I wrote in Learning By Doing, "If you are male, first-person shooters are the Manolo Blahniks of the computer game world."
The player seeing the world through the eyes of his or her onscreen counterpart, usually down the barrel of a weapon. The player is a hero (such as in this example from Dark Forces). He or she traverses a 3D map in real-time, trying to reach key locations and solving puzzles while shooting and being shot at by AI controlled units .
The interface is built around movement and aiming. Primary variables include health/armor, location on map, amount of supplies, and perhaps capability.
The genre is mature. It has evolved dramatically. As the title implies, it is first person, which is great. You can move around physically, which is satisfying. The physics, interface, graphics, level design, and puzzles are all so much more refined than even ten years ago. Innovative games have added sneaking around, decisions about which weapons to bring, even what skills to develop. When one adds up all of the developer time spent on creating and improving the genre over the years, it probably adds up to about a billion dollars of research and development. Few other computer applications have been the recipient of so much resources. The result is that most FPS are very accessible.
On the other hand, FPSs are optimized around fun, not learning. The underlying framework is not very interesting. There are very few real activities in the last few centures that line up with the systems and interface that are modelled in FPSs (traversing mazes, finding, picking up, and delivering things, killing things). In fact I would suggest that FPSs are a red-herring when it comes to educational simulations. Expecting them to provide a model for education is like asking a brilliant surgeon to prepare your tax returns.
To me, what are more interesting are games/sims like Full Spectrum Warrior, shown here, that while superficially look like FPSs, have completely different interfaces, strategies, and nurture the develop of different situational awareness and scrambling techniques. But of course it represents a new genre that is necessarily much more raw, less refined by several orders of magnitude, than FPSs.
Sports games, such as golf, can also look superficially like a FPS, but again have completely different systems and interfaces, and are correspondingly more raw as well (somewhere between FPSs and Full Spectrum Warrior).
I look forward to when the conversation increasingly shift from "computer games, yeah or nay?" to ""what is the expertise that a given game does contain, and then can contain?"
Part of the SimWord of the Day Series....