoy a rare luxury: they still have access to a vast amount of individuals who are willing to be interviewed, and otherwise assist in the process of documenting the evolution of the medium. But as the opening quote from Ricoeur points out, voluntary witnesses must be confronted with other relevant traces that might not be so generous with words, and whose meaning must be deciphered. Ideally, such inspections should establish the foundations for the second and third phases of any historical endeavour: to explain, and to construct appropriate narratives (Ricoeur, 2000).
In 2005, Erkki Huhtamo noted that many of the journalistic accounts of video game history fall into the âchronicle eraâ of the discipline. According to him, such accounts fail to unearth and explain the cultural implications and lineages inscribed within the objects. A first major historical effort from academics emerged in 2003; Digital Play did address the cultural aspects of the phenomenon and their constant interaction with the circuits of technological innovation and industrial growth, albeit with obvious restrictions in terms of scope and acuity. In recent years, more scholarly attention has been devoted to understanding the cultural history of games. From 2011 onwards, The Play it Again project in Australia paved the way for the current interest in local game histories that were typically excluded from major historical accounts . At a recent symposium on game history, Tristan Donovan reflected back on the process of writing Replay, and on the necessity to integrate alternative lineages in the mediumâs history (Donovan, 2015).
Local and alternate lineages contribute to the maturation of the field; they allow us to confront dominant narratives and shed light on their underlying mind-set. This paper seeks to further develop our understanding of cultural biases that permeate the way video game history has been written. In spite of the critiques that will be presented, it must be acknowledged that all available accounts provide useful foundations for further research. Documenting, explaining and transcoding the history of games into narrative form is in itself a daunting task. Confronted with such an enormous quantity of traces, historians are naturally inclined to rely on testimonies and subjective accounts for some aspects of their narrative. As this paper will demonstrate, an in-depth inspection of the available documents can lead to strikingly different stories. For the sake of space and available resources, the argument will be restricted to a very specific genre, one that has attracted a lot of attention in the history of games and in scholarly efforts, and one that is commonly associated with an important shift in video game history: the first-person shooter.
A different point of view
It represents one of the great consensus for those interested in the history of video games : enthusiasts, journalists and academics all seem to agree that Wolfenstein 3D and Doom mark a turning point. For better and for worse, FPS games quickly became the poster child of video game culture, and the genre has been increasingly present in the media landscape. The amount of products marketed with the generic label and the heavy serialisation of FPS franchises are but a few indicators of the genreâs popularity within the community, and many elements have been put forward to explain this success story. The FPS genre embodies the dedication of computer engineers to develop and refine a lifelike simulation of visual perception. It is also a privileged outlet for consequence-free violent behavior and has been at the center of moral outcries for this celebration of destruction. According to Bob Rehak, graphical sophistication and visceral action are largely accountable for the âpowerful immersive effectâ associated with the genre (2008, p. 187).
In game studies, first-person shooters have been the focus of many contributions. Already in 2002, four chapters of the anthology Screenplay. Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces take interest in the genre. Its textual presence as the only generic label in the table of contents is rather surprising, since its visual aspect â" a continuous point of view shot, in cinematic terms â" is one of the least common in mainstream cinema. Alexander Galloway dedicated a significant portion of his Essays to the âOrigins of the First-Person Shooterâ (2006), and factual elements on precursors and influences are readily accessible in journalistic accounts (Donovan, 2010). More recently, The FPS became one of the only genres to be singled out as the focus of a full anthology (Voorhees et al., 2012). Discussions on the concept of avatar have found an interesting case study with first-person shooters, as one can see in Victor Navarroâs contribution (2012), in Michael Hitchensâ survey of FPS protagonists (2011), all the way back to Rehakâs contribution in the Video Game Theory Reader (2008). Here again the focus seems paradoxical: the visual presence of the avatar, in comparison with non-first-person games, is quite minimal. As the Rehak quote in the previous paragraph made obvious, the genre is often associated with the popular concept of immersion, which is commonly defined as the perceptual illusion of non-mediation.
Ostensibly, the FPS genre has received a lot of historical and scholarly attention. The goal of this paper is not to discuss theoretical or psychological models of immersion or refine our factual knowledge of the genreâs history. While the introductory quote from the New York Times feature might suggest historical blindness, the questions I set out to answer were built from knowledge that is readily accessible within the gaming community. As this paper will make perfectly clear, the refinement of anthropomorphic vision and shooting scenarios merged in video game history a long time before the commercial explosion of id Software games at the beginning of the 1990s. In fact, game configurations that correspond to our modern understanding of âfirst-person shooterâ can be traced back to traditions predating video games by decades in some aspects. In this context, one might wonder why the expression âfirst-person shooterâ surfaced much later, what other expressions were commonly used to talk about similar game configurations, and what pressures from the encompassing game culture triggered such a change. One might also question why popular narratives of the genre history focus primarily on idâs games as a point of origin, and seek to understand the underlying cultural biases that are becoming naturalized through this selection. In short, our goal is threefold: to document the textual dissemination of the âFPSâ generic label in marketing elements and in the specialized press; to explore the lineage of games associated with âfirst personâ, âfirst-person shooterâ and related expressions in order to reconstruct the different meanings these expressions convey in the history of games; to use this study of etymology to reflect on the current state of the genreâs historiography.
Considering the goals of this project, several textual sources and games had to be inspected thoroughly. A significant timeframe to conduct the investigation has been delineated: the emergence of commercial video games in the 1970s, and the solidification of the FPS as a popular game genre (1996) . The research protocols described in this section greatly benefited from the newfound accessibility of peri/paratextual elements such as game boxes and magazines from this era; it was conducted in part in UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©alâs video games lab, and in virtual repositories of game related artefacts . These repositories rely on the dedication of video game fans and amateur preservationists, who painstakingly scan old magazines and refine emulators in spite of a troublesome legal environment.
In order to establish a corpus of relevant games and document the textual dissemination of the âFPSâ generic label, two methods of historical inspection were devised. Drawing a line from the original textual sources to the contemporary documents that look back on the genreâs history, each method appears to run in opposite direction. First, contemporary accounts of the first-person shooter genre â" such as fan-made listings on YouTube, journalistic features, and academic books â" were reviewed. However, relying on contemporary documents discussing the FPS genre would likely provide incomplete and circular results, and a second method sought to provide a complimentary look through the chronological inspection of previews, reviews and advertisements from several video games magazines, starting in 1981 and ending in 1996.
Most of the FPS listings have adopted the format of the âtopâ or âbest ofâ, which originated in the printed press and proliferated on websites and on YouTube in recent years. These listings are concerned only with the epitome of the genre at the time of their publication, with relatively few nominees (typically 20 or 50); most of the titles are associated with contemporary franchises such as Call of Duty, Crysis, Half-Life, Halo, and Resistance. Initial analysis of these listings revealed very few titles from the historical timeframe under investigation; save for Duck Hunt (Nintendo, 1984) and the first System Shock (Looking Glass Studios, 1994), only Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were singled out. In this context, Wikipediaâs âList of first-person shooter gamesâ became one of the most useful documents, with 42 titles predating Wolfenstein 3D, and 154 released prior to 1997. In the case of scholarly literature, 15 papers and book chapters with a clear emphasis on first-person shooters have been consulted. In order to unearth more contemporary associations between specific games and the FPS label, the indexes of six general-interest game studies monographs have been inspected . Major historical efforts such as Kentâs Ultimate History and Donovanâs Replay have also been included in this part of the research. 87 games identified as âfirst-person shootersâ emerged from this inspection, and few titles released before 1997 were part of the lot. Here again and by a large margin, Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are the most common occurrences. On top of id Software games, only System Shock, Marathon (Bungie, 1994), Alien Vs. Predator (Rebellion, 1994), Descent (Parallax Software, 1995) and Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996) were mentioned. However, many associations between older games and âfirst-personâ have been singled out.
With the corpus clearly delineated, marketing elements for each of the games were examined, either in the video game lab or online. Arcade flyers and the original boxes have been prioritized for this part of the inspection, including regional variations in many cases. These elements typically contain a lot of text; descriptions were carefully read in order to detect potential uses of the generic label, and note other similar expressions. Once new associations emerged in scholarly literature (for instance, with shooting galleries or with the dungeon crawler genre), further research was conducted on the collaborative database Mobygames; marketing elements from similar games published in the same era were reviewed. Mobygames also includes a â1st-personâ keyword under the category âperspectiveâ, and this feature allowed for a better understanding of the contemporary meanings of the expression.
In order to complement the investigation of this corpus, several magazines from the specialized video game press have been inspected. Three research assistants have been asked to note occurrences of âfirst-personâ, âFPSâ, âDoom likeâ and their French equivalents in three long-lasting publications: Computer Gaming World (United States, 1981-2006, abbreviated CGW), Computer and Video Games (United Kingdom, 1981-2004, abbreviated C&VG), and Tilt (France, 1982-1994) . Computer Gaming World is dedicated almost entirely to games edited on personal computers, while the other two are platform agnostics. The video game lab provided scanned versions of these magazines, and the visual documents had been previously converted to a searchable file format thanks to optical character recognition. However, OCR has proven unreliable with the more unusual page setting seen in the press: fonts are often crooked, colored or treated in ways that make it impossible to decipher for the algorithms. Thankfully, research assistants were instructed to visually inspect every major feature of their magazine (such as previews, reviews and special articles) up to 1986 in the course of a broader research project on press coverage. They were able to unearth early occurrences of relevant expressions that were not picked up by the automated research. Additional magazines such as Gamepro, Video Games & Computer Entertainment, and the French Joystick have been inspected, but without the same degree of scrutiny. Since the occurrences from the press encompass a large number of reviews, previews and other articles, these features have not been included in the reference list; magazines will be quoted directly in text with all the relevant publication information.
Documenting the textual dissemination of âfirst-personâ / âfirst-person shooterâ through these two protocols represented the first step to conduct a deeper etymological investigation. In order to fully understand the semantic shifts of these terms at any given time in the history of the medium, connections between the textual occurrences and specific gameplay components had to be understood in context. Thus, games that have been associated with the genre had to be experienced to some extent. This created a significant amount of information to process for a single researcher. Moreover, many of these games (such as mainframe games from the 1970s and electro-mechanical games) are not readily available. Consequently, firsthand experience with the original games has been supplemented with emulation and audiovisual archives. Although audiovisual traces do not provide firsthand access and are prone to many distortions (even if one only considers the audiovisual aspects), it has been argued that they represent a great resource to explore a wider scope of game history for researchers (Newman, 2012).
Following this multifaceted archeological inspection, the textual dissemination of the FPS generic label has been partially documented, along with many shifts in the meaning of the term âfirst personâ. Furthermore, a textual network of related expressions has been established; it includes expressions such as â3-Dâ, âperspectiveâ, âvirtual realityâ, âcockpit viewâ, and âsmooth scrollingâ. The confrontation between our contemporary understanding of the FPS and the original discursive framing of the games lead to a series of problematic observations about the construction of the genreâs history. Most notably, it became clear in the course of the research that there is a contemporary tendency to associate the categories âfirst personâ and âfirst-person shooterâ with games that were never or rarely labelled with such terms to begin with, and that the journalistic and academic accounts of the genre history seem biased in ways that have not been acknowledged. Thanks to a proper etymological investigation and a deeper understanding of the textual network, this paper sheds light on these biases and interrogates the discursive construction of the genre history.
The shifting meanings of âfirst-personâ that surfaced throughout the etymological investigation pointed towards many design innovations in the history of games. The paper has been organized with such components in mind: each section is built from an association with âfirst-person / first-person shooterâ found in literature, and then goes on to explore how similar objects were encapsulated by discourse. Although this account will constantly jump back and forth in time, the organization of the paper has been designed to evoke a seemingly logical and linear technological evolution, from the early developments of game visuals to the wildest aspirations associated with Virtual Reality devices. As the paper progress through this illusory reconstruction, many innovations will be presented: the advent of perspective in video game graphics, the emergence of z-axis scrolling in action games, the development of active exploration of 3D game spaces, and the ambivalence towards simple âshootingâ mechanics at the time id Software games were introduced.
Monocular Perspective Reinvented
In Guns, Grenades, and Grunts, Mark J. P. Wolfâs historical account of shooting games states that one could consider âshooting galleries on carnival fairgroundâ as the very first examples of the FPS genre (2012b, p.26; see also p.31). Coin-operated mechanical shooting galleries have existed long before the advent of video games; there are known examples of such machines dating back as far as 1895 (Automatic shooting range, by Mechanical Trading Co.) and electromechanical shooting games flooded the arcades after the success of Shoot the Bear (Seaburg, 1947): Safari Gun (Williams, 1954), Shooting Gallery (Exhibit Supply, 1954), Periscope (Sega, 1968) are just a few noteworthy examples. Obviously, shooting galleries also predate the development of coin-operated entertainment. In a sense, these machines were played in âfirst-personâ: pointing a fake gun at simulated targets involved the body and the eyesight in a way that is very similar to the actual experience of shooting, defined by the same basic skills of lining up a reticule with a target and timing the trigger and reload actions (Wolf 2012a, p.569). However, one would be hard-pressed to find such a description of shooting galleries in the available arcade flyers; it appears that the âfirst-personâ nature of this experience was too implicit to be distinguished through language.
In contemporary literature and databases, video game transpositions of the shooting gallery formula are commonly associated with the FPS genre. For instance, Bernard Perron refers to the FMV arcade games produced by American Laser Games as âfirst-person shootersâ in his account of interactive movies (2008, p.129). On the Mobygames database, most shooting galleries are tagged with the keyword â1st-personâ under âperspectiveâ, and âshooterâ under âthemeâ. Interestingly, the original arcade flyers for live-action based galleries â" from Nintendoâs Wild Gunman (1974) to American Laser Games titles â" did not single out the use of cinematic âpoint of viewâ shots in any way. While no similar expression could be found in the available arcade flyers, one notable exception was found in Tilt, where the home conversion of Operation Wolf (Taito, 1987) is described with the French equivalent (âpremiÃ¨re personneâ, January 1989, No 62, p.49). In 1987, Taitoâs classic used large bitmap graphics that were able to remediate perspective drawing techniques to some extent .
During the 1980s, the introduction of graphical adventure games created a fascination for the increasingly faithful reproduction of classical drawing techniques in games. According to Wolfâs account of the genre in The Video Game Explosion, the graphical aspect of Hi-Res Adventure #1: Mystery House (On-Line Systems, 1980) and other early examples âdid introduce a first-person perspective into the games, which helped to engage the player more and compensate for the lack of a graphical user interfaceâ (2008, p.83). Here again, this association is corroborated on the Mobygames page for the game; â1st-personâ is noted for many graphical adventure games in which the scenes are depicted following the basic rules of monocular perspective. Interestingly, many scenes in Sierraâs Hi-Res Adventure series feature a point of view situated above the typical human sightline, especially in indoors scene. The full screen drawings in The Hobbit (Beam Software, 1982) or DÃ©jÃ Vu: A Nightmare Comes True (ICOM, 1985) were easy to distinguish from the typical look of games made from 2D tile sets, which was either perfectly flat or included contradictory points of view. However, no mention of âfirst-personâ could be found on the original packaging for these games. Adventure internationalâs graphical adaptations of their original text adventures typically put forward the ever convenient âhi-resâ technological marker, one of the most pervasive marketing tools in video game history. Following their initial series of Hi-res adventures, Sierra On-Line used â3-D animated adventureâ and âIncredible 3-D graphicsâ frequently in the marketing of their games, for instance in the 1987 edition of Kingâs Quest and Police Quest. In the press, a few occurrences emerge at the turn of the 1990s: Annie Katzâs 1989 article on the âThe Adventure Revolutionâ does mention the first-person perspective as contributing to the excitement of DÃ©jÃ Vu (Video Games & Computer Entertainment no 8, September 1989, p.81).
In a recurrent printed ad for the TRS-80 adventure games Asyluym, Deathmaze and Labyrinth (Med Systems), the graphical aspect is described as a âratâs eye viewâ (C&VG no 2, December 1981, p.73). Natural perception is mimicked more accurately in these games thanks to a vanishing point situated at the center of the graphical depiction. The arrays of simple oblique lines and âsquare by squareâ spatial exploration are reminiscent of Coleyâs mainframe game Maze War (1974), one of the earliest games associated with the FPS genre. The peculiar rodent reference can only be understood in the context of a broader discursive network. âMaze gameâ was a common generic label in the early 1980s, associated with arcade games such as Pac-Man (Namco, 1980), but also with textual and graphical adventure games where players had to find their way in labyrinthine spaces. Games that represented these labyrinths with monocular perspective had a very abstract quality to them that evoked the artificial maze settings used for animal testing. This also happens to be the case for early computer role-playing games â" often called âadventureâ at the time â" of the dungeon crawler ilk. The dungeon scenes in Akalabeth (Garriott, 1979) and Ultima (1981) follow the basic composition rules of perspective, and feature âstep by stepâ spatial exploration. This design choice had a lot of influence on computer RPGs over the next 20 years, with long-lasting series such as Wizardry (Sir Tech, 1981-2001), The Bardâs Tale (Interplay Productions, 1985-1988), Might & Magic (New World Computing, 1986-2002), Ishar (Silmarils, 1990-1994) and Eye of the Beholder (Westwood, 1991-1995). Although all these are often referred to as âfirst-personâ experiences in contemporary literature and databases, most were not described as such on the original boxes and in printed ads. Through the Ziploc bag, Akalabethâs cover piece brags about its âperfect perspectiveâ (fig. 1), but the preferred expression for most of the dungeon crawler genre throughout the 1980s was â3-Dâ, as one can see on the back covers of the first games in the Wizardry and Might & Magic series (New World Computing, 1986).
As we move closer to the 1990s, computer RPGs were more commonly described as first-person perspective games both in marketing and in the press. Following Legacy of the Ancients, The Legend of Blacksilver (Quest Soft, 1988) was sold with the promise of âIncredibly realistic first person views and 3-D effectsâ. In 1990, Circuitâs Edge â" a text-heavy cyberpunk role playing game created by Westwood and Infocom â" was presented as a â1st-person mystery adventureâ. Xenomorphâs back cover singled out the âfull first-person perspectiveâ (Pandora, 1990), along with the outstanding graphics and animation. Some catalogue ads for Might & Magic III (New World Computing, 1991) also mentioned the first-person perspective (PC Games, September/ October 1991, p.37), even though the studio refrained from using the expression. For their landmark Eye of the Beholder series, Westwood studios decided to highlight the â3D âyou are thereâ point of viewâ on its lavish packages. Incidentally, many occurrences of âfirst-personâ were found in the press for Eye of the Beholder (CGW no 81, April 1991 p. 48; CGW no 83, June 1991, p. 14), and it became customary to describe dungeon crawlers in similar terms following the gameâs release. In a retrospective overview of nominees for their hall of fame feature, CGWâs team revisit many landmark entries in the genre, stating that âDungeon Master pioneered first-person perspective role-playing with extremely high resolution graphicsâ, further adding âMight & Magic preceded Dungeon Master and offered a first-person view, as wellâ (CGW no 86, September 1991, p.128). This represents one of the consistent associations that came to be found in the course of this project. As the next section will demonstrate, this understanding of âfirst-personâ was challenged by another common association that became prevalent in the press at the turn of the 1990s.
Figure 1. Perfect perspective (Akalabeth, Richard Garriott, 1979). Source: www.mobygames.com
Exploring the Deep
During our inspection of dungeon crawler games, the expression â3-D scrollingâ surfaced on a few occasions (The Bardâs Tale, 1985; Legacy of the Ancients, Quest Soft, 1987). âScrollingâ became a common technological feature to put forward in the context of action games such as platformers and shoot âem ups throughout the 1980s. Nonetheless, these occurrences are surprising in the context of the dungeon crawler genre, where the âview by viewâ exploration of space is rather elliptical compared to vertical or horizontal scrolling games. The idea of smooth scrolling on a represented depth axis brings us closer to the active visual exploration of a 3-D space, an essential component of our contemporary FPS experience. Long before the elliptical exploration of early RPGs, video game engineers have come up with many techniques to implement this kind of visual illusion. In 1976, Atariâs Night Driver used a dynamic array of white squares to simulate driving on a sinuous road from the perspective of the driver. Arcade owners were told in the flyer that the machine âplaces the driver in the cockpit of his own Sebring type racerâ. Night Driver was likely inspired by a similar German game, NÃ¼rburgring1, designed by Reiner Foerst (1976); the original flyer pointed out the ânaturgetreuem perspektivischenâ of the game, which translates to âlifelike perspectiveâ. In this section, a strong association between âfirst-personâ and vehicular games will be presented, along with a remarkable confusion between what is now considered third-person and first-person perspectives.
In 1982, the popular Pole Position (Namco, 1982) arcade game used the âpresence through perspectiveâ rhetoric to sell the game: âcomputerized image in perspective gives the player the feeling he is there, at the race trackâ. Racing or flying games from the electromechanical era such as Segaâs Jet Rocket (1970), which already integrated steering wheels or yokes, held similar claims (fig. 2). Descriptive text in arcade flyers often took the time to highlight the novel depth effects: in Taitoâs Interceptor (1976), âEnemy aircraft increase and decrease in sizeâ; In Starhawk (Cinematronics, 1977), âships move in all directionâ. Star Wars (Atari, 1983) went one step further and associated the experience of its dynamic âcockpit viewâ vector display to a complete identification with the popular hero of the series: âThe player becomes LUKE SKYWALKER at the controls of his X-WING fighterâ. But here again, typical âpilotâ games using perspective such as Starhawk and Speed Freak (Vectorbeam, 1979) were sold with â3-Dâ as a marker of technological attraction in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, a shooting game heavily inspired by Starhawk and Atariâs Star Raiders (1979) was introduced in C&VG with an early equivalent of the âfirst-person shooterâ generic label; in 3D Galax, âGremlin has gone one stage further and turned the 2D blast from the past, into a first person zapper that puts you in the cockpit of an experimental Astroblitz craftâ (emphasis mine; C&VGno 73, November 1987, p.28).
Figure 2. Puts you in the pilot seat (Jet Rocket, Sega, 1970). Source: http://www.pinrepair.com/arcade/segajet.htm
Towards the end of the 1980s, racing games and shooters that correspond more specifically to our contemporary definition of âthird-personâ games came to be associated with âfirst-personâ consistently in the press. This is one of the most unexpected meanings to surface during our inspection of historical documents. In the August 1988 issue of Computer Gaming World, Segaâs classic Afterburner is presented as using âthe same pseudo-first person perspective as most driving games (Pole Position, Out Run, etc.)â (no 50, p.47); in all these games, the vehicle is clearly visible at all times on the screen. Similarly, issue 87 states that Thunder Blade âis displayed in first person 3D, rather like Afterburnerâ (no 87, January 1989, p.22). In his EGM cover story âNext Generation Gamingâ, Steve Harris describes Victory Run for the Turbografx-16 (Hudson, 1987) and Super Thunderblade (Sega, 1988) for the Genesis as âfirst personâ, even though one can clearly see the car and chopper on the screenshots included in the article (no 2, July 1989, p.35, 37). Similar confusion also occurs outside of these classic vehicular scenarios. It was rather surprising to discover that the bicycle challenge in The Games (Epyx, 1988) is represented âas first person 3D view, from slightly behind the cyclistâ (C&VG no 86, December 1988, p.63), and that the various skiing contests in Downhill Challenge (Microids, 1989) involve a âfirst person perspective from right behind the skier so that the player must react from the same visual perspective as the skierâ (CGW no 58, April 1989, p.45-46). Even Access Softwareâs golf simulation Links â" in which the golfer is visible at all times â" has been presented as a first-person experience (CGW no 80, March 1991, p.10). For these journalists, the visual effect of travelling on the depth axis and the refinement of this type of illusion appears to be the decisive element to evoke a âyou are thereâ feeling, to the extent that the visual presence of a prosthetic body on the screen became completely irrelevant.
In racing games, spatial exploration is ânaturallyâ restricted through roads and tracks, and most of the games mentioned in the opening of this section fall under the ârail shooterâ category. This generic label has been used more systematically following the release of polygonal shooting games such as Panzer Dragoon (Sega, 1995) or Time Crysis (Namco, 1995), in which spatial exploration is heavily directed by the system; the action unfolds through space as if it was set up on the rails of a roller coaster. Interestingly, the expression doesnât seem to have been used when shooting games were mostly conducted on the âtechnological railsâ of vertical or horizontal scrolling; just like âfirst-personâ for shooting galleries, the expression âon railsâ was apparently too implicit to be expressed formally before the proliferation of polygonal game engines, and their corollary affordances in terms of spatial exploration. In the next section, I will explore how games implementing free roaming spatial exploration â" a defining element of the contemporary FPS experience â" were framed through discourse.
Any Which Way
The active exploration of a 3-D space has been implemented in game mechanics a long time before the commercial explosion of the first-person shooter genre at the beginning of the 1990s. In fact, such freedom of exploration was one of the main incentives to play vehicular simulations, and our historical investigation revealed a strong association between this genre and the âfirst-personâ label. While other games in the genre were marketed with the ever popular â3Dâ,  the expression was already used in Battlezoneâs arcade flyer in 1980 (Atari). In 1984, Lucasfilmâs Rescue on Fractalus proposed a â3-D flight fantasyâ where gamers had to rescue fellow pilots at the command of their spacecraft. The box for the Epyx release of the game on Commodore 64 and Atari 400/800 listed the âFirst-person perspective in both flying and rescue sequencesâ as a feature, and the spiritual successor Koronis Rift (Lucasfilm, 1985) was defined as a âFirst person strategy and adventureâ. This expression was also used in the official printed ads for the game (CGWno 25, January-February 1986, p.4.). This section documents just how deeply these simulations came to be associated with the first-person point of view.
In the November 1988 edition of CGW, Lucasfilmâs Battlehawks 1942 is said to propose a âfirst person inside-the-cockpit viewâ (no 53, p.32). The conflation or co-occurrence of âfirst personâ and âcockpit viewâ appears to have been common in both marketing and in the press for this genre. In December, a feature on the NES game R.C. Pro-Am (Rare, 1988) states a peculiar advantage of its âradio controlledâ vehicular setting: âBecause the player isn't pretending to be inside the car, the designers were able to do away with the over-used pseudo-first-person perspectiveâ (emphasis mine, CGW no 54, p.65). After a few months of brainstorming, CGW introduced new categories for its hall of fame feature in April 1989. Previously, readers were invited to vote for the best âstrategyâ and âaction adventureâ games; this installment integrated âsimulationâ, or âGames based on first person perspectives of real world environmentsâ, as a way to acknowledge the numerous racing and flight simulators edited on personal computers (emphasis mine, no 58, p.64). While CGWâs definition seems to highlight the importance of realism in this genre, any fantasy based vehicular game could be described in similar terms; for instance, SSIâs DragonStrike was presented as a first-person âdragon combat simulatorâ. In the March 1987 issue of C&VG, Mirrorsoftâs flight simulator Strike Force Harrier (1986) is praised for its ability to combine âthe accuracy and realism of a pure flight simulator with the excitement of a first person combat gameâ (no 65, p.25; emphasis mine). Most flight simulators put a strong emphasis on aerial dogfights, and so it is not surprising to find occurrences that are so closely related to the FPS generic label in this corpus.
Throughout the inspection of the press, the association between âcockpit viewâ and âfirst-personâ was by far the most common and systematic . Many games have followed in Battlezoneâs tank tracks; the vehicle simulation genre has been especially lucrative in the domestic computer market. As Loguindice & Barton point out, idâs FPS adventure started with a Battlezone clone: Hovertank 3D (1991) is considered to be a âtesting ground for technology and conceptsâ that led to the landmark games (2012, p.56). The genre was thus a direct continuation of the trend set forth by Battlezone. The original control scheme of the id shooters make this observation even more obvious: the four arrow keys allowed the player to move forward / backward and to rotate the point of view. This layout is known in gamer culture as âtank controlsâ. In a very real sense, the visual exploration afforded to the player in these games occurred as the rotation of a machine. While the avatarial experience in video games has been theorized as a vehicle (most notably by Newman, 2002), the FPS genre as we understand it today moved beyond the vehicular setting. In the next section, I review the emergence of free-roaming 3D experiences in which players control an anthropomorphic vessel.
Free roaming 3D games have emerged outside of the Battlezone vehicular enclave relatively early. Paul Allen Edelsteinâs Wayout (Sirius, 1982) proposed a very capable 3-D engine for the Atari 400/800 and Commodore 64 computers. In this maze game as well as in its 1983 sequel Capture the Flag, flat blue walls are rotated fluidly in response to user input, in front of a colorful background. The screen layout is clearly inspired by Colleyâs Maze War, with the perspective view sitting on top of an overhead map. The peculiar box featured a clown figure; the human aspect of this âvehicleâ becomes even more perceptible thanks to the âwayout costume glasses and compassâ that were included in the package (fig.3). Even if these two games let go of the vehicular setting in favor of a âon footâ adventure, neither was described with the expression âfirst-personâ at the time. Here again, occurrences of the generic label became more common in marketing and in the press as we move closer to the end of the 1980s, for games such as Infestation (Psygnosis, 1990; CGWno 71, May 1990, p.56) and Corporation (Core, 1991; CGWno 89, December 1991, p.70). In a discursive context where âfirst-personâ was already associated with dungeon crawlers and vehicle simulations, software companies needed to envision another metaphor to market the innovation of these products. Thankfully, an expression was becoming quite visible in the media landscape at the time: âvirtual realityâ.
Starting with Space Station Oblivion in 1987, Incentive Software proposed a series of science fiction games based on their polygonal Freescape engine. The studio decided to make this engine available to consumers in 1991, renaming it Virtual Reality Studio along the way; no other expression at the time could signify âbeing thereâ with such obfuscating clarity. Space Station Oblivionâs back cover bragged about the ârevolutionary 3-D scaling and perspectives that change smoothly as you move around will give you the uncanny feeling that âyou are thereââ. While the on-screen interface elements made the vehicular nature of the game perfectly clear, its fictional setting justified the introduction of mechanics that went beyond the military combat and navigation implemented in simulators. For instance, the shooting mechanic is also used to interact with the environment in order to open up new passages and explore the mazes. The sequel (Dark Side, 1988) added âfirst-personâ to a lengthy description similar to the one quoted above; players were invited to transform into a âmercenary of the futureâ. In Total Eclipse (1988), the player avatar is presented as a simple adventurer âtraveling in a great Egyptian pyramidâ.
Figure 3. First-person clown (Wayout, Sirius, 1982)
Most of the games under scrutiny in this paper have been discussed and/or sold as a three dimensional experience; â3-Dâ appears to be the most pervasive textual element in our network. This cultural pervasiveness is echoed in the very titles of id Software games such as Catacomb 3-D (1991) and Wolfenstein 3D. However, the marketing of these games makes it obvious that the VR craze was spreading rapidly at the beginning of the 1990s. Wolfenstein 3-D was described as âsmooth scrolling virtual reality, as you move through a sensationally realistic 3-D world of amazing detailâ (fig.4). Doom was also presented as a virtual reality experience (Loguidice & Barton, 2009, p.58). The buzzword was everywhere in the early 1990s. Computer Gaming World dedicated three pages to introduce its readers to the phenomenon (âGame Technology for the Near and Far Futureâ, no 72, July 1990, p.24-26-78). Battlezone was retrospectively called âVirtual Reality for a quarterâ by Wired magazine. To this day, the FPS genre is commonly associated with VR. The illusion of âbeing thereâ as a prosthetic body has been refined with many signs taken directly from the world of movie-making: in Corporation and Doom, the point of view shifts up and down to evoke the act of walking, and recent first-person games integrate perceptual distortions to signify pain or death. Our contemporary fascination with id Software games comes in part from the integration of even more bodily matters: in these classics, red pixels burst out of antagonists under the playerâs fire. In the next section, I will explore the paradoxical stance towards simple shooting mechanics at the time id Software marketed their landmark games.
Figure 4. VR marketing (Wolfenstein 3-D, id Software, 1992). Source: www.mobygames.com
More Than Guns
At this point, it is clear that many games that are described as âfirst-personâ in contemporary sources were not referred to as such at the time of their release. Similarly, many of the objects associated with the âfirst-person shooterâ generic label nowadays were not initially described as âshootersâ. While the commercial explosion of the first-person shooter genre was triggered by the release of id Software games at the beginning of the 1990s, it came as a surprise to find out, in the course of this research, that the companyâs marketing efforts used just about every term in our textual network except âfirst-person shooterâ. Considering that many similar expressions did surface before the release of these games, the omission is even more striking. In this section, I present contextual elements that explain why studios refrained from using the âshooterâ label at the turn of the 1990s.
In 1980, the Battlezone flyer promised a âtotally newâ experience of âfirst person combatâ. Considering the popularity of shooting games even before Space Invaders (Taito, 1978), the choice of âcombatâ to describe the tank simulator is rather is surprising. Shooting mechanics were already so common that Atari engineers conceived the graphic architecture of the VCS console around âplayer-missile graphicsâ (Bogost & Montfort, 2009). The most probable explanation comes from the mechanical similarity between Battlezone and Combat (Atari, 1977), the VCS pack-in adaptation of Kee Gamesâ Tank (1974). The expression âRealistic 3-D playing fieldâ was clearly visible on the cover of the flyer, while âFirst person combatâ appeared in a lengthy text inside the document (fig. 5). In this context, and considering the restricted audience for this type of advertisement, it is not surprising that the expression did not spread in the community at the time. In a CGW special feature, Chris Crawford discusses a game pitch he imagined with Ted Frye at Atari, and that was meant to be a âFirst Person Firing Squadâ (June-July 1985, vol. 5 no 3, p.20). As Steven L. Kent reports (2001, p.163), a design aid document circulating at the company in 1979 listed âfirst person Space Invadersâ among other game pitches; this is the idea that inspired Dave Theurer to create Tempest (1981). It is one of the earliest uses of an expression that can be directly equated with âfirst-person shooterâ (even though the game corresponds to a third-person shooter, by contemporary standards).
Figure 5. Totally new first person combat (Battlezone, Atari, 1980). Source: http://flyers.arcade-museum.com/
Vertical and horizontal shoot âem ups remained a major genre throughout the 1980s. However, many of the critically acclaimed games that were mentioned throughout this paper integrated shooting action along a variety of other mechanics, in strikingly hybrid scenarios. Koronis Rift was described as a âFirst person strategy and adventureâ; it involved investigating shipwrecks and collecting items alongside the crosshair shooting action. Space Station Oblivion instructed players to position a drill in each level and to neutralize the deadly security systems through the activation of mechanisms in the environment. As CGW reports, Corporation has been called "Dungeon Master in space" (no 89, December 1991, p. 70); armed confrontation is certainly a major part of the experience, but players must use lock picks and hack computers in order to progress. This diversity of action is also present in early id games; it might explain the companyâs reluctance to market these games with the term âshooterâ. A printed ad for Doom in the French Tilt does focus on the tremendous violence of the game, promising âhell for a hundred francsâ (âlâenfer pour 100 francsâ; No 122, December 1994, p.50). But a more general overview of the marketing reveals that the company favored expressions such as âamazing 3-D action!â (Wolfenstein 3D) and âfirst person perspective adventureâ (Doom). The PC Gamer quote on the Quake box (1995) evokes an âatmospheric 3-D action gameâ.
Most of these games integrated navigation, activation of mechanisms in the environment, and minimal equipment handling through the plurality of guns and ammo. Of course, the shooting mechanics â" and the corollary integration of evermore âsplatteryâ bodily matters â" took center stage in the experience, and the packaging and ads often insisted on the firepower and deadly weapons. This might explain why the press and community at large started referring to them systematically as âfirst-person shootersâ before any marketing department did. In another paradoxical turn of events, the first two mentions that were found in the press (CGW no 124, November 1994, p.108; CGW no 126, January 1995, p.92) do not point towards anthropomorphic vessels: Descent and Quarantine (Imagexcel, 1994) correspond to vehicular games. In the mid-1990s, many landmark games in the genre still used â3-Dâ instead of âfirst-personâ (Descent, Parallax Software, 1994; Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms, 1996). Duke Nukem 3D was presented as a â3D shoot âem upâ in Gamespotâs review (1996); the C&VG review notes the influence from Doom, âmeaning that it's a first-person perspective 3D action shoot-'em-up with some searching/puzzle elementsâ (no 171, February 1996, p.87). The expression âfirst-person shoot âem upâ was commonly used throughout 1996, for a variety of titles including the vehicular game Tunnel B1 from Neon Software (C&VG no 176, July 1996, p.42), Rareâs classic movie adaptation Golden Eye (C&VGno 176, July 1996, p.87) and Exhumed (C&VG no 178, September 1996, p.72). The earliest occurrence appears in a preview of Bethesdaâs The Terminator (1990), a âfirst-person perspective search and shoot 'em up gameâ (CGW no 87, October 1991, p.6); the journalist compares the product to Hoverforce (Astral Software, 1990), another vehicular game.
In 1995, Terminator: Future Shock (Bethesda) was one of the first games to integrate the âmouse lookâ visual exploration now standard in most first-person games. While Tal Belvins underscores the âhulking mass of first person shootersâ in the Gamespot review of the game (1996), the categorization used by the French magazine Joystick speaks volumes: when it comes to genre, the game is simply labelled âDoom/Aventureâ (no 68, February 1996, p.95). More than 60 instances of âDoom likeâ, âDoom alikeâ and âDoom cloneâ could be found between 1993 and 1996 in CGW and C&VG. A recent lexical analysis of chat sessions on Usenet confirms the slow adoption of the expression in gaming culture: âfirst-person shooterâ replaced âDoom-cloneâ only in the second half of the 1990s . This process appears to have been very gradual. The widespread adoption of the expression in video game press and marketing occurred as the genre proliferated in the 1990s. It is thus a direct consequence of the genreâs popularity; the proliferation of similar experiences made âfirst-person shooterâ a convenient generic label for communication and marketing in gaming culture, and concurrently, other experiences with similar visual design became more likely to be described as âfirst-personâ.
A Different Point of View
The etymological investigation that has been conducted in this paper could have explored other media practices in order to document even more early occurrences, related expressions and shifts in meaning. Our step by step illusory reconstruction of the FPS experience and its discursive framing brought forward connections with terms that have been used extensively in media and art history, such as âperspectiveâ, â3-Dâ, âsimulatorâ and even âvirtual realityâ. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland described the first major head-mounted display VR system at the AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Science conference. In the corresponding paper, the expression âfirst-personâ is nowhere to be found; rather, the engineer discusses the technological underpinnings of his âdynamic perspective displayâ (Sutherland, 1968, p.759). In 1991, Howard Rheingold presented Morton Heiligâs Sensorama prototype from the early 1960s as one of the first VR experiments. The device would have proposed a multimodal illusion of a ride in the streets of New York City, âsimulating an actual, predetermined experience in the senses of an individualâ (patent documentation, 1962, p.1). Even before these multimodal experiments, the cinematic apparatus had been described as very lifelike and engaging from the earliest reports in the press. Christian Metz theorized the engagement of moviegoers with this illusion through the concept of âprimary identificationâ (1977), an expression that echoes âfirst personâ semantically. Galloway explores this cinematic lineage extensively in his chapter on the âOrigins of the First-Person Shooterâ (2006). Many more relevant lineages from literature and art history could help us shed light on the discursive practices at play. In this final section, the results of our etymology are discussed further in order to reflect on the historiography of the FPS genre.
One of the most surprising findings of the research presented in this paper comes from a somewhat trivial realization: in the majority of accounts and databases mentioned in this paper, âfirst-personâ is associated with the visual configuration of games, often directly with the concurrent expressions âperspectiveâ and âpoint of viewâ. In a very real sense, video games are still apprehended and formatted with a pictorial/cinematic mindset through language. One might wonder why the expression âfirst-person experienceâ never became prevalent in gaming vernacular, especially considering the popularity of mimetic interfaces such as guns and steering wheels, the âdrag and dropâ mouse control of DÃ©jÃ Vu and similar adventure games, and the dissemination of VR marketing. Only two occurrences in the press sought to evoke an experience beyond visuality: an advertisement for Alturas Corporationâs MAXX yoke â" to be used with flight simulators â" promises âfirst person simulationâ (CGWno 44, February 1988, p. 34); Bethesdaâs Terminator game is associated with âfirst-person immediacyâ (CGW no 85, August 1991, p. 82). The obvious âhands-onâ nature of the control for vehicular games with mimetic interfaces might explain the apparent confusion between first-person/third-person that was noted earlier. Afterburner or Thunder Blade are described as âthird-personâ games nowadays, but they occur in âfirst-personâ when one focusses on the controls instead of the view. Interestingly, Chris Crawford presented in 1985 a distinction between first-person and third-person that corresponds to our modern understanding of the terms (CGW vol. 5 no 3, June/July 1985, p.20). The fascination for perspectival illusions in a dynamic and interactive context was apparently powerful enough to overlook the early guidelines from this most respected of developers. The confusion between the two expressions still occurs in contemporary academic literature and video game press .
As this paper made perfectly clear, usage of the expressions âfirst-personâ / âfirst-person shooterâ occurs retrospectively on many objects that were not referred to in the exact same terms. This revisionist attitude clashes with narratives of the genreâs history. The historiographical paradox is remarkable: one the one hand, the popularity of the FPS genre has triggered a hunt for precursors; on the other, historical accounts reinforce the idea of a clear shift in the early 1990s that correspond to the true origins of the genre. This clear shift is not only typical of the glorifying journalistic accounts, such as the one from the New York Times quoted at the beginning of this paper. In âSpectacle of the Deathmatchâ, Bruce and Rutter state that âThe FPS story begins for the PC with id in 1992â (2002, p.67). Bob Rehak in The Video Game Explosion integrates the idea of a clear shift in the ever convenient biological metaphor: âIf 1992 marked the birth of the FPS, 1998 saw its maturationâ (2008, p.193). âThe early FPS genre [â¦] was a recipe for success invented largely on the back of id Softwareâs now legendary Doomâ, according to the introduction of the monograph dedicated to the genre (Voorhees et al., 2012, p.2). Doom is a common starting point or highlight of these genealogies â" it is the stated focus of a chapter in both Ultimate History (Kent, 2001) and Vintage Games (Loguidice & Barton, 2009). Id games become the focal point in a strikingly linear account, acting both as a telos for precursors that will now be inspected mostly in relation to this lineage, and as an archÃ¨ for the current cultural pervasiveness of franchises such as Halo and Call of Duty.
The authors of Digital Play approach the genreâs history in a safer way. Their historical account states that âWolfenstein was the first âfirst-person shooterââ (2003, p.143); here the quotes make it clear that they are evoking the emergence of the generic label, rather than the ludic form. However, as our etymological investigation has made perfectly clear, the studio refrained from using such an expression at first, and similar generic labels have emerged before the advent of id Software. Furthermore, we have seen that many earlier titles propose very similar gameplay configurations, including Capture the Flag in 1983, Space Station Oblivion in 1987, Corporation in 1990 and The Terminator in 1991, and one could add many vehicular shooters to this list. If id Software games were not widely described with the expression âfirst-person shooterâ, and that many prior games proposed similar gameplay configurations, how are we justified to give such historical significance to these games? The distinctive aspect of id titles came in great part from the speed of the navigation in textured spaces, and the splattery visual consequences of the shooting action. Technological excellence and visceral action can explain the commercial success and visibility of these titles to a large extent. By according so much space and attention to these games, going so far as to place them at the focal point of a clear-cut periodization, journalistic and academic accounts structurally echo the glorifying narratives that emerge from the industry and the specialized press. The âbirth of the FPSâ scenario carries âexacerbated technological violenceâ and âcommercial successâ as implicit selection criteria, and consequently, take part in a widespread culture of techno-industrial glorification (Therrien and Picard, 2014). If such criteria are to be put forward in historical constructions, they should at the very least be acknowledged more clearly.
In The Virtual Window (2006), Anne Friedberg proposed a broad historical overview of our relationship with framed images. Friedberg was very sensitive to the textual manifestations of concepts such as âperspectiveâ in history, and presented numerous conceptual âlensesâ from philosophers that allow us to see more clearly how the world of media has been âframedâ for our understanding. In her account of perspective in Albertiâs writings, she noted that historical doxa until very recently insisted on a clear âshiftâ in favor of this technique during the Renaissance; other pictorial strategies such as polyscenic paintings were seen as a residual mistake, âa carry-over from earlier systems of representationâ (2006, p.36). Following Lew Andrews, Friedberg pointed out that these paintings might in fact have been more prominent after the introduction of linear perspective.
While the âlensâ that have been used in this paper donât have the exact same functions as those put forth by Friedberg in this major contribution, the study of etymology appears to be an essential tool to âdefuseâ the glorifying discourse that so commonly surfaces in business journalism and interviews. Moreover, a clear parallel can be drawn between Friedbergâs account of perspective and the tendency to create clear-cut periods and âshiftsâ in video game history. Throughout this paper, it is easy to see that the âbirth of the first-person shooterâ scenario presented in the New York Times feature leads to a tendency to iron out any element that contradicts the narrative, while the contemporary fascination with the genre leads to historical distortion, giving importance to previous objects â" very specific aspects of these objects â" that were not directly part of the lineage. Considering the findings of this investigation, it is rather disheartening to see this type of construction spread in journalistic and academic accounts. At the center of such historical constructions lies a problematic distortion cycle : historical narratives influence what is seen as worthy of preservation by any given culture, and thus have a direct impact on the documentation that future historians will have access to when they try to inspect, explain and narrate the past. One might observe that such a period-based account of video game history, focussing on technological innovation and industrial growth, feeds into a specific ideology of time â" a chronosophy (Ricoeur, 2000) obsessed with âprogressâ â" that unsettlingly becomes complicit in the context of an entertainment industry defined by destructive innovation (Kline et al., 2003), supersession and obsolescence (Newman, 2012). Hopefully, similar research on video game historiography can highlight the communityâs tendency to âbuy intoâ these rhetorical strategies, and contribute to the emergence of alternative accounts that will prevent the distortion cycle from spinning into self-fulfilling prophecies, and self-destroying origin myths.
This research was supported by FRQSC (Fonds de Recherche du QuÃ©bec â" SociÃ©tÃ© et Culture) and by LUDOV (videogames observation and documentation university Lab; www.ludov.ca).
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 For more information : http://playitagainproject.org/. See also Stuckey et al. (2014).
 According to the âList of first-person shooter gamesâ, at least 40 games were released in 1995, and 36 games in 1996).
 More specifically, I consulted scans of game boxes on Mobygames.com, scans of arcade flyers at The Arcade Flyer Archive (http://flyers.arcade-museum.com/), and scans of various game magazines from Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/gamemagazines) and Abandonware Magazine France (http://www.abandonware-magazines.org/)
 This part of the research was conducted in part by Hugo Montembault in the course of a funded research project on game genres and discourse communities. For more information: http://www.ludov.ca/en/observation/video-game-genres-and-discourse-communities.
 The Video Game Theory Reader (2003), Digital Play (2003), Playing With Videogames (2008), Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders (2005), Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction (2008), The Video Game Explosion (2008), The Encyclopedia of Video Games (2012).
 This part of the project could not have been completed without the dedication of Anthony Colpron, MikaÃ«l Julien and Alexandre Poirier. Some issues of C&VG from 1994 were not available, and thus couldnât be inspected for this research.
 Another occurrence was found in a preview of Light Phaser games for the Sega Master system, but only for one specific shooting gallery that also uses Segaâs stereoscopic glasses: Missile Defense 3-D (CGW, no 48, June 1988, p. 42).
 A similar description was found about Ubisoftâs Zombi (CGW no 78, January 1991, p.59). In CGW no 86 (September 1991), a preview for The Adventures of Willy Beamish (Dynamix) states that the creator âoriginally expected the interface to be handled from a first-person perspective, just like Rise of the Dragon and Heart of Chinaâ (p. 14).
 The printed ads and packaging of Stellar 7 (Damon Slye, 1983) or Sherman M4 (Loriciel, 1989) put forth their outstanding 3-D graphics, made with wireframe and polygonal 3-D respectively.
 See CGW no 61, p. 4; no 65, p. 25; no 68, p. 22; no 70, p.50; no 74, p.74; no 77, p. 22.
 Segaâs Space Tactics (1980) and Nintendoâs Radar Scope (1979) clearly copied the formula that inspired Tempest, but their respective flyers preferred to brag about âreal-life 3-Dâ and âperspective effectâ.
 This occurrence of âfirst-personâ was found on the back cover of the Australian release.
 See http://doom.wikia.com/wiki/Doom_clones.
 For instance, Hitman (IO Interactive, 2000) has been called a â3-D first person stealth gameâ (Konzack, 2008:208), and many âbest first-person shootersâ lists include third-person shooters (Meer, 2012) such as the Max Payne series (Remedy).
AI research and video games are a match made in heaven. Researchers get a ready-made virtual environment with predefined goals they can control completely, and the AI agent gets to romp around without doing any damage. Sometimes, though, they do break things.
Case in point is a paper published this week by a trio of machine learning researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany. They were exploring a particular method of teaching AI agents to navigate video games (in this case, desktop ports of old Atari titles from the 1980s) when they discovered something odd. The software they were testing discovered a bug in the port of the retro video game Q*bert that allowed it to rack up near infinite points.
As the trio describe in the paper, published on pre-print server arXiv, the agent was learning how to play Q*bert when it discovered an “interesting solution.” Normally, in Q*bert, players jump from cube to cube, with this action changing the platforms’ colors. Change all the colors (and dispatch some enemies), and you’re rewarded with points and sent to the next level. The AI found a better way, though:
First, it completes the first level and then starts to jump from platform to platform in what seems to be a random manner. For a reason unknown to us, the game does not advance to the second round but the platforms start to blink and the agent quickly gains a huge amount of points (close to 1 million for our episode time limit).
This quirk in the paper was shared on Twitter by AI researcher Miles Brundage. Wired reporter Tom Simonite joined in the conversation and tagged in Q*bert designer Warren Davis to see if he’d ever stumbled across this bug before. Davis said he’d not worked on that particular version of the game but commented: “This certainly doesn’t look right, but I don’t think you’d see the same behavior in the arcade version.”
You can see what the bug looks like below, when the cubes start flashing:
Whatever the case, this doesn’t seem to be an exploit that any human has discovered before. If the AI agent could think, it would probably be wondering why it’s supposed to bother jumping on all these boxes when it’s found a much more efficient way to score points.
It’s important to note, though, that the agent is not approaching this problem in the same way that a human would. It’s not actively looking for exploits in the game with some Matrix-like computer-vision. The paper is actually a test of a broad category of AI research known as “evolutionary algorithms.” This is pretty much what it sounds like, and involves pitting algorithms against one another to see which can complete a given task best, then adding small tweaks (or mutations) to the survivors to see if they then fare better. This way, the algorithms slowly get better and better.
It’s not the most powerful or widely used form of AI at the moment, but it is making something of a comeback. The ability to crack Q*bert could be read as a good omen that evolutionary algorithms are going to be very useful in the future.