I could write about Doom all day. And believe me I’ve tried. And tried again. For me it sits right next to Wipeout as one of the games that made me sit up and pay attention to games as more than just a thing that I did when the sun went down or the ball was hit over the neighbour’s fence. It the sort of thing that set young tongues wagging at school, sharing our stories of ultra-violent debauchery, putting into carefully crafted prose our tales of triumph against the dreaded Cyberdemon and his Barons of Hell. There are plenty of things that define one’s childhood, and for me, Doom absolutely sits right up there next to the rather more pedestrian fandom I held for the likes of Alan Border and Ayrton Senna.
And nothing has changed. Doom is still great more than 20 years later simply because it had so many of those “AHAH!” moments that are hard to shake even though things have moved on. It was nothing short of one of the most important games in my 30-odd years playing video games. Because it seemed at every turn something was there that changed expectations about the medium. And when there wasn’t a thing that made you go “mmmm”, the blood-soaked action was just so fast and frenzied that there was simply no time to notice. Doom was a deserved cultural zeitgeist, and I feel ever so slightly for kids of today that don’t get the experience first hand the impact it had on the industry, and at a more personal level the sheer glee it brought to kids of my generation.
But I’m not sure there was any one single moment in the 90’s, apart from perhaps seeing Mortal Kombat arcade machine in the flesh for the first time, that brought such unadulterated joy to scores of mollycoddled kids than hefting up the heaviest of heavy chainsaws and revving it up for the first time. Never before, and only a handful of times since, has obtaining a melee weapon in a first person shooter been so defining. But it was the face of the aptly named “Doom Guy” – who may or may not be named Flynn Taggart if you consider the Doom novels canon – that gave it such gravitas. His sinister but determined grin was that of a man whose odds of survival had not only been shortened, but a man who would take some semblance of glee from the chopping and maiming that was to come, who was up for the challenge. It was Doom’s equivalent of laughing in the face of death, and as a player on the other side of the screen, it was almost like a shot of adrenaline right into the heart.
The first thing I ever heard about Doom was that there was a chainsaw in it, that you could pick it up, and that you could use it as a weapon. I have vivid memories of my much older brother and uncles describing in gory detail the act of cutting up an imp with the chainsaw, all the while almost taking great delight in the fact that I wasn’t allowed to play it. “You should see the blood!” they’d say before mocking me with “but you’re not allowed to”. And I wasn’t. So for what seemed like a millennia I fantasised about that moment, the moment I would finally get to see the fabled chainsaw in action, the moment I’d finally play the game that all the grown-ups at family gatherings were cunningly hiding from the kids’ table. But rest assured, when I finally did get my hands on that Chainsaw, my grin wasn’t too far off of what I was seeing on screen. It’s a shame the wind didn’t change and preserve that moment in time.
Do you remember smiling gleefully as the words YOU’VE GOT THE CHAINSAW NOW FIND SOME MEAT appeared on screen? Or do you have another favourite video game moment?