In 2005, my father subscribed to a new Starhub internet plan. Starhub gave us an Xbox, our first console. It came with the Lord of The Rings: The Return Of The King game, since we were still on the high of that movie franchise. For the next three years, we bought Xbox games near Deepavali, before our Xbox eventually died. In 2006, we bought Doom 3.
It seems stupid now, but Doom 3 was quite a big deal for me at that time. It was the first mature rated game we bought. It was also an atmospheric horror shooter, that pushed the capabilities of the console and computers of that time. I remember that the Playstation 2 couldn’t accommodate the game, so it was more or less a Microsoft exclusive. The collector’s edition I bought also came with Doom 1 and Doom 2, which while influential, didn’t age well. The first two games were arcade shooters that emphasized fun. Doom 3 was all about shadows, ambiance and claustrophobia.
I was in secondary school at that time. The next ten years would be turbulent for me. I had to stop being carefree because people around me were being somber and nonchalant.
Soon after, I too succumbed.
It’s been a decade. We now have a PS4. The mood in the house has been relatively sour. My brothers aren’t speaking. One of my father’s best friends died a fortnight before Deepavali. My mother’s relatives are plagued by illnesses.
I decided to get the fourth Doom on impulse. We got our PS4 last Deepavali. I thought we could pick up the old tradition of buying games for the festive season again. Doom sold for S$29, secondhand.
I had watched videos of the gameplay and knew that the game was going to be radically different from Doom 3, but playing it was a whole other experience. The playable character literally destroys any device that offers contextual exposition (a huge “Fuck you” to the newly arisen trend of trite storytelling gimmicks in modern games). DOOM2016 disregards the third installment altogether and harks back to the arcade style of the original games. The character sprints throughout the game. There is no reloading. The monsters are agile- no slow hankering behemoths like Doom 3, even the Hellknight jumps around like an over-caffeinated wrestler. The playable character can physically mangle hellspawn with his bare arms if he reduces enough of their health, and it’s a sight to behold.
The fear has been inverted. Now I cruise through flesh and bones to the sounds of electronic pulses and 8 stringed guitars, and one wonders who the real hellspawn is.
I wonder if the game is a message to me from some higher power, but it does feel like some cloud has been lifted as I battle the last of my personal demons. I know I have a tendency to exaggerate (it’s in my heritage), but the hot blooded of my youth has been flooding back into my veins in the last few months. I’ve been behaving recklessly, as if to affirm whatever divine message was sent to me last month. Dreamy visions and reality seem to fuse, interchangeably. Old friends are coming back to my side (for which I will be grateful) while I shed the grey skin I’ve donned for the last few years.
I have never felt so alive.