Doom. Just the name brings to mind the ultimate nerd success story- a passion project made by geeks, for geeks. Doom was a technically mind blowing game, an unreplicatable mix of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and action, and a love letter to the culture of early 90s. Doom is an eternal legend. Doom is an untouchable masterpiece. Doom is Doom.
The setting, a military base on Mars, is remarkably similar to the LV-426 compound in the film, Aliens. Many monsters from the game are directly ripped from horror movies, and fantasy media; most famously is the iconic “floating meatball”, Cacodemon. The first enemies in the game, the zombies, are mangled corpses possessed by an unseen force. The enemies faced in the game range from walking item drops, to the hundred foot tall monstrosity of metal and flesh- Cyberdemon. Frequently used, but rarely recognized, is the abuse of the human fight-or-flight-reflexes blind spot: the fear of the unknown. This is why humans fear the dark, why good horror movies only show their monsters for a split second, and why Doom’s monsters are scary to this day.
There are no explanations of what these things are. That’s what the developers meant for it to be. While spooky monsters are quite scary, you can still kill them like nothing if you use your dependance sense. Doom was the first game of its time to cleverly use lighting and obscured vision to force the player to use their other senses, including hearing. The guttural snorts of a Pinky that you can hear, but can’t see, will put even the most experienced of explorers on edge 23 years later.
The technological advances reimagined the low light environments and echoing hallways of their previous games, using superior graphics to power the major game mechanic. One can see the monsters, or defend oneself- not both. A technically impressive creation, Doom 3 completely alienated fans of the older games. While it was Doom in spirit, the gameplay was completely different. Some of them liked it, others hated it; Doom 3 is generally accepted as a good game, but even fans agree that the shift in gameplay was massive, and millions of players felt that it “just wasn’t Doom.” While still a modest success, its attempt to bring Doom back to the forefront of PC gaming failed, and Doom didn’t command the interest it once did. Doom wasn’t the king anymore; it was a page in the history books of gaming. The explosive revival of Doom didn’t come from a technically impressive tech demo from an aging studio, but it came from the fans. However, a modern FPS was just what Doom needed for appeal to the mass audience in 2010. Mainstream gaming websites began publishing stories on “The New Doom,” and gamers who had only dabbled with Doom gave it another go and popularity skyrocket overnight. Once the chaotic gameplay and shock humor gore gained Youtube popularity, Brutal Doom didn’t resuscitate Doom, but brought it back to legendary status.
The fourth game in the series is set for release and the community is once again divided. While met with enthusiastic cheering and applause at its reveal in 2015, excitement has slowly given way to caution as the release date approaches. With a once-in-a-decade event like a new Doom game being released, the community is not sure what to expect, especially considering how much the gaming industry has changed since Doom 3’s release more than ten years ago. The ultimate fear of the community is the game’s complexity being sacrificed for mass appeal which is a fate shared by countless games in the past couple of years. Doom’s single player mode has only been shown off in trailers and at conventions, and hasn’t been played by anyone in the community yet. In 2016, Doom 4 will need to stand above the oversaturated ocean of generic first person shooters, to get the attention it needs to sell. Skeptics claim that Doom 4 will mimic Brutal Doom’s over-the-top violence to gloss over low quality gameplay.
Doom will simply never be “Doom” again, because the very fiber of the game didn’t come from the end result, but came from the crafting of the game. The producers loved the same things as the consumers, and the end result made everyone happy because video game interest was concentrated inside a certain cultural demographic. Since the hardcore geek scene of the early ‘90s faded away, geek culture has changed; being a geek isn’t social suicide. Today, Interactive Electronic Entertainment is cool, accessible, and universally popular; if Doom was released today, the diversity of players would break the concentration of mutual interest. Question is, if something could never be what made it great, should we lay the memory to rest with rose tinted eyes, or do we continue the legacy with something new?
By Jonathon Rose