1995–1998

June 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

science-fiction-window

Today the air had a peculiar quality: it made things look like they did when you wanted to import all physical surfaces into Doom, when you walked around the neighbourhood with your parents and imagined using a digital camera to capture the red brick of a neighbour’s house and stretching that on a vertical surface receding to the horizon.

As if that would make not only Doom but reality better somehow.

The air was heavy with the rain that was going to fall later in the day. Colours were brighter and more precise than normal.

It made you also think of your best friend from grades three to five, and how he’d given you Doom 2 on a CD-ROM, and how one of the last times you talked to him on the phone you were playing that game, as if the phone call with a friend that you never saw anymore because your family moved away was not important enough to press “Esc” and pause. But it wasn’t that at all, it was more like playing the game while talking to him raised both activities in importance by association in your mind: as if you knew that of all people on the planet your friend would understand that playing Doom was something that could not be put off.

Even though you are pretty sure, looking back now, that you might have sounded bored, or at least distracted, and he might have noticed. Probably it was going to happen anyway, but you didn’t talk much after that.

Doom has been ported to nearly every game system that came out following its release, as well as to devices that were never meant to play games, such as printers, pianos, and scientific oscilloscopes. The Doom community has a kind of autistic commitment to the propagation of autism. When you felt sad as a kid you played Doom in your bedroom, not for the thrill of killing (because in reality the demons and the dark spaces terrified you, and you killed more out of fear than joy) but as a way of asserting control over your circumstances. Or of finding your trace in the game. You had dreams where your hands frantically typed out the Doom password for immortality (“iddqd”), but without a keyboard or other form of input the movements meant nothing: in the end, you were just another kid running from your fears, calling out to God to recognize your rituals.

What if you could map out your school in Doom? You liked the idea of reflecting the corridors of familiar spaces in Doom architecture, such as your school, the strip mall and grocery store, your house, your neighbourhood. To do so would be to achieve a kind of private mastery over them. An adolescent fantasy in which every door can be unlocked. Before Columbine, which might have altered the tenor of such daydreaming. Nothing to do with death, except perhaps in the Apollonian sense: a second life that could not be corrupted, mapped onto the first, but which belonged to you alone.

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