873: FPS Mod
Title text: Wait, that second one is a woman? ...wait, if that bothers me, then why doesn't... man, this game is no fun anymore.
FPS stands for First Person Shooter, which is a type of video game (like Halo or Duke Nukem) in which you are looking at the world from the first person perspective of the character you are controlling. Randall notes in the caption that no one liked his FPS mod (short for "modification" of the FPS game), and in the title text it is clear that Cueball who played this modified version no longer enjoys the game.
FPS games are controversial for their (supposed) quality of encouraging violence such as killing (especially other human beings). One point of the controversy is that, while virtual enemies are just pixels on a screen, real enemies have actual lives, emotions, and the like. In the games, there is a disconnect between the act of killing and its emotional cost, thus leading to the controversy that FPS games encourage wanton killing (or violence in general) to solve problems instead of considering the other party. Randall makes reference to this by adding a mod that gives biographical snippets of the enemy you shoot in the game, thus giving Cueball the perspective of the enemy he just shot, and causing emotional consequence and remorse by removing the disconnect between pixel and life.
The comic can also be a reference towards making games more realistic. Giving the enemies a life above being mere targets definitely makes the game more realistic, but such a game would not be that enjoyable. This has been explored previously in 772: Frogger.
The title text talks about how gender is portrayed in games. For some people it is more emotionally affecting to kill a woman, as women are biologically weaker than men, and societal norms state that men must protect them. Gender equality is a highly debated topic with many different viewpoints, where one's conscious reasoned views may sometimes stand at odds to subconscious feelings. When a player becomes aware that killing women bothers one more than killing men, it exposes an inconsistency in the player's own logic, one that's very uncomfortable to confront.
In the 1993 post-apocalyptic novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, the eco-pacifist residents of San Francisco defeat an invading army using a similar tactic. Rather than engage in armed defense, the family and friends of each dead San Franciscan speak directly to the soldiers who killed them, saying, "My wife was the mother of five children, and I loved her dearly," or "My cousin liked baseball." Eventually the soldiers suffer psychological breakdowns and defect en masse, rather as Cueball seems to do in the title text.
Amusingly, the 2014 game Watch Dogs does something quite similar to this; the in-game "Profiler" provides a brief summary of a targeted enemy, and if the enemy does not have a gameplay-relevant feature (i.e. "Can call for backup"), it will mention their hobbies or interests.
The game Borderlands 2 directly references this comic with the Morningstar, a unique aftermarket talking Hyperion sniper rifle which berates the user in a nagging, whiny voice any time they reload, kill an enemy, swap weapons, or score a critical hit. The weapon is obtained from the mission Hyperion Contract 873 (a reference to this comic being comic number 873) and is referred to as "the Hyperion ex-K seedy experimental weapon" upon completion of the mission.
- [Cueball is sitting in a chair in front of his TV holding a gamepad while playing a video game. Every time he shoots the sound is written inside a ring of small curved lines to indicate the noise. Text on the screen is noted after each round of blasts with a zigzag line from the screen and between each entry.]
- Game: He once built a treehouse.
- Game: She has 110 unread emails that she was hoping to get to tonight.
- Blam blam
- Game: He was the only one who took care of the plants back at base.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- No one liked my FPS mod that gives you three-second snippets from the bios of people you shoot.
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