1992’s Wolfenstein 3-D introduced many of us to the fast, silky-smooth world of first-person shooters, to the point where my friends and I poured dozens if not hundreds of hours into it. But two years later, id Software bested itself with its best-known game ever — and helped to further revolutionize the FPS genre.
In late 1993, Doom arrived on the scene. It was fast, it was bloody, it was violent, it was immensely popular, and it was vilified by politicians and media alike. For myself, I felt downright scandalized the first time I played it, due to Doom’s dark themes (you’re literally fighting demons from hell in an isolated Mars facility). I also started to see the potential for FPS games with Doom’s jump to 2.5-D that included ramps and different elevations on the same map.
I don’t remember the first time I ever played Doom, but I know that it was incredibly hot right from the get-go. It was the shareware era, after all, where everyone was encouraged to make copies and share the first episode of all of these games between friends, so Doom spread like a contagious virus.
What I do recall was the slick production values that greeted me when I started in on the first level. Doom simply *worked*. It had a fast frame rate that supported a whole lot of action and events on the screen, and zooming through the levels firing weapons like a crazed lunatic was a mindless joy in and of itself.
Boy, was it bloody, though. I mean, looking at it today it’s almost quaint with its pixelated graphics, but there was still a whole lot of blood ‘n’ guts to go around. I guess that after fighting Nazis in Wolfenstein, id figured that the next best cannon fodder for a shooter would be hell’s spawn. Hard to argue that we’re on the side of evil if we are actively gunning it down, right?
Doom also had a way better arsenal than Wolfenstein (which just had the same gun in various rates of fire). There was a basic pistol, a chainsaw (which gave us feelings of being Ash from The Evil Dead), a plasma rifle, and the BFG 9000. Finding and feeding this arsenal prompted a lot of exploration through each level, because sometimes the best stuff was hidden or tucked away in easy-to-miss passages.
While I did play Wolfenstein, Doom, and especially Duke Nuke Em in the 1990s, they never really were my mainstay the way that FPS games were to others. They were guilty pleasures, ways to blow off steam for a half-hour here and there, but I would usually gravitate more toward RPGs and RTSs if I was looking for something a little more long term. As such, I completely skipped over id’s Quake and other late-1990 shooters.