The Artists

The Doom Generation: The artists behind the birth of the first person shooter

See the story of Doom, a "slice of raw expression that still reverberates today."

See the story of Doom, a 'slice of raw expression that still reverberates today'

Doom was a fast-paced and immersive first-person shooter game whose success was the envy of the industry.

Few games have had the impact that Doom has, on both the gaming industry and pop culture in general. The team behind the game at id Software had been working on it for several years, and it showed — Doom featured a fully realized, immersive world that had a real sense of style. Internal conflicts broke the team apart, but the legacy of Doom and what it meant to gaming is evergreen.

Watch a clip:

Doom was a fast-paced and immersive first-person shooter game whose success was the envy of the industry. 1:07

Watch the full episode.

Two Johns — Romero and Carmack — were the creative and technological fulcrum by which the game Doom came to reality. Both are brilliant minds, and both approached making games from a different perspective. Together they created magic, and that magic was called Doom.

In the early days of what would become id Software, John Carmack figured out how to make Super Mario-style games on the PC (apparently a very difficult thing to do in the early 1990s) and left a playable demo on John Romero's desk the next morning. The second that Romero played the game he knew that this was their chance to make games on their own terms. 

We put out a press release that told everybody that we were going to make the best game in the world and we were going to start on it now."- John Romero, co-creator of Doom

Romero's hunch was right, and the core group of four settled in Austin, Texas and started making the games that Romero always dreamed of. They had two strong hits in Commander Keen (which was based on the Super Mario demo Carmack had made) and Wolfenstein 3D, but those simply set the stage for what would turn out to be their magnum opus. 

John Romero, co-creator of Doom. (The Artists)

Doom was released to an unsuspecting public in 1993. Very quickly the team at id realized that this was unlike their previous games. The way it took off was like wildfire. Doom was a reaction to the current state of games: it was unapologetically violent, incredibly fast-paced, immersive and, amazingly, ran on a PC — which was unheard of at the time.

In 1993, we fully expect to be the number one cause of decreased productivity in business around the world.- Doom press release by id Software

The success took its toll on the team. Tom Hall strongly believed in the sense of story as inciting force behind a game. The rest of the group felt it was simply dragging the game down. Hall was let go shortly before Doom was released. This was only a precursor to the showdown between the two Johns: Romero's star was rising but at the cost of his team's cohesion. Shortly before id's triumphant follow-up to Doom, a game called Quake, Romero and Carmack parted ways. 

John Romero and John Carmack, the creators of Doom (The Artists)

The lasting effect of Doom on the industry is undeniable. Many first person shooters that were made after its success were instead called "Doom clones." But Doom also introduced other ideas: self distribution, online playing, fan created content (called modding) that are all standard practice now. Most importantly, the game itself is a uncut slice of raw expression that still reverberates today.

Watch all ten episodes of The Artists now, a new CBC Arts series about the video game designers who changed the world.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.