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It’s not often that a game will come out that changes the industry forever, despite how much today’s marketing-based pre-order-pushing game companies might claim otherwise. But on this day twenty years ago, 11 guys operating out of Texas unleashed Hell upon the world of video gaming.
On December 10th, 1993, id Software released DOOM, which changed everything. Never before had a computer game offered such intense, immersive fast-paced action. While first-person action games had existed before DOOM, id largely pioneered the genre, with titles such as Hovertank 3D, Catacomb 3D, and the legendary Wolfenstein 3D. Not only did each one offer an action-packed experience, but, thanks to programmer John Carmack, they made the most of the limited hardware of the era, allowing a wider range of systems to run them. And they went even further with DOOM.
Never before had players explored, from that immersive first-person perspective, such rich worlds, filled with polygons, staircases, variations in elevation, textures on walls, floors, and ceilings, and fear-inducing lighting effects. And the map editing tools allowed players to build worlds of their own. The technical accomplishments of DOOM were staggering, but that’s not all that made it truly legendary. Running and gunning your way through hordes of monsters to a rocking metal soundtrack was part of it. So was blood, gore, and gibs aplenty. Not to mention its incredible multiplayer functionality. For the first time, players could frag their friends with rocket launchers, chainguns, and energy weapons. DOOM introduced the term “deathmatch,” and it hasn’t gone away since.
DOOM was basically the ‘90s in video game form, at least until Duke Nukem 3D. Everything about it screamed heavy metal! Blowing away demons with shotguns, showers of blood, chainsaw lobotomies, and high-ordinance problem-solving. It was attitude! It was the game the guys at id wanted to play, so they made it themselves. There were imitators, sure, and for the years until “first-person shooter” became a term, games of that genre that followed in DOOM’s wake were simply known as DOOM clones. They weren’t all just clones, though. id had just unintentionally pioneered a genre, basically on their own.
The ‘90s ended, but not before Quake, Unreal, Jedi Knight, and Half-Life (to name but a few) would take the genre to new, even greater heights. But now the Glory Days of the FPS are over, and modern shooters in general seem to have forgotten the greatness of DOOM and its brethren.
Brilliant level design and secret stashes of hidden powerups are a thing of the past, replaced by narrow, linear passages filled with unskippable cut scenes, quick-time events, and conveniently-placed chest-high objects. Gone are the days when heroes could carry more than two guns, for today’s “heroes,” no matter how ‘roided out, must cower behind debris and wait for their eyes to stop bleeding. And rather than think of the player base as a community, the ones who will keep the game alive long after it’s unavailable on store shelves, modern companies strip that power from them, telling them to pay for “online passes” and map packs instead of putting mod tools on the disc.
Regardless of where gaming is now or where it’s heading, DOOM forever altered the face of video games, and hell, is still around today. Having spawned a number of sequels, spin-offs, countless ports, a rumoured upcoming instalments, and various media adaptations (including a particularly notorious comic), DOOM still remains popular today. Players continue to make new maps and mods and it’s basically available for anything with a processor in it. It’s hard to believe that, on this day, twenty years ago, video gaming was conquered by the monsters from the id. I guess time flies when you’re Knee-Deep in the Dead.