First-person shooters represent one of the most consistently popular game genres. As you'll know if you read our recent three-part series on the history of the genre, they're also a series of games that have continually pushed technology forward.
At least, they were. There's a convincing argument that their rate of advancement has slowed considerably in recent years. Call of Duty is still running on an old engine, and in multiplayer modes we're still basically doing the same things we were doing back in the Doom, Quake and Half-Life days. Okay, we've seen the growth of the MMO-style metagame, the mod scene helps keep existing titles fresh -- on PC, at least -- but there's a reason why people refer to "brown manshoots" in such a disparaging tone: it's because they, for the most part, lack creativity. There's not anything inherently wrong with playing soldiers -- there's a proven and significant market for it, after all -- but it's getting increasingly rare to see first-person shooters that do anything out of the ordinary.
It's this kind of thinking that inspired 7DFPS, a movement bringing developers from all over the world together to create their own take on the first-person shooter in seven days or less.
This is actually the second year that 7DFPS has run. Last year saw so many participants -- both developers and players -- that the organizers were keen to run it again, and both Unity and Hex-Ray Studios (makers of the popular Hexels art package) have helped out by offering free engine licenses and discounts respectively. There's no specific theme to the project, and the FAQ for participants simply reads "Q: Can I- A: YES."
As you might expect, designing and creating a playable first-person shooter in the space of seven days is not a particularly easy task, and as such many of the games available are more prototypes than anything else -- but that's sort of the point, really. By placing arbitrary limitations on creativity and available time, many developers find that they're able to come up with much more creative ideas than they would be able to normally -- and even in cases where they're perhaps not the most creative ideas in the world gameplay-wise, they perhaps have a distinctive aesthetic or a fresh take on an established formula. They can always be fleshed out later.
Even Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson has been getting in on the action with a contribution of his own. Dubbed Shambles, Notch's offering is a zombie survival shooter with a distinctive pixelated style, rather scarce ammo and a much more realistic sense of having to continually reload your guns than many other games of its type. It's simplistic in its current form, yes, but it could form the basis for something great.
Then we have stuff like the vaguely Portal-esque Tractor Beam, a first-person puzzler in which you use a pair of beam weapons to attract yourself towards and repel yourself away from various objects and structures.
Or titles like Basic3, a story-driven 3D adventure through a minimalist, blocky world that calls to mind experiences like Fez and Thomas Was Alone.
Or the incredibly confusing Depth Perception, in which the concept is that your suit's head-up display is malfunctioning, causing objects to become visible through other objects when normally they'd be blocked by walls.
Or the rather brilliant Photog, in which one teammate plays in first-person as the "cameraman" while their teammates must play the game in third-person from the perspective of their comrade's camera.
Or, if QWOP and Surgeon Simulator 2013 weren't enough for you, how about Probably Archery, a game in which you have to fire arrows at targets by controlling your individual joints?
I could go on all day with these; there are already too many games to do justice to in a single article, and their quality varies wildly, as you might expect. If you have an hour or two to spare and you've got nothing better to do, though, you could certainly do far worse than browse through the already impressive library of playable experiences on the official website and share your favorites with us!