No, seriously — Doom, the computer game. Steam was offering the whole franchise for a few pounds over the holidays, so I bit.
While not technically the very first First Person Shooter, it was the first large, really functional, major mega-ass hit FPS. It’s hard to overstate how popular this thing was when it was released in 1994. It was a phenomenon. It was HUGE. It gummed up computer networks and ate up productivity from coast to coast.
It was a great game. But there were two additional clever things id software did that helped make Doom a gorilla: they gave a third of the game away for free, encouraging players to make copies and spread it around (unheard of in those overpriced, aggressively copy-protected days). And they allowed users to modify the game — change the graphics, build new levels, make it a whole ‘nother game.
I worked in a corporate art department, so we got an official boss sanction to play, provided we didn’t spend an obscene amount of time at it and were able to couch our activity in the corporate bullshit language of Learning New Things. We developed a whole office vocabulary of Doom, full of Pink Boys and Scratchy Guys.
First time I’ve played it in a decade and a half, anyway, and I’m horrified to report the grooves worn into my head are fresh and clear. Turn right, turn left, there’s a secret door behind the green panel, watch out for the Eyeball Monster coming through the teleportation pad. I remember more Doom than High School algebra.
It’s nigh impossible to believe we ever saw this goofy, clunky thing as a challenge to play, let alone an existential threat to American society. But the violence, the gore, the kinda sorta Satanic iconography was viewed with great alarm by the usual Great Alarm Viewers. Particularly when it turned out the Columbine shooters were big fans.
p.s. I can’t pass the topic without mentioning my great invention. I am inordinately proud of that.