Taking at least one thing off before going out, the little black dress, the black tie, the shotgun. What do these things have in common? Obviously, their elegance.
I have been groping around for years for a way to convey to others the pleasure that I get from using the shotgun in a first person shooter. And it has finally come to me, it is the very definition of elegance.
I first noticed my preference for the shotgun playing Doom 2. There was something purely pleasurable about loading up, pressing the trigger, and watching really ugly critters die. As I have continued to play FPSs, I continually note my tendency to eschew nearly all other weaponry for a double barrel.
While first person shooters often offer the player about eight different options of weapons to use, I can’t imagine that any player divides their time equally among those selections. I don’t. When in doubt, I choose the shotgun.
It is simplicity itself. Get close, squeeze the trigger, no fuss, no muss. Certainly, the pistol is a challenging selection, requiring precise aiming, generally a head shot if you want to get it over with quickly. However, more often than not, you’re going to have to fire a number of times to achieve the desired effect. The machine gun is messy, the very definition of wild fire, spraying bullets everywhere. The rocket launcher might seem as elegant as the shotgun, since it can achieve that one shot kill, but it isn’t. You have to worry about collateral damage, often that damage is incurred by you. Grenades are likewise inelegant with trajectory issues and that same fear of splash damage. Maybe, the sniper rifle comes close to the stopping power of the shotgun, but it again requires the kind of patience and precision that the shotgun allows one to avoid.
Beauty is a term often difficult to define. Indeed, many claim that it is undefinable.
Nevertheless, elegance is a description of beauty that is useful as it has a measurable quality. Scientists especially prefer the term as it suggests simplicity and “basicness.” Occam’s Razor, for instance, suggests that the simplest answer is usually the best answer. Put another way, the most elegant answer is usually the best one.
That elegance and refinement (indeed, consider the idea of “being refined,” boiling something down to its most basic components) are terms equally quantifiable as related to taste is a common enough notion. Trailer park attitudes towards beauty are gaudy, decadent, but tastefulness is best represented by dialing back on decoration and sticking to the cleanest modes of décor and dress.
The shotgun is the little black dress of video games or the complex engineering problem resolved in the simplest of ways (in attempting to describe engineering elegance, the aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exup’ery said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”).It is the easiest way to resolve a problem, be that problem a horde of Nazis or a horde of zombies. It provides the simplest form of the kill and even often kills two (or three) birds (or the aforementioned zombies) with one stone.
If beauty is something that produces pleasure in us and if elegance is that which pleases us due to its simplicity, I feel that the satisfaction (frankly, the near sublime joy) that I derive from using the shotgun as my weapon of choice might best be described as a result of an exposure to elegance. There is nothing more elegant than punching a button and watching something die.
// Notes from the Road
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