In the context of shooters, a headshot is a shot from a firearm or other weapon that makes impact with the head of an opponent. The head is the smallest target on a human-sized adversary, and often games will reward players for making such a shot, although this can vary according to the realism of the game itself. Most military simulation shooters will instantly kill the victim of a headshot, as will most other games with at least semi-realistic intentions, while other, more abstracted shooters may simply inflict more damage. Headshots are often tied to specific effects in certain games, such as the announcement of it loudly to the player, or a small graphical reward akin to a medal. Another type of reward for the player achieving the headshot is the destruction of the cranium being rendered in graphic detail or even the entire decapitation of the target, which can be seen prominently in games like Resident Evil, Gears of War, the Unreal series, the Soldier of Fortune franchise, or Conker's Bad Fur Day. The headshot is a part of all games which feature a limb targeting system, since the limb targeting allows the player to do headshots and much more.
In the context of tactical RPGs and tactical strategy games where headshots can be performed, they often use an action point system and other unconventional methods to make the headshot more difficult to achieve. Games like SD Snatcher, Jagged Alliance 2 and Vagrant Story feature this kind of system. Headshots in these kinds of games do not necessarily instantly kill an enemy, but do more damage.
Most first-person shooters have a very simple method of shooting. The very first shooters had an auto-aim which was mostly vertical because there was not any way to aim up and down. Games like Golgo 13 and System Shock allowed more true aim, but the shooting remained relatively simple since all parts of the body directly hit by the projectiles received the same amount of damage.
The first video games to feature headshots were the early Virtua Cop games, where position-dependent hits caused different reactions, with a headshot sending enemies flying head over heels before they flop to the ground. It soon inspired similar headshot mechanics in rival light-gun shooters like Time Crisis and The House of the Dead. Headshots were then introduced to third-person survival horror games by Resident Evil and particularly first-person shooters by the Team Fortress mod for QuakeWorld, followed shortly after by GoldenEye 007, which was inspired by Virtua Cop and in turn inspired most later first-person shooters. In these games, players could instantly kill any enemy by targeting their head with any gun, unless they were wearing a metal helmet. This was new at the time and introduced some strategy in the shooting because hitting the head allowed theoretical conservation of ammo and a faster, classier way to eliminate enemies.
In Resident Evil, and later shooters like The House of the Dead, Chasm: The Rift, and Unreal, the novelty was the fact they also showed the decapitation of the enemy, whose head is literally ripped apart or off by the headshot. In Unreal multiplayer and in Unreal Tournament, the shield belt is a protection against headshots. A player can resist one headshot - which depletes all the protection - and would require a second headshot to be killed. Unreal Tournament was responsible for the popularization of the headshot since the game praised the player for it, with the announcer famously shouting "HEADSHOT!" each time one was successfully pulled off. Later, in Soldier of Fortune, headshots were distinguished by either destroying the cranium if done with a powerful weapon, or simply placing a hole in the head if performed with a weaker weapon like the 9mm handgun.
Certain games allow the player to make headshots with practically any projectile weapon - often energy weapons. Explosives are usually excluded, and certain games do not allow headshots with some projectile weapons, such as the Halo franchise's assault rifles.