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2013: Year of the Bow

Crysis 3

Something that's been  going around a lot lately is the idea that all the popular games which have come out recently have featured using the bow as a weapon. Starting with Far Cry 3 back in December (I know, technically not 2013 but there has been a fair bit of spillover in terms of expansions and the such) and then moving through Crysis 3 in February and Tomb Raider in March – a lot of the big hitters seem to be picking up the good old bow and arrow as a main weapon.

Some people have even stretched the idea to games where the bow isn’t as big of a feature, like the fact that Gears of War: Judgement features a bow you can use to place tripwires; although since the Gears franchise has had the Torque bow (that glorious instant death weapon) since its first instalment this might be wishful thinking.

Still, it seems fairly well documented that people like using the bow as a weapon. But what is it about this historic weapon of war that makes it so attractive? Why is the action of using a bow somehow more pleasant than that of shotgunning down a midget in Borderlands?

Well as far as I can see, there are a few key features which please us as players about using a bow:

  1. It’s silent. In all kinds of games, whether they are designed for stealth or otherwise, using a bow is generally a quiet and efficient way of killing – so staying undetected, whether it’s just for a couple seconds or to maintain a stealthy approach, is a key attraction.
  2. It’s accurate. Sure, it might get beat out by a homing missile or a sniper rifle, but outside of some of the more ridiculous modern contraptions – a bow is pretty damn accurate. It helps that some games have auto aim features in play, or give you a little bit of zoom when using a weapon like the bow (Tomb Raider is guilty of this) – but no matter what’s going on you can usually trust the bow to shoot where you are point it.
  3. It hits hard. Now this might not be a rule for all games (and there is an exception to every rule), but from the majority of what I’ve played I’ve found the bow to be a medium to heavy hitter in most situations. Of course things like rifles and shotguns and SMGs are probably higher damage in virtually anything – but a trend I’ve noticed is to place the bows damage above that of a pistol. That never makes you really think about it at the time, but considering it now – does that really make sense? I suppose it comes down to range, but the point is: bows generally  good damage.
  4. It takes skill. I’m not talking about actual player skill in this case, although generally you’ll find bows take a little bit more know how than your average rifle (especially in games where it has a proper arc like Far Cry 3), but the illusion of skill that a bow conveys. In real life, bows take a lot more skill than a gun does. You have to adjust strength, check the wind, plan your arc and then finally aim and release successfully to make it hit where you are going. Now, whether or not you are doing this in the game, the idea that a bow requires skill is always subconsciously present. For me at least, this ensures that shots I take or kills that I make with a bow – are that much more satisfying, because for some reason it feels like I did more to achieve them. Even though I probably did it.
  5. Rambo. Even for someone who has never seen First Blood, the image of the cool guy shooting a bow is pretty wellspread in society. From Legolas in Lord of the Rings, to Hawk Eye in the recent Avengers movie or even Katniss in the Hunger Games (yes, I watched it) – there are plenty of cool people who pick up the bow as a weapon. And inevitably (being the ego-driven creatures that we are) the coolness associated with these figures builds up to the point that the bow itself becomes cool – much like the rise of movies like Shooter built up the sniper rifle (not that it needed much help) and gave rise to games like Sniper Ghost Warrior.

So there you have it, 5 pretty key reasons why people just love using bows. Now does this mean we always will? Or that the bow fad is going to keep growing unchecked? Well, probably not.

But still, it’s fun to think about no?

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