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Wovenloaf

Is/was Doom countercultural?

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I referred to this idea in another thread and thought that I'd make a new thread about it and see what you all think.

On one hand, Doom has certainly had long-term success and become dwarfed in its controversy by several games that have been released since, but it still seems to have maintained this weird reputation as being like a poster child for the idea that some media has a dangerous effect on people, particularly the youth (a certain massacre didn't help this either). Even recently we saw a couple of fairly widely-respected game critics tweet their disgust over Doom 4's violence and get some support over it (even if most people who saw that rightly shrugged it off).

And it's not just that the game has been seen as contrary. There's something about the entire package that's kind of against the grain -- the constant bloodshed, the pivoting of the entire game around violence and the cheerful rewarding thereof, the individualism, the Satanic and horrific imagery, the metal music, and the big and highly destructive guns. Doom didn't make any excuses or justifications for the endless carnage either (not that I think it needs to -- you're fighting hostile demons, after all). In this way, maybe Doom speaks to a primeval but often hidden fascination with the violent and macabre that more "civilized" modern society is uncomfortable addressing, and distinguished itself from most other art in history by inviting people to safely participate. Arguably the game amounts to a celebration not of violence indiscriminately, but rather of certain aspects of it in context, and there's an air of proud and unapologetic, well, "badassery" to the whole thing. It's no surprise that something like that would be both widely admired and controversial, and I reckon that's kind of easy to forget now that FPS games are just another part of the cultural landscape.

So what do you think? Is/was Doom countercultural?

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I don't necessarily think one has to be "counter culture" to love DOOM (using that term kinda broadly/loosely, but whatever) but I definitely don't think it hurts - There's something far too awesome about a super violent, super thoughtful and super lonely game that will definitely play into certain people's sensibilities. I love NOT having my hand held - Only relying on my own wit - Something very, very rare in the modern gaming age where you usually have 10 AI NPCs assisting you at any time and a pop-up bubble telling you specifically what to do every 10 seconds.. Fuck all that shit, I want to assess the situation and deal with it myself! That is a very consistent theme amongst games I love, your intelligence as a player is never insulted.. Nearly every game I enjoy, it is assumed you have a brain and you plan to use it!

Long story short - I'd love to think that DOOM attracts like-minded "counter culture" folks more so than the latest AAA shlock, and I think to some degree it does, but like with any fanbase the reality is you have a fair share of intelligent, rational, creative people, as well as the low-lifes and total mainstream dweebs.

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I'm not into Doom for any sort of violence kick or "safe way to relieve stress" - it's the creativity of the authors that keep me returning. The Doom alternative culture that speaks to me is the Doom-as-artscene, map-author-as-artist idea - the breadth of options associated with Doom mapmaking really is perfect for this sort of thing and, as bonus resistance, you have a conservative player population already in place and ready to tell you how wrong you are when you take advantage of the tools =P Ella Guro's mixtape vids are full of great thoughts on this subject

a lot of games that came out in the late DOS/Amiga era were full-on cynical cyberpunk junk with atmospheric tracker music, murder, skulls everywhere and toned-down colour palettes... Doom wasn't exactly the only production in this regard

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Doom is sort of a countercultural thing for me. Doom isn't without its obvious mass appeal, but one of the main reasons I play it when I want to play any game at all rather than anything else is sort of a protest or boycott against the AAA first person shooter market. For me Doom peaks at first person shooters maturity and any shooter that came after it has diminished in quality in one way or another. Its not objective fact but it is my position.

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Videogames were kinda countercultural when they were mostly a thing for teenagers and younger, not understood by their parents.

Nowadays it's no longer the case, because the teenagers of yore are the parents of today, and children are only 25% of the market now.

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'a poster child for the idea that some media has a dangerous effect on people'

Exactly... the only difference is that media you are speaking of sir is the barely educated - correlation = causation, news media.

Much like Mortal Kombat before it the controversy surrounding DooM was completely unfounded and only those with an agenda will choose to believe the baseless argument it presents.

As for people slamming DooM 4's violence, eh it happens in literally every game that dares be slightly redder than your average Call of Duty clone.

Mortal Kombat X
Gears of War
and Space Marine had similar cry babies, basically media whores (ironically this brings me to my first point) who want to scoop up some free likes/views by spouting a cookie cutter, unimaginative response that probably isn't even a representative of their genuine feelings.

These media whores who will stop at nothing to make a quick buck are the real danger... spouting mis-information about ANYTHING for personal game can be a very damaging game in the long run for anything.

Violence in Books/Music/Movies/Games HAS NO EFFECT on the human psyche, these forms of media have existed for hundreds of years in some cases and in general life has been getting less violent with every passing day.
(When was the last time you applied to the local watch because you were terrified you caravan would get attacked by bandits on the way to a trading post?.. oh wait... road side muggings don't happen any more.')

My 2 pence.

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Tompig said:

Violence in Books/Music/Movies/Games HAS NO EFFECT on the human psyche

This simply can't be true. Human brain can't completely ignore everything just because it's not "real". Everything you read and see and watch obviously affects you and becomes a part of you. Trying to deny that is silly and overconfident imo.

Tompig said:

general life has been getting less violent with every passing day

Maybe, but also notice how we got more used to violence. Some time ago a suicide bomber would scare the shit out of the world, nowadays someone explodes somewhere and many people are like "eh, another one?" and that's it.

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If the game wasn't so easy to mod and make levels for, I bet you it would have fizzled out a long time ago.

Memfis said:

Maybe, but also notice how we got more used to violence. Some time ago a suicide bomber would scare the shit out of the world, nowadays someone explodes somewhere and many people are like "eh, another one?" and that's it.


I find that slightly disturbing. I know our response shouldn't be to panic but it shouldn't be indifference, either. It's like we're becoming desensitized to the value of human life.

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Doom makes people spend their whole lives holed up in their basements obsessed by playing wads and mapping and overthinking Doom's obscurities instead of socializing and enjoying popular culture (created by popular artists and approved by popular critics) to become part of the real cultural world's hivemind for the goodness of us all, which is what makes Doom countercultural.

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Same as heavy metal. It makes bigots consider it satanic and dangerous to the kids, wanting it forbidden.

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Tompig said:

Much like Mortal Kombat before it the controversy surrounding DooM was completely unfounded and only those with an agenda will choose to believe the baseless argument it presents.

Thaaaat's extremely paranoid of you, there.

Tompig said:

basically media whores (ironically this brings me to my first point) who want to scoop up some free likes/views by spouting a cookie cutter, unimaginative response that probably isn't even a representative of their genuine feelings.

Humans beings are very complex creatures, but I think you're vastly overestimating how simplistic our thought process can be and the fact that gasp people can have different opinions!

Tompig said:

Violence in Books/Music/Movies/Games HAS NO EFFECT on the human psyche, these forms of media have existed for hundreds of years in some cases and in general life has been getting less violent with every passing day.

Honestly, the later I get in life the more and more I realize how many people are in denial just because they're afraid they'll lose something if they leave it. Of course media glorifying violence is going to promote violence in those who experience it, that's common sense. It's just that most individuals have more influence on their life than what comes from violent entertainment.

Also, today is just as violent as decades ago. It's just that people have become more and more accustomed to sweeping it under the rug.

Tompig said:

(When was the last time you applied to the local watch because you were terrified you caravan would get attacked by bandits on the way to a trading post?.. oh wait... road side muggings don't happen any more.')

... Yes they do? Certainly a lot rarer for in vehicles - probably only really happens at a red light, and even the only to people in convertibles on a nice day - but thievery is hardly nonexistent now, and swiping someone's stuff as you pass them on the sidewalk is a pretty iconic image of criminal activity.

printz said:

Same as heavy metal. It makes bigots consider it satanic and dangerous to the kids, wanting it forbidden.

I'm not quite sure you're using bigot correctly, here.

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It was quite countercultural. It had themes of nihilism, satanic imagery, excessive violence, metal music, wasn't even distributed in stores originally, etc. Parents and politicians were going mad, even when the game was past its prime (see Columbine).

Just like rock, it got absorbed into the mainstream when they realized its merits and stopped seeing it as a threat.

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Not all of it was actual Satanic imagery though, the pentagrams for one example are actually Pagan. Influencing religions around the time such as Christianity wrongfully treated Pagan images as Satanic as Christianity was against Paganism.

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That's pedantic. Said symbols are now associated with satanism in western culture despite their origins. Meanings change, since humans are the ones who give meaning to symbols. For all intents and purposes in the context of Doom, they were satanic symbols.

Does it suck that early Christians were vandals and character assassins? Yes, but it has nothing to do with the topic.

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Depends where you're from. Here in the UK there was less of -- by which I mean practically none at all -- a furore over all the demons and bloodshed and all that, so to call it 'countercultural' is a bit much.

So no. As far as I'm concerned, Doom was and is just a videogame* that didn't really change or warp general culture outside of gaming.

*And a fucking fantastic one at that.

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40oz said:

For me Doom peaks at first person shooters maturity and any shooter that came after it has diminished in quality in one way or another. Its not objective fact but it is my position.

I always feel this way... So many "Aw, I can't do that either?" when going from Doom to all there other slow-ass broken-ass clunky-ass FPS games out there. There are some exceptions, but relatively few.

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to the OP.

DOOM is... healthy for us. How? Well, when playing violent games, we dont urge for more violence in life,but rather the urge inside us lowers immensely, because of the realisic violence in DOOM.

Note: Doom is classic, DOOM is the 2016 game.

This goes for all other games that suppport this relief.
Plus, how do we know whats good and bad? that Satanic imagery is only a bunch of computer generated images. How can you prove that imagery is Satanic? Pentagrams? No sense at all. Blood? Like those blood banks? Candles? Fires? Goats? Really?

All that controversy are from people who believe with their life... Also people who whine too.

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BaronOfStuff said:

Depends where you're from. Here in the UK there was less of -- by which I mean practically none at all -- a furore over all the demons and bloodshed and all that, so to call it 'countercultural' is a bit much.

Well it was an American game by Americans with one of the devs being literally named American. So I think it'd be better to think of it in terms of America.

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Being a teenager at the time it came out, I would say that it was for a lot of us. Especially those of us raised in conservative households where literally throwing a Bible at somebody was a phenomenon. DOOM was rebellious.

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Not for me. It seems to have been for some people though, and they still cling to that "I'm rebelling... no, not because all my friends are doing it, I'm unique" angle. You can see it every time they whine because something doesn't make them feel badass enough and needs moar mettul.

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Doom was a pretty punk game so far as it goes, but it's hard to call it especially "countercultural" in context, given that it came out on the heels of the big Mortal Kombat / Night Trap "video games are destroying the youth" furor.

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Linguica said:

Doom was a pretty punk game so far as it goes, but it's hard to call it especially "countercultural" in context, given that it came out on the heels of the big Mortal Kombat / Night Trap "video games are destroying the youth" furor.

I was just a baby at the time, but I thought Doom was largely grouped in with those during the furor?

Funny that Night Trap was even an issue at all, it's really tame.

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BaronOfStuff said:

Depends where you're from. Here in the UK there was less of -- by which I mean practically none at all -- a furore over all the demons and bloodshed and all that, so to call it 'countercultural' is a bit much.


And in Germany there was also no mention about satanic symbols in the public. But instead it was widely regarded as an unethical and brutal game were you simulate killing people, and as a training program for school shootings. Doom was indexed in Germany in 1994, and the jury described the zombie soldiers in the game as "test subjects gone mad" and the Imps as "ape-like creatures". They also claimed you could light up enemies to burn like a human torch when you shoot barrels.

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Linguica said:

Doom was a pretty punk game so far as it goes, but it's hard to call it especially "countercultural" in context, given that it came out on the heels of the big Mortal Kombat / Night Trap "video games are destroying the youth" furor.

I think "pretty punk game" is quite a good description. Doom combines cultural inspirations from several different subcultures: video gaming (which was still pretty niche at the time), Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying tabletop games (the origin of the whole "demon invasion" theme), the Evil Dead film series (which has a cult following but wasn't hugely well-known) along with other '80s action movies, H.P. Lovecraft (Sandy Petersen was apparently a fan), and of course heavy metal culture.

All of these influences are kind of "underground" subcultures to varying degrees and combined together they give something that in the context of early '90s video games is very original and unique. Part of it I think comes from the fact that Id was a small, self-owned company just doing its own thing. Mortal Kombat is an interesting comparison, as Midway was part of a larger corporate hierarchy and the developers had to answer to people. Indeed Masters of Doom mentions how the Id guys had problems with companies like Formgen and Nintendo being uncomfortable with the amount of gore in their games.

Ultimately though this has to be weighed in balance with the fact that Doom is one of the most popular, best-selling games of all time. There are counter-cultural elements but when I think of "counter-cultural" I tend to imagine something that's underground and has a subculture or cult following associated with it. I don't think that can be really said to be the case with Doom, notwithstanding the fact that we're here talking on a website dedicated to it.

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If anything playing Doom today is more countercultural than playing it in 1994 was, but for different reasons.

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Voros said:

Note: Doom is classic, DOOM is the 2016 game.

=) Capitalizing it won't help, next time put 2016 between brackets to save some gold time .

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