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DOOM (1993) - An In-Depth Game Review

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A brilliant analysis of Romero's masterpiece!

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This is an In-depth analysis/review of the original Doom, and by extension the examination of the design aesthetic that is quite unique to this game and the genre it helped define… or should I say “subgenre”, since, as the FPS games evolved, they’ve distanced themselves from this specific quality. And no, I’m not just talking about how in Doom there is a skillful gameplay with no cutscenes, dialogues or story (although it is certainly a part of it) – it actually goes slightly deeper than that.

In the “theory” segment of the video I describe this game as a “mindless game of pure gameplay” but it’s important to understand that I put a special significance into this particular wording, specifically the word “mindless”. Someone might justifiably call Super Mario World or Half-life as mindless games of pure gameplay, since their stories lack a certain degree of depth, however when referring to Doom I actually mean that the gameplay itself is mindless. In Super Mario World or Half-Life the gameplay is designed around constantly introducing new mechanics which you have to adapt to – you constantly have to learn new things and that is what prevents this gameplay from being purely mindless – you’re constantly mentally engaged in the game. Doom lays out everything it has mechanically by the half-way point and even that it does so slow – you might not even notice anything changing, and then tries to juggle around the established mechanics in hopes of you being distracted from the fact that there wasn’t anything new introduced for hours on end.
The key here is the phrase: “It creates a repetitive gameplay that manages to be interesting without becoming overly involving” because it highlights the true nature of Doom’s timeless quality: it isn’t boring enough to make you stop playing, yet isn’t mentally engaging enough to warrant your conscious participation. It sort of strikes a certain cord with the player (considering that he likes the game enough to play), almost akin to putting the player in a trance of sorts, in which he doesn’t think about anything in the game at hand, yet at the same time distracted enough to not drift away either, since he needs to pay attention to what sort of combination of familiar mechanics (in other words, a pattern) he will have to deal with. He basically remains in this mindless state of “trance” (for the lack of a better word) of running around a maze with nothing guiding his actions but pure impulse – there is no conscious choice happening here, but a lot of subconscious ones – and that becomes an almost therapeutic experience.

There are almost no other games (outside of its genre of old-school Doom clones) that truly capture that niche design aesthetic. They either becoming too repetitive to prevent you from drifting away (games like Tetris, Robotron or Kaboom) or too diverse to be mindless and meditative in the first place (Games like Half-Life, Super Mario World, Starcraft and so on), which is not bad in itself but it highlights the place of Doom in the larger scheme of gaming as a whole. That is actually why I used so many comparisons to Wolfenstein 3D and the more advanced shooters – I wanted to pinpoint the sweet spot between the two extremes that Doom occupies. So all in all – in this particular aspect lays the true beauty of Doom and this “feeling” is incredibly hard to pinpoint and describe, so hopefully I’ve done a decent enough job of at least somehow capturing this “mindless trance” of Doom. 

Oh… and about the old games monologue at the end… 
I’m a sentimental guy, what can I say :)

 

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