Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Masters of Doom

December 10, 1993. Fifteen years ago. The first public version of the game is released as a shareware download. It crashes servers. Doom becomes a gaming sensation.

I recently read the book Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner (Random House, 2003). It's an interesting PG-13 read about the development of the game Doom, as well as the key players: John Carmack and John Romero.

Doom arguably paved the way for not only more realistic, immersive gaming, but also a heightened level of violence, gory imagery, and suggestive nods to the demonic. Interestingly, one of the level designers was as Mormon. At the time he worked on the game he was asked if any of it bothered him. "They're just cartoons," he's supposed to have said. "And they're the bad guys."

Yes, I downloaded Doom in 1993. A few months later I bought it. I first started playing video games in 1975, for better or for worse (probably for worse). Like it or not, video gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry capable of not only influencing millions of people, but also contributing to pop culture, as well as reacting to it.

Masters of Doom offers a rare and candid inside look at the gaming industry of years ago, when it wasn't surprising to see a handful of young guys get together, design a game, and make millions.


Jeff LaSala said...

Interesting. But it's also a slippery slope if one accuses violent video games of being a force of evil in our world.

I'm a longtime and avid fan of Dungeons & Dragons, and have seen over many years the multitudes of good things that have come from it (ranging from the psychological to the social to the educational—not the least of which is the emphasis on one's imagination) but I've also had to defend it time and again from those who never took the time to learn anything about it. Can it be violent? Yes. Can it not be so violent? Yes. Can it involve the demonic? It's up to you, and what you do with that.

Robert Velarde said...

Some good points, Jeff. Christians in general have a tendency to quickly categorize nuanced issues into black or white matters, but such is not always the case.

Doom, at any rate, did indeed open the door to more overt graphic violence and darker themes in video games, but I think this would have happened anyway as the genre matured and began exploring traditional genres such as horror.

On Christianity and imagination, Leland Ryken has some good material. Also, I get into the matter a bit in a chapter in Conversations with C.S. Lewis.