Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Doom Controversy

Explore 3D mazes; shoot the monsters using a series of interchangeable weapons; unlock doors and levels; uncover secret areas; renew your arsenal of weaponry and so on. Destroy the big boss, and his army of cronies, blah, blah.

It's the formula for many shoot-em up type games, but Doom does represent an important milestone. It was the first to portray a kind of realism in maze exploration with experimental shadows and dark corners and allowed for customisability through fan created WAD files which meant that new levels and challenges could be created.

Doom: Screams from the Underworld

Video games have long been criticized for their violence, but it would appear that Doom crossed a line by depicting the bloody face of the protagonist (controlled by you) stranded amidst demons as the last human in hell. Although what you mostly saw of him was his strafing hand/s (intended to be you), his face gave you an indication of your game health. The more hits, the more damaged and bloodier his face became; staring back at you.

Columbine High: "A Select Case"?

Doom also has the notoriety of being linked to the perpetrators of the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999 when it was reported that Ed Harris (one of the perpetrators) wrote a web journal that said that his actions would be like "the LA riots, the Oklahoma Bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke and Doom all mixed together".

Is there a link between the simulated violence in movies and video games and society? This is a question that has been asked over and over. In his 2003 paper, Video Games in Education, Kurt Squire writes that some research findings suggests that video games could cause some increase in violent thoughts, but that research into the question between video game violence and social maladjustment was two decades out-of-date and the link not conclusive.

Video Violence: "Don't blame toy stores"

In the journals and web postings recovered after the tragic events at Columbine, Ed Harris co-responsible for the killings, wrote that society should not blame "toy stores for selling us ammo ... because we went on a killing spree ... we are a select case".

It is now well documented that Ed Harris and Dylan Klebold (the other killer) were contributors to internet Doom forums and that they created levels to fit the game. It is with a disturbed sense of things to come, given the states of mind of both, that Harris should signed off one of his levels with the haunting words, "KILL 'EM AAAAALLLL!!!!!" (Washington Post, 1999)

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