Doom At 30: a week-long celebration of three decades of id Software’s seminal shooter.
Confession time, readers. Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never played the original Doom. As a child, my family didn’t have much money and I didn’t get my first laptop until I was 16. Thus, I missed out on a lot of what are now considered PC staples. With dread, I’m often met with the accursed exclamation, “You’ve not played insert game before?” followed by a good dose of judgment. But what do you do when you need to play through a backlog of games all while keeping up-to-date with new releases for work? With games now stretching out at 100+ hours apiece, where is the time for old classics like Doom?
For me, approaching Doom was cathartic. Playing a game that’s older than myself was certainly an experience, but I was shocked at how well it holds up.
Okay, so the controls are quite janky to my modern day sensibilities. You can only look left to right and you can forget it if you think jumping is an option. But despite the simple ‘find a coloured key to go through this door’ gameplay loop, it works. Doom’s running-and-gunning, overlaid with jazzy synth-rock music, is charmingly uncomplicated, if a little repetitive – years of consuming short-form media has sadly made my attention span crumble to dust, and I’ll own up to letting my mind wander every now again when I should have been blasting enemies with the business end of my shotgun.
I’m not the first RPS writer to have come up against Doom as a rickety musuem piece. Matt Cox (RPS in peace) came to a similar conclusion when he first tried it in 2018. And like him, I was also struck by how everything looks sort of the same. Despite levels being quite simple in their design, I found myself going around in circles for ages not knowing if the brown wall I passed was new or the same one from 20 minutes ago. I did feel a rush when I managed to uncover a secret or get a keycard for a new area, but most of my time spent with Doom was in a confused daze. Despite this, though, what better way to unleash stress than by spending a couple hours shooting hellspawn?
That is, if you remember to manually save your progress, which I did not. Not once.
Playing Doom 30 years removed from its original release has been a strange experience overall. In a phenomenon I’ve decided to coin “faux nostalgia”, I often found myself remarking, “Oh, this reminds me of being back in an arcade”, knowing full well that I never played arcade games as a kid. Instead, I was the loser collecting 2p coins for the penny pushers. It’s strange, though, isn’t it? I’m honestly not sure where this feeling comes from either. Do I have such a strong desire for escapism these days that I’ve manufactured false memories of a past I never really experienced? I kinda feel the same way about the original Star Wars trilogy, too, even though I first watched them when I was 15 in 2008 – I can hardly call that “the good old days”, can I?
Maybe faux nostalgia is just an obnoxious millennial trend I should make my peace with (like the resurgence of sea shanties on TikTok, which I low-key loved). But playing Doom today does invoke that same feeling in me, for better or worse. I know objectively that Doom is an object of its time and can’t help but feel somewhat straightforward compared to more modern games. I also know that I’ve played some Roblox games with better graphics and levels that hold my attention more successfully. But once that metal music starts blasting, I can’t help but feel a sense of happiness and a ‘return to simpler times’ mentality. It’s a comfort thing more than anything else, I think, like telling yourself you deserve a new Warhammer model, even though you have a shelf of shame collecting dust.
So I reckon Doom is still worth playing if you want to get a little perspective on how shooters have evolved in the past 30 years. Likewise, if you want to keep yourself humble and grateful for modern controls (man, am I glad modern shooters let you jump these days, lemme tell ya). If you simply want to shoot some demons without further thought for a few hours, Doom is a great vehicle for that, especially when it’s so readily available to play on both Steam and Game Pass without the fuss of booting up something like DOSBox. But I’m not sure it will trouble my personal list of favourite shooters. So I’m sorry, Doom, but it’s back onto the museum shelf you go.