Yet another milestone in video gaming history occurred today. On this day twenty years ago, id Software’s horror-themed first-person shooter Doom was released for the personal computer. Doom became one of the most successful (and controversial) titles of its era and one of the most influential video games ever made. It brought the first-person shooter genre greater success, and made rock stars out of programmers John Carmack and John Romero. For the record, designers Tom Hall and Sandy Petersen (who also worked on the game) are awesome. Can’t forget them.
Doom puts players in the shoes of an unnamed space marine (affectionately known by fans as “Doom Guy”) who is lone survivor of a demon invasion that has ransacked the base he was stationed at on Mars. Initially armed with only his fists, a pistol, and an incredibly shifting brow, Doom Guy must brave the horrors of the attack on Mars and its moons then journey to hell itself to quell the invasion.
Doom features both single-player and multi-player modes. Set across three chapters, the single player mode plays out the game’s story. The multi-player mode (set up via network) allowed for death matches or a cooperative effort for the game’s story missions. True to its genre, players experience Doom almost entirely through Doom Guys eyes save for a few cutscenes. Although not a true 3D title (Doom‘s action occurred on a 2D plane with sprite-based graphics), the game’s engine allowed the player 360 degree movement, which gave the environments an added sense of depth. With that depth came numerous opportunities to antagonize the player. Enemies could from your side, from behind, and even from the air in addition to confronting you face-to-face.
Although there had been several first-person games before Doom arrived –namely id ‘s own Wolfenstein 3D which was released the year prior– there was nothing quite like Doom at the time. It’s blending of science-fiction, horror, and action created a delightfully dreadful experience, one in which the action was fast paced and the monsters were copious.
And what terrifying monsters they are. Doom featured some of the most hideous creatures in a game for its time, adding to the anxiety one felt when traversing the already environments of Mars. From the disembodied Lost Souls, to the ever-sneering Caccodemons and the hulking Barons of Hell, Doom had minions of nearly every shape and size. And when they came for you, they came in hordes.
Fortunately, Doom has an arsenal for the ages, one that includes a shotgun, a chainsaw, a plasma cannon, and the holy relic of experimental weapons, the BFG9000. With a name that sounds like it was made from Binford Tools, the Big Friggin’ (not actually friggin’) Gun fires a burst of plasma that decimates anything in its path. Doom‘s weaponry was exemplary for its time, and inspired weapon loadouts in games to come. So the next time you play Gears of War and use the chainsaw on the Lancer, think of Doom Guy.
Doom was a hit upon its release, and received praise from both gamers and critics. It was the named “Game of the Year” by PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World, and earned the Best Adventure Game Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.
With success came sequels, and ports. Doom was followed up by Doom II, The Final Doom (an expansion of the first game), Final Doom, and Doom 3. The original game has been ported to several operating systems (like Linux) and consoles, among them the Sega 32X, Super Nintendo, Sony PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance. There were also a few unofficial expansion packs which added hundreds of additional levels. Custom patch files within the game allowed uses to create their own levels and modify the game, giving it longevity in the mod community.
Doom has ventured out into other markets outside of gaming. There have been Doom novels, comic books, and in 2005, a movie. Simply titled Doom, the film stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Karl Urban. It is loosely inspired by the look and story of Doom 3, the most recent Doom game at the time. The film was panned by critics and was a box-office flop, but at least Karl Urban became Judge Dredd years later.
Adjacent to its success, Doom was the subject of much controversy. The game was blasted for its usage of extreme violence and satanic themes, and was once banned in Brazil and Germany (the later of which lifted its 17-year ban in 2011). In the U.S., the traffic from the game’s multiplayer matches put a strain on servers and causing business to ban the playing of Doom during work hours.
Perhaps the most infamy the game was received was in the aftermath of the tragic shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Once it was discovered that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the shootings, were huge fans of Doom, the game (and violent video games in general) received a public backlash from some parents and lawmakers. In 2001, families of the Columbine victims even filed a lawsuit against Doom‘s creators as well as other entertainment companies like Sony America and AOL-Time Warner.
Despite all the gore, the controversy, and the stuttering servers, Doom stands as one of the industry’s best efforts. Not bad for a game Carmack named after a certain scene in The Color of Money. Happy 20th, Doom!
Peace & Pyre
images come from nonspecificaction.co.uk and www.freewebs.com/steeldoor/doom