Shooters finally have something to say in 2012

The world's go-to genre started growing up

And then there was Far Cry 3, which so engrossingly tackled the theme of insanity. Jason Brody, the Brod-ster, the spoiled-rich-kid-bro-dude, was stranded on an island and kidnapped. He was scared, but he had to kill to survive. At first, he was reluctant to do so--but then it got easier. He started enjoying it. He cried out gleefully while he set human beings ablaze with a flamethrower. I mean, I did too, because I was doing it in a video game and it was pretty damn fun, but when Jason met up with a friend, she made a comment along the lines of "You've become a monster." And Jason, he basically replied, "Yeah, this is kind of my gig now." The dude had lost his mind.

Of course, I can't mention Far Cry 3 without name dropping Vaas, the psychotic villain who epitomized the game's insanity. That guy was scary in a way most video game villains just aren't. His threats didn't feel empty--they freaked me out. He'd charm me with his soft tones and buddy-buddy banter, then he's snap and shove a gun to my head. He was crazy; I felt his psychotic aura through my TV.

Many shooters in 2012 imbued the genre with a level of maturity we'd only seen glimpses of before. BioShock, of course, is a great example of one that took a philosophical approach, providing intelligent commentary on the political dimension and roles of science and religion in our day-to-day lives. But there weren't many shooters in years past that garnered the same chin-stroking reaction from players.

This year, though? Several of them consistently touched on post-adolescent themes. Max Payne 3 portrayed a broken man coming to terms with his harrowing past. Call of Duty: Black Ops II elicited discussion about the future of warfare and the possible implications of relying so heavily on man-less drones. Medal of Honor: Warfighter attempted a more mature take at storytelling by emphasizing the strained relationships of military men and women torn between duty and family.

So where do we go from here? The thing is, the best shooter anyone can make--the one that perfects the art of physically pulling the trigger--has already been made. But as with all things, the genre will continue to evolve. Considering shooters are, at their core, about committing the absolute worst crime you can commit against another living thing, that evolution will necessarily be an ugly one. And its kind of got me freaked out.

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