It’s Doom’s Day.
Doom III, the third computer game in id Software’s legendary first person shooter franchise, is finally on shelves. The game’s arrival – a midnight release party at computer stores around the country, preceded by a now customary pirated leak online – brings echoes of last decade’s Doom mania.
In 1993, the first Doom crashed computer networks from the University of Wisconsin to Intel after it was released as shareware online. The next year, Doom II shredded computer game sales charts and became the first video game in history to bear a voluntary rating for violence. As I detail in my book Masters of Doom (now in paperback!), id Software’s games pushed and/or pioneered stuff – fast action first person graphics, unabashed gore, multiplayer deathmatching, user-made modifications – that we take for granted today.
Will Doom III become have such an impact? No way. But that’s not necessarily the fault of the game, which looks amazing and injects a fresh stab at story. The old revolutions (see last paragraph) were won a long time ago. The next revolution in gaming will deliver something that, like the original Doom, makes us look at this medium in a completely new way. Cinematic stories and ultra-realistic eye candy, while cool, are not a paradigm. Games aren’t supposed to be chasing movies. They’re supposed to be doing things movies can’t. There are certain innovations - webcams, Geocaching, the Sony EyeToy, the Nintendo DS, the upcoming Xbox game Fable – that point toward what this future might resemble: a place where gaming takes on a completely different form, something that truly infiltrates our lives in ways deeper than even the greatest new graphics engine can render. And, like Doom, that place will be one to remember.