Action games have a tendency to be formulaic and repetitive as they usually look alike and share some similarities. But only some of those games have what it takes to transcend history breaking the mold, creating something completely new. When Doom was first released a third of the game was distributed as shareware and about 10 million people immediately installed it on their computers, not only popularizing First-person shooters to a wide new audience, but quickly becoming a “killer app” that every console was expected to have, causing a boom in the genre in the mid-1990s. The inclusion of a 3D world, a new multiplayer experience and the possibility of customizing WADs to create thousands of mods made Doom one of the most important titles in gaming history, influencing modern classics like Halo, GoldenEye, Half-Life, Quake and Unreal Tournament.
It was another id Software game, Wolfenstein 3D, which in 1992 presented one of the first-person shooters to the industry, but it wasn’t until the release of Doom that we can truly say the genre completely changed. In fact, there was a time around 1996 when the term Doom-clone was much more used than First-person shooter to refer to the type of gameplay, yes Doom was that influential. The name was chosen after John Carmack, the game’s lead designer, watched the movie “The Color of Money”. There’s a particular scene in which Tom Cruise shows up at a pool hall holding a custom pool cue and he is asked: “What do you have there?”, “Doom” replies Cruise with a malevolent grin on his face. For Carmack, that was the perfect introduction of the game to the industry.
Doom’s story was simple enough, you incarnate a nameless space marine that has been offered a post in a Martian colony and finds out he is the last man standing, and he has to defend from the experiments the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) has been conducting, with nothing but a pistol. Apparently, the naïve scientists have been trying to create gateways to make teleportation possible between the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, opening a gate to hell in the meantime.
Let’s say that the plot was not the element that made Doom stand out, it was the solid gameplay, the cutting edge technology and the continuous nonstop battles. The level design was incredible and felt ahead of its time, making possible to easily differentiate one room from another. The inclusion of revolutionary lightning effects and improved textures in 3D environments intensified the experience, resulting in a very engaging mechanic that created a really peculiar ambiance. This engine technology allowed floors and other platforms to lower or raise forming staircases and the stereo sound made possible to determine the direction and distances of the sound effects.
Doom’s engine allowed the creation of WADs (acronym the means Where is All the Data) to develop custom levels with the possibility of modifying almost any aspect of the game. As a consequence, one of the first mod-making communities was born and total-conversions appeared. Nowadays you can find fan made WADs based on any major franchise (Alien, Batman, Pokémon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, South Park and so on) reaching a much wider audience than ever before, specially as you can install Doom in virtually any modern (and not so modern) console: like Dreamcast, PSP, Nintendo DS, iPod, cell phones and even some calculators.
Doom has also gained notoriety because of its high levels of graphic violence, gore and the inclusion of satanic images, making it one of the most controversial games in history. Even though at the time the game was attacked by religious organizations and parents alike, it certainly was part of its charm. The game was full of unforgettable vulgar moments and repulsive creatures that took its humor to an extreme and ridiculous level.
As engaging and interesting the single-player mode is, Doom was redefined to a whole level when played in multiplayer. For some reason, developers thought it would be a good idea to allow more than one player to play simultaneously against each other, creating a massive social phenomenon that changed the way video games were and are still played. They enabled a LAN mode, in which up to four people could participate. They were responsible for the creation of the terms like “deathmatch”, “lag” and online multiplayer, which nowadays we take for granted. Doom became a one of the most influential pieces of software that no developer would have anticipated at the time, there may be new iterations, sequels, movies adaptations, novels and clones but surely nothing will be able to replicate the initial magic and energy that directly affected modern classics, and changed gaming as we know it.
I remember well the first time I saw Doom running on a really old PC, and from then on I’ve never seen a first person shooter the same way I saw Doom. I was drawn to it and I couldn’t stop playing it and I also knew that as soon as I installed that game on my PC it was going to be forever. Thousands of shooters were released since then, but none of them was able to capture the inner essence, rapid pace and hectic gameplay the original Doom had.