Without waxing poetic, let’s talk about DOOM and DOOM II, two games that for better or worse, shaped me into the gamer I am today. These games are kind of a big deal to me; and, in my head, they are, like, larger than life. At the risk of sounding crude and douchey, I played the fuck outta these games and I was awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E-!-!.
In order to set this up properly, let’s go back to 1993, when DOOM first came out. That year I was a high school senior/college freshman. I was not a social butterfly or a cheerleader or a jock (I’m sure you’re surprised), but instead I steered towards music, theatre, and the like (another surprise, for realz). I tried to be nice to people, more so that they would leave me alone rather than become friends, and I rarely got in trouble, though sometimes my internal censor didn’t work quite right and I often ended up on classmates’ bad sides. My outward persona liked Top 40 radio, big sweaters, asymmetry, and black cherry soda.
But inside…I was a little different. I didn’t burn ants on the sidewalk or scare small children and animals; but when few people were looking, I listened to Howard Stern, Metallica, and I liked the Yankees. I loved MTV, HBO/Cinemax, and worked backstage on several plays.
And I loved video games. I’ve already mentioned that at this time I soaked up just about any game that made its way into our house. How DOOM and DOOM II (we had the PC versions) got into that mix I’ll never remember; and I’m pretty sure that if my mom had ever found out about it, she’d have flipped. So my eternal relationship with the games must have been in the stars because she never asked about them.
DOOM and DOOM II are incredibly raw for early first-person shooters. There’s blood, corpses, hellish backdrops, walls crawling with flesh (more so in DOOM II), disembodied howls, and nasty, nasty creatures to kill. To this day, I’ve not been more horrified/joyful/terrified/macho in playing ANY game more than when I played the DOOM titles.
Given the sheer advancements in video gaming since 1993, it would be hard for me to direct any present-day gamer to play DOOM, but it might be an exercise worth pursuing if you’re interested in how first-person shooters have evolved. DOOM has a very simple premise. You, a space marine, are stranded on Mars, which through ghastly human experiments and the opening of the gates of hell, has become populated by monsters of all sorts and humans-turned-zombies. The only way out is through the monsters. Your armaments consist of everything from a knife and chainsaw to everyone’s favorite, the BFG9000 (in DOOM II. Was it in DOOM?). It’s a first person shooter that’s rendered in 3D, and pretty good 3D for the time – not that crappy Wolfenstein shit. I remember that the levels were challenging but not overly hard. And the monsters were suitable foes, relatively easy to target but not that easy to kill.
But what really struck me about the game, and what still sticks with me to day, was the game’s environment and incredible creepy ambiance. I’m sorry, call me a girl here, but DOOM was scary. I’m not a horror aficionado and I don’t like being scared, but there was something about the game that drew me in despite the creepiness. I talked about becoming emotionally attached to a game, but this was something different, a precursor to that — I felt like I owned DOOM, like it was life or death and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one dying.
What DOOM did was set forth the “me against the world” feeling that I carried into my daily life and eventual independence. I felt truly accomplished every time I made it to that red EXIT sign that signaled the end of the a level. I developed that “bring it on!” sense whenever the monsters got bigger or harder. I loathed the howls and screams of creatures yet to come. I hated going into abandoned rooms that had fleshy, pulsing walls or were strewn with dead, bloody bodies. DOOM was such a visceral experience. There was no thinking “am I doing the right thing?”, there was only killing and surviving. Like Rambo, except with more demons and less forest.
Ultimately, I made the choice to play DOOM – no peer pressure or other people involved – my choice alone. For a time, I played whenever I could sneak into our computer room. And I beat the game several times. Sadly, I can’t say the same for DOOM 2. Same premise, bigger monsters, and I never beat it. Oh, I played it a buncha times right to that last level where all the monsters come flying outta that portal-goat-demon-hell thing, but there were just too many for me to conquer. But that’s ok, but the time I got to DOOM 2, I felt like I didn’t have anything to prove, so that game was more fun and less necessary.
I’ll always hold DOOM and DOOM II close to my gaming heart. Like most, I found my way in the world through human contact and trial and error, but it helped having my trusty BFG9000 and a few demon spawn at my side.