Remembering the Classics: Doom

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As I have previously stated in posts on such classics like Call of Duty and Halo, the first-person shooter (FPS) genre is by far the most profitable in the video game industry. The act of shooting bad enemies who are shooting back at you is understood worldwide after all. While I have touched upon some major milestone titles of this genre in the past, I have yet to actually pay attention to the uncontested father of this massive branch of the industry. That changes this week as one of the most influential games in history recently passed a major 20th anniversary milestone. This is a game that brought the FPS genre to a mainstream audience with pioneering 3D graphics, multiplayer gaming, and full-on support of game modifications. It was also highly controversial for satanic imagery and extremely high levels of graphic violence. I am, of course, talking about the one and only Doom.

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Doom was initially released in three nine-level episodes as shareware that premiered on December 10th, 1993 for MS-DOS and MAC systems. The game didn’t really have much of a story. It basically boiled down to you being an unnamed space marine (widely known now as Doomguy) fighting a never ending wave of demons from Hell. The weapons are now classic shooter fare, like chainsaws, shotguns, chainguns, etc and the main objective is to reach the end of a level by any means possible. The majority of the game takes place on the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, and eventually in Hell itself. By surviving the fiery pits of Hell, Doomguy literally becomes too tough for Hell to contain. As for the multiplayer, you can either play through the game cooperatively or in a deathmatch. Keep in mind this is before first-person shooters really became popular on consoles. Enemies mainly consisted of a wide variety of demons as well.

One of the most pioneering qualities of Doom was its three-dimensional setting. Sure the enemies themselves are two-dimensional, but the entire setting is in full polygonal form. Doom really was the first FPS that made space as important as gameplay. Instead of just moving on a single flat floor like id Software’s previous famous release Wolfenstein 3D, you could move up and down floors. The simple action of Doomguy climbing in any form was groundbreaking at the time. Bring in effects like flickering lights or moments of complete darkness and you can see the influence Doom has had on basically every modern FPS title.

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All those hours people spend playing multiplayer on the many games of the Call of Duty franchise have Doom to thank as well. While GoldenEye 007 first gave FPS multiplayer a dominant place on home consoles, Doom was the first one to give it a place at all. Multiplayer is practically a no-brainer now, especially for PC’s, but back in ‘93 this was nearly unheard of. Naturally it took off like wildfire. It didn’t take long for the term “deathmatch” to have a permanent place in industry lingo. The multiplayer was so popular that it even crashed the many servers that were hosting it. Technology in the early 90s simply weren’t prepared for this much volume and yet it continued with such fervor and passion.

Doom also popularized the concept of modding. Modifying games has become a popular aspect of the video game industry and Doom was one of the first titles to give it mainstream attention. Doom contained custom WAD files which allowed people to create their own custom levels. Some WAD files have even been released commercially. Popular culture has since become immortalized in Doom including mods for Aliens, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and even Sailor Moon.

Despite how much Doom has changed the industry, it was also an extremely controversial title. People didn’t exactly take kindly to the massive amounts of satanic imagery and bloody gore strewn across the map. People went as far as calling Doom a “mass murder simulator.” This reached a fever-pitch in 1999 when it was discovered that the teenagers responsible for the Columbine tragedy played violent video games like Doom regularly. Since then, Doom and many other aggressively violent titles have been used as scapegoats when people try to figure out why young individuals would do such heinous acts. Despite repeated scientific evidence that proves such claims unfounded, the debate still comes up every time tragedy strikes.

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While Doom hasn’t had a major part in my personal gaming history, I have seen its influence in countless titles. It even goes beyond FPS titles into every other genre like action-adventure or puzzles. Some of my favorite titles involve fighting demonic or undead creatures, which is something Doom actually made cool. Sure it was controversial but it lead to smash hits like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and basically every other title involving monsters (the list is ENORMOUS). Darkened rooms and flickering lights? Future mainstays in Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. I’ve played a little bit of Doom in my time but have never actually come close to finishing it.

Unfortunately history hasn’t been too kind to the Doom franchise. The series has continued over the years but it doesn’t have the mainstream success and attention like Halo, Call of Duty, and BioShock despite all taking cues from what Doom started way back when. The series just hasn’t aged well for whatever reason. I’m sure the movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson didn’t help either. Despite the lack of attention, the recent titles have still been positively received. Doom will always have a permanent place in gaming history and it’s amazing to see how much has changed over these 20 years because of what this title started, for better or for worse.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The modding community is still strong to this day, too: fantastic level sets are put out almost on a weekly basis, to the point where Doom is now a game that never ends (and let’s not forget the source ports for playing the game without dosbox, like zdoom, legacy, etc). It’s still my #1 favorite video game, and the reason I got into game development in the first place: the first time I played it (way back in grade school), I immediately started drawing design docs for my own doom clones.

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