Humble Bundle had a Boomer Shooter Bundle (opens in new tab)and games like Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun (opens in new tab) proudly wear the label by choice. Maybe it’s time to give in and accept the ’90s-style retro FPS subgenre is going to be stuck with a silly label because it sounds funny. (And it does sound funny, no argument here.) Or maybe it’s time to get prescriptive. At the risk of resembling the kind of person who argues run-based permadeath games aren’t roguelikes unless they’re full ASCII, here’s a chance to make your case for an alternative.
What should boomer shooters be called?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Phil Savage, Editor-in-Chief, UK: Sure, Boomer Shooters, why not? No, it is not a great name, I will grant you that. But do you know what else is not great: basically every genre name that has ever stuck around. We have a subgenre of RPGs, CRPGs, where the C stands for computer. It excludes a whole bunch of RPGs that are also on a computer.
And massively multiplayer online game may have made sense back when the internet was new and this was all very exciting, but the implied sense of wonder just feels quaint nowadays. As for MOBAs, where do you even start? Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas? That’s just all PvP games. Sorry, Quake is a MOBA now. I don’t make the rules.
So yeah, whatever, we collectively gave a genre a silly name. But maybe that’s better than pretending there’s any actual logic to this.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: What’s next, Gen Z RPGs? Millennial MMOs?
I know we all enjoy a good rhyme, but “boomer shooter” misinterprets history and creates confusion about who actually played these games. As someone who spends most of each day thinking about how to describe games with words, you can imagine how this gets under my skin. My father is an actual baby boomer, someone born between the end of WWII and 1964. If you were 32 or younger when Doom released in 1993, you’re not a boomer. It’s that simple. I’ll gladly call them retro shooters, ’90s FPSes, or anything else that isn’t mildly ageist.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: In the same way millennial became shorthand for ‘young avocado fans’, boomer has become a catch-all term for ‘shit that’s old’. Conveniently this means we’ll be able to keep using it even once the actual boomers are all dead. It’s a practical evolution. With that in mind, it seems fair to call these things boomer shooters. It’s also fun to say, and a pun to boot, which puts it leagues ahead of nearly every other genre. It’s evocative in a way that matches these bombastic relics, and while it might be a bit silly, so are boomer shooters. I say let it live!
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I’m honestly really surprised at how much ‘boomer shooter’ has caught on in recent years—as Evan says, it has very little grounding in the actual age of the audience for them, and the vibes of affectionate nostalgia don’t really marry up with how the word ‘boomer’ is usually deployed (as in, to dub something out-of-touch bullshit).
I don’t understand why people don’t just call them ‘Doom-likes’. People love calling everything a ‘-like’ these days. And it has some nice symmetry with ‘Doom clone’, which is what a lot of games were dubbed in the original game’s wake, before ‘first-person shooter’ caught on.
To be honest though I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that gaming is always going to be full of absolutely dreadful genre names. ‘Metroidvania’? ‘Soulborne’? ‘MOBA’? ‘eSports’? We shouldn’t be allowed to name stuff at all.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor: It’s a shame that Twitch is called Twitch, because you used to be able to call old school fast-paced shootybang games twitch shooters and everyone knew what you meant. Now it sounds another name for people who’ve just done a hatecrime.
I’ve been using Gen X FPS. It’ll never catch on.
Zloth: We stopped calling them Doom Clones?
Brian Boru: Fogey Fraggers! Geezer Gunners. Assisted Lovers.
JarlBSoD: What even is a boomershooter? I kinda doubt that many, even if they existed ofc, started playing shooters in their 30s – 50s back in the ’90s. Kinda get the feeling that most people playing games in the ’90s were born in the ’70s or ’80s IE NOT boomers So lets just call them Doomclones as usual. Move along, nothing to see here! If anything it should be called Retro shooters if one does not want to use the term Doom Clone.
Alma: I am a millennial and 90s shooters were a golden age for me. I guess I would call them Disk Dynasty Definitives. But Boomer Shooters rolls off the tongue better.
Wooden Saucer: The early FPS games were my generation. I’m Gen X, not a boomer. Call them X-Games.
McStabStab: DOOM clones was always the name for these… even though they’re really all Wolfenstein 3D clones. Corridor Shooter is another name I’ve heard a lot.
redmark_: Seriously, boomer shooters just reminds me of a bunch of old geezers wielding boomsticks a’plenty…
Parson: Arthritis Inducers.
ZedClampet: Crap Graphics Action Shooter.
Sarafan: I believe that this genre was called “ego shooter” in the past in some countries. Not that I think that it’s a good idea to practice necromancy over this sentence, because it was mediocre to say the least. I’m trying to take the question seriously, so I would prefer the term retro shooter. It’s self-explaining. The sentence is better for people who are new to the industry. Everyone can say right away that it’s a shooter made in the old style. We can of course discuss that not every boomer shooter is a retro shooter, but I believe we should simplify things not complicate them without a serious reason.
Pifanjr: I think DOOM clone works best. Video game genre definition seem to get broader and broader and/or video games combine aspects of several genres, meaning the best description is usually to compare it to specific other games instead of/in addition to slapping a genre label on it.
flashn00b: I think I like the “Doom Clone” nomenclature more, but that will likely have my age showing.
Hell, Boomer Shooter more or less seems like a general categorization of FPS, and I think games like Ultrakill, Turbo Overkill, and to a lesser extent, Doom Eternal helped pave the way of an offshoot of the Boomer Shooter known as the movement shooter. I think for more traditional old-school-style FPS games, Doom Clone would probably be more appropriate, whereas the new-school boost-dashing/wallrunning/etc. would probably fit more in the “movement shooter” category.
Steyn: Killer boomer.
Volleyball: I’d call it ‘Golden Era FPS’ or ‘Golden Era Shooter’ which was the 90’s and early 00’s.
However, I am going through some of my 90’s PC Gamer magazines and the term “Doom clones” was used by PCG a LOT to describe any FPS that wasn’t Doom, yet came out after Doom, even System Shock and Descent, which were nothing like Doom other than having a first person perspective, haha.
Krud: Dang, my perspective on this went on a roller-coaster as I read the posts. First confused as to the existence of “boomer shooter” in general, then thinking it was about explosions, then the notion that it’s a reference to Baby Boomers? I mean, my dad was a fairly young Baby Boomer, and he had zero interest in FPS’s. Which is anecdotal, I know, but I really think 2.5D/3D gaming was primarily the purview of Gen X.
I’m just a handful of years away from being lumped into “Millennial”, but I still have very clear memories of the release of Wolfenstein3D, Doom, Quake, Heretic, etc. And most of the programmers were fairly young (though older than me.) Heck, I was programming (mediocre) text adventures when I was 14-18. (By the time I was 19 the genre was seemingly dead and buried, only to resurrect several years later under the name Interactive Fiction. Or maybe it was always there and I just didn’t know where to look. But I digress.)
If I were going to assign a label to any games as “Boomer,” it would be the early arcade games (Galaga, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Asteroids), pinball, and text adventures. And Solitaire.