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Shooter games are a subgenre of action video game, which often test the player's spatial awareness, reflexes, and speed in both isolated single player or networked multiplayer environments. Shooter games encompass many subgenres that have the commonality of focusing on the actions of the avatar engaging in combat with a weapon against both code-driven NPC enemies or other avatars controlled by other players.
Usually this weapon is a firearm or some other long-range weapon, and can be used in combination with other tools such as grenades for indirect offense, armor for additional defense, or accessories such as telescopic sights to modify the behavior of the weapons. A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition, armor or health, or upgrades which augment the player character's weapons.
Most commonly, the purpose of a shooter game is to shoot opponents and proceed through missions without the player character being killed or dying as a result of the player's actions. A shooting game is a genre of video game where the focus is almost entirely on the defeat of the character's enemies using the weapons given to the player.
Shoot 'em ups are a specific subgenre of shooters wherein the player may move up and down and left and right around the screen, typically firing straight forward.
Shoot 'em ups share common gameplay, but are often categorized by viewpoint. This includes fixed shooters on fixed screens, such as Space Invaders and Galaxian; scrolling shooters that mainly scroll in a single direction, such as Xevious and Darius; top-down shooters (sometimes referred to as twin-stick shooters) where the levels are controlled from an overhead viewpoint, such as Bosconian and Time Pilot; rail shooters where player movement is automatically guided down a fixed forward-scrolling "rail", such as Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom and Space Harrier; and isometric shooters which use an isometric perspective, such as Zaxxon and Viewpoint. This genre also includes "run and gun" games which emphasize greater maneuvering or even jumping, such as Thexder, Contra and Metal Slug.
Shooting gallery games include light gun games, although many can also be played using a regular joypad and an on-screen cursor to signify where the bullets are being aimed. When these debuted, they were typically played from a first-person perspective, with enemy fire that occurred anywhere on the screen damaging or killing the player. As they evolved away from the use of light guns, the player came to be represented by an on-screen avatar, usually someone on the bottom of the screen, who could move and avoid enemy attacks while returning fire. These sorts of shooters almost always utilize horizontal scrolling to the right to indicate level progression, with enemies appearing in waves from predestined locations in the background or from the sides. One of the earliest examples is the 1985 arcade game Shootout produced by Data East.
A specific subgenre of this type of game is the Cabal shooter, named for the game Cabal, in which the player controls an on-screen avatar that can run and often jump around the screen in addition to being able to aim their gun. Other games in this subgenre include Blood Bros., Dynamite Duke, NAM-1975, Wild Guns, and Sin and Punishment.
As light gun games became more prevalent and started to make use of fully 3D backgrounds, such as the Time Crisis or House of the Dead series, these sorts of games fell out of popular production, but many like Blood Bros. still have their fanbase today. Other notable games of this category include Operation Wolf and Laser Invasion.
Light gun shooters are shooting gallery games that use a pointing device for computers and a control device for arcade and video games. The first light guns appeared in the 1930s, following the development of light-sensing vacuum tubes. It was not long before the technology began appearing in arcade shooting games, beginning with the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite in 1936. These early light gun games used small targets (usually moving) onto which a light-sensing tube was mounted; the player used a gun (usually a rifle) that emitted a beam of light when the trigger was pulled. If the beam struck the target, a "hit" was scored. Modern screen-based light guns work on the opposite principle--the sensor is built into the gun itself, and the on-screen target(s) emit light rather than the gun. The first light gun of this type was used on the MIT Whirlwind computer, which used a similar light pen. Like rail shooters, movement is typically limited in light-gun games.
Notable games of this category include the 1974 and 1984 versions of Wild Gunman, Duck Hunt for the NES, the Virtua Cop series, Time Crisis series, House of the Dead series, and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles & Darkside Chronicles.
First-person shooters are characterized by an on-screen view that simulates the in-game character's point of view. While many rail shooters and light-gun shooters also use a first-person perspective, they are generally not included in this category.
Third-person shooters are characterized by a third-person camera view that fully displays the player character in his/her surroundings. Notable examples of the genre include the Tomb Raider series, Syphon Filter, Max Payne, SOCOM, Star Wars: Battlefront, Gears of War, and Splatoon. Third person shooter mechanics are often incorporated into open-world adventure and sandbox games, including the Elder Scrolls series and the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
Arena shooters are multiplayer shooters that feature fast pace gameplay that emphasizes quick speed and agile movement. These games will usually feature weapons that don't require to reload with continuous ammo, floaty gravity and jumps, and very fast character movement. Examples of these include the Quake and Unreal series, more specifically Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament which first pioneered the genre. These games are also characterized by their focus on multiplayer only with most titles not even featuring a single player mode. While the genre hits its peak in popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s, they have become less popular in recent times with other shooter genres rising to prominence with many of the newest arena shooters being released and developed by indie studios like Reflex Arena.
Hero shooters are a variation of multiplayer first- or third-person arena-based shooters, where players, split among two or more teams, select from pre-designed "hero" characters that each possess unique attributes, skills, weapons, and other passive and active abilities; players may have the ability to customize the appearance of these characters, but these changes are usually cosmetic only and do not alter the game's balance or the behavior of the "hero". Hero shooters strongly encourage teamwork between players on a team, guiding players to select effective combinations of hero characters and coordinate the use of hero abilities during a match. Hero shooters take many of their design elements both from older class-based shooters and multiplayer online battle arena games. The class-based shooter Team Fortress 2 is considered to be the codifier of the hero shooter genre. Popular hero shooters include Overwatch, Apex Legends, and Paladins: Champions of the Realm. Hero shooters have been considered to have strong potential as esports games as a large degree of skill and coordination arises from the importance of teamwork.
Tactical shooters are shooters that generally simulate realistic squad-based or man-to-man skirmishes. Notable examples of the genre include Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series and Bohemia Software's Operation Flashpoint. A common feature of tactical shooters that is not present in many other shooters is the ability for the player character to lean out of cover, increasing the granularity of a player's movement and stance options to enhance the realism of the game. Tactical shooters also commonly feature more extensive equipment management, more complex healing systems, and greater depth of simulation compared to other shooters. As a result of this, many tactical shooters are commonly played from the first person perspective. Tactical shooters may combine elements from other shooter genres, such as Rainbow Six Siege and Valorant, which combine the traditional tactical shooter style with the class-based gameplay of hero shooters.
Loot shooters are shooter games where the player's overarching goal is the accumulation of loot; weapons, equipment, armor, accessories and resources. To achieve this players complete tasks framed as quests, missions or campaigns and are rewarded with better weapons, gear and accessories as a result, with the qualities, attributes and perks of such gear generated randomly following certain rarity scales (also known as loot tables). The better gear allows players to take on more difficult missions with potentially more powerful rewards, forming the game's compulsion loop. Loot shooters are inspired by similar loot-based action role-playing games like Diablo. Examples of loot shooters include the Borderlands franchise, Warframe, Destiny and its sequel, Tom Clancy's The Division and its sequel, and Anthem.
Shooter games have been accused of glorifying and promoting violence and several games in the genre have been the cause of notable video game controversies. After school shootings in Erfurt, Emsdetten and Winnenden, German conservative politicians accused violent shooter games, most notably Counter Strike, to incite young gamers to run amok. Several attempts were made to banish the so-called "Killerspiele" (killing games) in Germany and the European Union. Shooter games were further criticised when Anders Behring Breivik, perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, claimed that he developed target acquisition skills by playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.