August 06, 2004


Pasty, friendless adolescents rejoice: DOOM 3 has finally been released! The long awaited third installment of the DOOM series is in stores RIGHT NOW... and all you need to play is good hand-eye coordination, a fridge stocked with caffeinated beverages, and $55 to buy the game (plus an additional $3,000 for the purchase of a new computer and video card, since there is virtually no chance your current computer is up to speed).

It's no secret that computer games make normal, well-adjusted youths want to commit acts of brutal violence. It's only natural! While various watchdog groups (ie. busybodies) have harshly criticized DOOM 3 for its baroque orgies of blood and gore, Circling the Square takes a rather different position. It is certainly true that the violent content of video games has contributed to many serious social problems over the years. But at CtS, we feel that the problem hasn't stemmed from the presence of violent content so much as from the lack of specificity in that content.

Back in the old days, games were so abstract that you could never tell just how players would choose to express their uncontrollable violent impulses. The debut of Pong in 1972 inspired thousands of incidents, ranging from fist fights to vehicular homicide to carpet bombings of small South American nations: all because Pong enthusiasts couldn't relate the Pong experience to their own multi-hued, three dimensional lives.

Pong makes you want to KILL

Jeffrey Dahmer, a Pac-Man fanatic, couldn't figure out what "power pellets" were - those mysterious white dots that gave Pac-Man his strength. This confusion left Dahmer feeling empty inside – an emptiness he could only fill by devouring the mutilated corpses of over a dozen gay black men. And who among us hasn't dropped cinderblocks on sleeping hobos from a penthouse apartment window after an all-night Tetris marathon? Abstract games inspire abstract violence – and that sort of violence is neither constructive nor entertaining!

Fast forward to 1993, the year in which the original DOOM game was released for the PC. At the time, it was considered to be the most realistic portrayal of mindless violence since the golden years of Professional Wrestling. DOOM quickly became a massive hit, one of the most popular computer games of all time. Millions of young people played the game, learning to use a wide array of weaponry against demonic horrors from the depths of hell. As such, the original DOOM was both fun and educational!

However, the game was not perfect. Although DOOM's graphics were very impressive for the time, they pretty much sucked by today's standards. Enemies in the game were blocky, pixilated... lacking in visual detail. This lack of detail would eventually lead to tragedy. Avid DOOM players Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were among those who couldn't distinguish between demonic hordes and suburban high school students. In their defense, that distinction is hard to make even under the best of circumstances. Who among us hasn't decapitated a Xaezyti-demon from the fourth level of hell, only to discover the "demon" was actually a harmless goth chick walking home from school? It can happen to anyone! Even so, it is clear that the only way to make certain that gamers direct their irresistible violent impulses toward appropriate targets is to produce computer games that are perfectly realistic - game developers must leave no room for confusion.

At Circling the Square, we believe that DOOM 3 is a step in the right direction. With its full motion texture remapping, quadronically enhanced frame rate processing, and the optional cybernetic BrainLink interface, we feel that this game is just about realistic enough. Children who play DOOM 3 should have no problem telling the difference between a fire-breathing, red-eyed cacodemon and, for instance, their own mailman. We may be raising a generation of bloodthirsty, violent children – but with truly realistic games such as DOOM 3, at least we can count on those children directing their fury at truly appropriate targets: Demons, monsters, Ryan Seacrest. I don’t know about you, but that lets me sleep a little bit better at night.

Posted by scola at August 6, 2004 12:13 AM