Doomed From the Start
To honor the release of Doom 3 BFG edition, the Game Front staff looks back at our first experiences fighting hell demons on Mars.
I was nine in 1994, and I had a friend named Ramin. His parents were Iranian ex-pats — in retrospect, rich, pro-Western types that had to leave after the Islamic Revolution. Ramin’s parents spoiled him rotten; he was so rude to them that even my sweatpants-wearing nine-year-old self was a little taken aback. He always had the best video games, though, probably not coincidentally, so I loved spending time at his house.
I arrived one day to find him playing a new, terrifying kind of video game. Doom was so violent and realistic (for its time) that it felt like misbehaving even to watch him play it — I could imagine my own parents’ reaction to the content, and it wasn’t pretty. Ramin reveled in my discomfort, insisting on playing with the lights off even as my protests reached a squeakier and squeakier pitch.
As much as I tried to convince him to fire up Turtles in Time instead, I was secretly captivated. Each new, uncanny enemy brought a fresh mix of revulsion and curiosity. Eventually, we moved away, but by then my love affair with video games was permanent.
My first foray into the world of PC gaming was staying up late as a kid to watch my dad delve into virtual 3D worlds armed with big f****** guns. While Duke Nukem 3D is the game I most vividly remember, the golden-haired commando loses out to the golden-eyed space marine as my first FPS hero.
Yes, my dad made ample use of “iddqd,” god mode-ing his way through the pixelated alien monstrosities that seemed so gloriously detailed at the time, and instilling in me a healthy fear of lava, which nullified invulnerability. Some may say that’s why I went on to study volcanology in university.
Circa 1993-4, I’m about 12. I’m with my dad, in the Bay Area computer store chain called Egghead Software (which has since been sold off to Amazon.com).
Anyway, there’s the DOOM “shareware” disc (rather, disk. It was a floppy disk) in this little computer store, on one of those spinning carousels. It had demons on the cover, looked cheap (I think $9.99?), and we’d just gotten a new computer. My dad had been having all the fun, so it was my turn.
That night, I’m in our computer room — which had been converted from a garage — with all the lights off. It is a night of many firsts: the first FPS I’ve ever played, the first time I’ve been truly scared playing a game, and the first truly violent game I’ve played.
I “got” it immediately. I could tell it was an important game. I invited my dad in, and he in turn invited his friends over the next day, and we played through the short demo a million times.
I remember when I first played Doom. I was in college, and the decision to play “just one more level” cost me a lot of study time. It’s entirely possible that Doom and other PC games that we played during that time started the chain of events that led to me ending up here at Game Front. If so, I guess you all can blame Tom Hall and John Romero whenever I say something you don’t like. Seriously though, Doom was the game that cemented my status as a PC gamer, and for that, I owe it an eternal debt of gratitude.