First person shooters (FPS) video games are extremely popular. The Call of Duty games have had record breaking world-wide releases, surpassing any blockbuster film opening before it.  With Modern Warfare 3 making over 1 billion dollars in sales in just under 16 days, it’s safe to say that people like shooting other people in the face via an internet connection. Competitive shooters are varied (from the fast paced arcade shooting of Call of Duty games, to the slower paced and more tactical shooting of the Battlefield series, to the ultra cartoon violence of Team Fortress 2), there’s something about trying to virtually murder a complete stranger that keeps gamers coming back for more. In this article, I will detail the 5 stages an individual will most likely experience when delving into the bullet-riddle underworld of competitive FPS video games.

Stage 1: Trial by Fire

One might think you’d be entering a level playing field when picking up your fresh copy upon its release date; however, most games build off the same mechanics, engine, and controls that graced previous iteration of that particular franchise shooter. Essentially, you’re going to be jumping into games with players with a skill-level so advanced, you’re most likely to die the entire round without getting a single trigger squeeze. This is the stage where most sane people would put the controller down, say “This is not for me,” and simply walk away. But we’re talking about video gamers, here… so on to Stage 2!

Stage 2:  An Uphill Battle

Okay, so your kill:death ratio has improved to 1:1 and you’re no longer running across the map to instantly drop into a wall of bullets. You’re memorizing all of the map layouts, flanking enemy positions, and building up your gun/perks load-out. You’re no longer being sheepish and start communicating more on your microphone headset, simultaneously planning out your tactics and talking smack to a 13 year old homophobic racist. You’re starting to have fun, as you put in more hours into the game and neglecting all of your social obligations and/or hygiene.

Stage 3: “Pwning n00bs.”

“Boom! Headshot,” you extol as you brag amongst your clan-mates over Xbox Live, chugging down an abysmal concoction of caffeinated beverages and sugary treats. You look at your watch, not fully comprehending that it is indeed 4:00AM, and mutter to yourself, “Just one more game…” You’ve worked your way up the ladder and are finishing in the top 5 every match and the days of getting constantly ambushed is now a thing of the past. You take pride in your stats, bragging about your ratios and percentages amongst other closet gamers at the water cooler. You’re pwning (owning) n00bs (newbies).

Stage 4: Entitlement and Rage Quitting

Congratulations! You’ve gotten to a point where you are so good at the game that you violently explode in rage as someone shoots you. You look for excuses as to why you’re not a God-like superhero: “Stupid lag!” “That guy was hacking!” “This server sucks!” You complain with every change the developers make in patches, and declare that their attempts at “balancing” the game has “broken” said game. The moment things aren’t exactly going your way, you feel the insatiable urge to throw your controller and leave the game without notice in the act known as “rage quitting.” Sure, you’re winning every round and taking advantage of every exploit you can find; however, that childlike sense of wonder and fun is now a thing of the past. You’re a FPS veteran, for better or worse.

Stage 5: Regret or Justification

The final stage is like the final stage of every addiction known to man: You either regret the time you wasted playing a trivial game and subsequently return your copy to a local GameStop, or you justify your insanity and continue to fight the good fight. Either way, you’ve probably lost a girlfriend, put on a few pounds, and lost a lot of sleep in the process. Competitive first person shooters can be a lot of fun, but there should be the caveat that such a competition can be highly addictive and detrimental to the life you lead before picking up that controller. All in all, there’s still a thrill you get when playing these games that will hook you in. Hell, just look at how popular these games are and how well they sell. Will this just be a phase akin to the plastic instrument or motion bowling simulators that have come and gone? Possibly… Nevertheless, these games look like they’ll be part of popular culture for quite some time (sorry, girlfriends).

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