In the 3rd edition of Metagame Monday, I ask: Which is a better guide to life: Donkey Kong or ICO?
Looking back now, the impact of DOOM was enormous even in a pre-Internet, pre-24 hour news cycle world of gaming. This was an era when you had to rely on qualitative methods of evaluation to track the anticipation for a game: the buzz at school, the discussions with friends and the magazine cover stories were the best indicators of a game’s interest level. By those measures, DOOM was one of the most anticipated games ever released. Every day at grade school was filled with eagerly anticipating gamers clutching a copy of Computer Gaming World or other publications at the time, and the release of the game coincided with a significant and lasting bout of absenteeism and missing assignments at school upon its release.
Who could blame them? After proving that they understood first person shooters with Wolfenstein 3D, the team at id Software released DOOM to incredible hype with a dazzling array of interesting weapons, dozens of engaging levels and a mature atmosphere that had rarely been seen in gaming at that time. The multiplayer only made the addiction worse and the buzz even greater as workplaces and home networks alike ground down to a halt. The idea that millions of gamers were hopping online to play against their friends was revolutionary at the time, and created the foundation of the multiplayer experiences that are common today.
As a slight twist on a point from the original Metagame Monday, any game that redefines a genre should be credited as a pioneer. The first person shooter had never seen the likes of DOOM’s mature rated violence and mayhem (even in its pixellated form), complexity (3 colours of key cards + platforming puzzles +hazardous environments) and degree of difficulty that led to a very high volume of replay value. The latter is a sticking point for me, as I still cannot pass the game at a higher difficulty on the Xbox Live version.
Last but certainly not least, mods! Any settling down of the interest level in DOOM after its release date as newer games were released was mitigated by the constant stream of mods that came out. From character mods such as adding goofy looking versions of Barney the Dinosaur to punishing twists such as all Cyberdemon levels, the DOOM mod community constantly created new buzz for the game with each fan created iteration of the game they released.
When I think of the introduction of sophisticated platform gaming, I think of Prince of Persia. Released by Jordan Mechner in 1989, the game was the first to add complexity to your character itself when moving up, around and under a variety of obstacles to reach the end of every level. What really distinguished Prince of Persia was its sense of pacing. The game could not be played with the frenetic, headlong rush from beginning to end that other platformers such as the original Super Mario Brothers supported (and encouraged with bonus points). The Prince demanded patience as the gamer decided the best approach for each puzzle with a combination of spatial analysis and understanding of the geometry of the world that he inhabited.
I think the game was adapted gradually, rather than suddenly. While Prince of Persia was an unqualified hit, it did not have the same linear progression that Wolfenstein 3D to DOOM had in building buzz. Mechner’s original title Karateka was a different game in a different genre, and the buzz that Prince of Persia generated was based on the potential of a then unfamiliar genre, rather than the evolution of an existing and tremendously popular genre.
Neither DOOM nor Prince of Persia had a huge, sweeping narrative that was a central point of the story. This comes down to how each game played, how long it was played for and how we remember it in the present day.