Recently, I read an article on gamasutra about shooters. At a conference, a group of people discussed possible branches of the shooter genre, and ways to change the tone and overall play of the game. Shooting paint, kisses, emails... this got me thinking... why are shooters so popular?
If you look at the bestsellers list for video games within the last few years on "hardcore" (or, more correctly, "not casual") systems like the 360 and PS3, most of them are shooters, or at least have some gunplay in them. What is it about shooting that makes it so popular?
The answer is power. Giving the player the illusion of control is very appealing to a large audience. The fact that you're holding a weapon that could end someone's life at any second is pretty empowering. Power keeps the player coming back for more. A game in which there were enemies, but no way to defeat them, is basically just a horror/run-away-as-fast-as-you-can game. Video games are about playing an alternate reality through a character, so that you can have fun without experiencing the game in real life. If silent-hill were real, I would run as fast as possible to the nearest airport...forget about the little girl!!! So, power is important to create a fun game.
Now, that being said, too much power (like real life) could definitely be a bad thing. Too much power equals no challenge. If there was a game in which an enemy being within a 100-yard radius to you would kill it, there would be no point of playing. No struggle equals BOREDOM! So, while power is cool, the hero being around a bunch of enemies with nearly as much power is when the fun starts to kick in.
Another reason as to why shooters are so popular is due to the fact that the gameplay-mechanic of shooting fits perfectly with games. It has a large scope. You might be playing a shooter that takes place a thousand of years into the future, or about 150 years into the past. That is a HUGE amount of possible settings - Any war in history (WWII is very common), Alien invasions (Halo, Metroid), Espionage/Stealth (007, Metal Gear), Urban Setting (GTA), Horror (Resident Evil), and the list goes on and on. Within these unique universes comes a unique set of technology and enemies. The only thing that links Halo 3 to Call of Duty is shooting. Yet, for the most part, the same audience plays both! This is huge proof to the fact that it is the shooting in them that makes them fun and addicting.
So, with these reasons laid out, I'd say that shooters are definitely here to stay. So, don't worry, I'm sure Halo 17 is just around the corner.