Back in 1994 I’d been out of the computing loop for a few years. I’d cut my teeth on the Sinclair ZX81, graduated to Acorn’s BBC Model B and worked on Archimedes at college for my Computing Science A level. Then I lost contact with computers for the best part of 5 long years.
Then one day, I was renting a room in a shared house when a friend, known affectionately by all as “Joe 90”, brought round a “spare” PC – a DXII 66Mhz. With no fancy GUI we ran it command line, mainly playing games and Doom was the number one hit in the houshold.
When Doom quite literally took centre stage, we moved the rig from a sensible corner of the front room and mounted the monitor on top of an old Orange speaker cabinet and placed it in the part of our living room where the TV set might live. The keyboard resided on the coffee table and so we took our turns to play the incredible first person shooter as if it were a regular games console.
They were hazy days but I remember well the sound of the shotgun firing and reloading, the floorboards of the Victorian house reverberating as monsters ate virtual lead. The chainsaw would tear through the atmosphere as well as digital limbs, the roars, the screams, all amplified through the old guitar amp. This was how to play computer games.
Real Life Doom
At the time I was working part-time as a cleaner for a subsidiary of British Telecom, Syntegra, and their office was a grand pagoda style building on a local business park. The best thing about the building was the elaborate marble floors and the foyer had a huge compass design laid into the floor.
One evening I rolled into work, had a chat with the security guards and stepped across the intricate marble floor and into the lift. As it went up from ground floor to first, I anticipated the doors sliding open and any manner of demons, aliens and monsters awaiting me as the portal opened. In my mind I readied my shotgun and prepared to do battle; that was the power of Doom on my twenty-something year old world.
When I finally managed to afford my own PC in 1996/97 (It cost me nearly £2,000!) I brought my own copy of Doom on CD and relived my days as a space marine blasting demons. I also picked up Quake too, adding weight to the saying that “it can lead on to stronger things”.
Doom Was Only the Start…
Doom II, Quake II, Halo, Halo II, Quake Arena, Duke Nukem II, Halflife… These were some of my favourite FPS games and it all started with Doom. It was all a far cry from The Tomb of Dracula on the ZX-81 (although there are parallels) and Chuckie Egg on the BBC but these machines never had the power to do what John Carmack and John Romero did with Doom.
Doom was colourful and scary back in 1994 and I had Doom II, Quake and Quake II for my PC, Quake III on my Dreamcast and I brought the Xbox on the day it came out, just so that I could play Halo and later Halo II. And when I picked up Doom III it was scary as f**k but not as playable or enjoyable as the original Doom (Did anyone else think it was far too dark to see anything at times?)
And why am I sitting here now, waxing lyrical about a 21 year old violent computer game? It’s because I am halfway rough the brilliant book Masters of Doom, about “How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture”. I was there, I was part of that movement two decades ago and, reading the book, I am reminiscing about the good old days.
I say good old days because I no longer have the time to play, with my family and my work. But I hark back to that time when I was footloose and fancy free, wielded a shotgun and a BFG and blew away demons in my spare time.
I’m going to go and finish my book and try waiting until I get back to England before digging out my Doom CD. Or will I spark up my Steam account and download a sneaky copy onto my aged old laptop?
UPDATE: 3rd January 2016
Well, I finished the book just as the plane landed at Heathrow on New Year’s Eve. I admit, with some embarrasment, that Masters of Doom was the only book I fully read in the whole of 2015.
But anyway, I looked for my old Doom CD and could only find my Quake II disc, so I revisited my much-neglected Steam account and found a deal where I could download Doom, Doom II and Doom III all for less than a fiver. I spent a quick hour getting back in the spin of things and 1) Yes, it is a great nostalgia trip and 2) Doom doesn’t half look dated. But it was great fun seeing the old game again and I will take it for a spin whenever I get the time. Saying that, I read ONE book last year, so that’s how little spare time I have to myself these days.