I don’t get excited by much nowadays. I’m hilariously and tragically stuck in the past, and crushingly jaded. Everything WAS better back then for me. ISS64 is better than Pro Evo, Turok 2 is a more emotional, engaging story than BioShock and The Last of Us is Resident Evil 4 for cereal café dimwits.
However! I am majorly excited for the new Doom. I love everything about Doom you see, and have done ever since I saw it on GamesMaster years ago. Can you imagine the reaction of a 11 year-old dumbbell - so used to hazily mashing buttons on nonsense like Andre Agassi Tennis on the Mega Drive - to seeing Doom for the first time? It was like going from Bryan Adams to Napalm Death.
I don’t know why, but everything about Doom grabbed me by the gazongas. The gameplay, the graphics, the setting.… they all spoke to me. Some people relate to music, some people relate to characters in novels. I’m so culturally pig-ignorant, I relate to Doom. And Mortal Kombat.
Anyhoo, whilst having a conversation with one of the Midnight Resistance cabal, I finally cottoned on to why I was so attracted to Doom in the first place…
It scared the hell out of me.
I was, ooooh, eleven, when I first saw Doom, I think. At the time, I was positively angelic. I had no vices (just crème eggs), never swore, and was nice to my parents. Mostly.
I was also a churchgoing Christian kid. I was never oppressed and it wasn’t ever forced on me or anything, and I didn’t have to stay up late reading Psalms and that, but it was a part of my life. Yeah, I found it boring, and spent Sunday school singing rude versions of the Popeye theme, but I belieeeved. I believed in all the good, about going to heaven and about Jesus being a top bloke who built my hotrod and all that.
More importantly, I believed in the bad. For a couple of years in my childhood, I was absolutely terrified that I was going to hell. Again, this was never said to me by anyone who loved me, I’d just come to my own bewildering conclusions. I was already a sensitive, anxious and extremely naïve kid, but stick the threat of eternal damnation in the mix, and you’re asking for a child psychologist. I’d be up late at night worrying about things like ‘oh no I said a bad word today, is that going to be held against me?’
However, as puberty loomed around the corner like a hairy spectre, things in my brain started changing. I was still a Christian, but my interests started… developing. No longer was I content with just listening to my mum’s old records. I wanted stuff by Pulp and Radiohead, stuff that had naughty words and songs about bonking and alienation and robots and that. I didn’t want to watch cartoons anymore, I wanted to watch Robocop every day and night (this is still true now).
I didn’t want Sonic. I wanted Doom.
My family wasn’t made of money, so we never got a PC, but a couple of years later in 1997 I got an N64 for Christmas. Of course, everybody wanted Goldeneye at the time, but nobody could get it. Me and the old man looked everywhere, but alas… sold out. So whilst in Toys’R’us, my poor exasperated dad asked me to just pick something so he could go home and have a kip.
And there it was… Doom 64.
I always wanted my own version of Doom, so I couldn’t resist. He bought it, we went home and after some jiggery pokery with my trusty old analogue TV (which I think had Antoine De Caunes burned into the screen), I was away, playing my first ever Doom.
Jesus, it terrified me.
Doom 64 wasn’t the buttrock and violence bonanza the PC version was. Doom 64 was a horribly dark, oppressive game, with a Lustmord style soundtrack, gloomy lighting and grim, disturbing level design, viscera strewn all over the place.
It had a real sense of hopelessness, compounded by the opening cinematic where a load of Doom lads get massacred by Demons. This was a lot for my (recently-turned) 13 year-old brain to deal with, a brain previously only accustomed to day-glo stuff like Sonic and FIFA.
The way I thought about Doom 64 is the way people think about Dark Souls now. It was this insurmountable thing. I couldn’t get to grips with it. This extended to the artwork, too.
The foundations were getting shakier everyday, but I was still Christian for the most part. Having a game where the front cover was a big pentagram and beasty on the front, though? Asking for trouble. I used to get so disturbed looking at the art, I’d put the cover face down. I’d still look at it in terrified fascination though, and at the time, I never knew why.
Clive Barker said there’s a fine line between horror and arousal (of course Clive was talking sexual arousal, because… he’s Clive Barker), but I think that applies here, and no, not in a sexual way, you brutes. You always want what you’re not used to in some way, something forbidden.
Even though it technically wasn’t, Doom felt forbidden. By playing Doom, my cherubic 13 year old incarnation was doing something a little naughty, something that would warrant a talking to from Him upstairs. And even though he felt bad for playing it, deep down, I think somewhere… 13 year old me quite liked it.
I actually traded Doom 64 in a month or so later for Diddy Kong Racing (it’s better than Mario Kart 64, chumps) as I couldn’t get past the third level because I was too braindead to use the run button, but by that point, the damage had been done. I wanted more of the same in everything, from games to music to movies. More violence, more transgressive content, more angst, more cussing, more bleakness, more naughty bits, just… more.
As you can tell, I’m an extremely lapsed Christian now. That part of my life dissipated rapidly halfway through my teens with the discovery of violent industrial metal, attitude era WWF, Chris Morris, discarded grot mags in the woods and (wait for it)… Quake! I became a scumbag basically, a desensitised husk that stuck on stuff like Hellraiser as something gentle to fall asleep to, and listened to bands with song titles like ‘High Velocity Impact Splatter.’
I think in some ways, Doom was a factor that helped open that door.
The door to HELL.