E3 2015
Opinion: DOOM is Exactly as Violent and Bloody as It Should Be

Joshua Vanderwall | 22 Jun 2015 16:00
E3 2015 - RSS 2.0

There was some vocal criticism around Bethesda's E3 press conference, some in particular about the violence in DOOM which, frankly, were among the most ridiculous I've heard in some time. Informed criticism is essential to both social development and media's evolution. Complaints founded on willful ignorance, however, are worthless to the industry, and damaging to the public perception of the already-unfortunate gamer stereotype. We collectively know already that DOOM is - and always has been - controversial. In fact, it was a good part of the origin of the now-debunked notion that in-game violence leads to real-world violence. This controversy is as much a part of the DOOM DNA as the violence itself, and when gamers complain about it, they're completely ignoring - and, in fact, setting back to some extent - decades of progress by the industry. Games do not make killers. Violent imagery does not cause violence. DOOM is as much a form of expression as Gone Home, and pretending that it's somehow less deserving of the same expressive freedom is absurd.

In 1993, DOOM launched to the masses, and was immediately beset by both eager gamers and vocal critics of the industry. The "mass murder simulator" nonsense isn't new, and DOOM may well have been the founding father of the strawman genre. This is the kind of crap that Jack Thompson used to vilify the games industry, and now we've got public figures within the industry using the same ignorant tactics to vilify not only the harmless digital violence in games, but the gamers themselves who enjoy those games. It's incredibly frustrating.

Making calls for global gaming self-censorship is counter to the steps we've made to move the industry forward for the past 30 years. If we want to insist that games are art, we need to acknowledge that art appreciation is entirely subjective. I don't get modern art in general, but I don't decry the artists and demand that they change their works to make them more suitable to my own tastes. Instead, I look for art that I can appreciate, and enjoy it.

As I mentioned before, informed criticism is crucial to every medium, but complaints that an historically controversial game known for its violence is violent is not informed, and therefore not helpful in any way. Let those who grew up on DOOM offer informed criticism on what went wrong or right with the updated blood and gore. Let those who play shooters regularly decide whether the shooter mechanics are enjoyable and effective. Constructive criticism is invaluable, but baseless, context-free complaints do nobody any good.

If the new DOOM trailer had been any less bloody and violent, it wouldn't have been DOOM at all. It would have been another of dozens of DOOM clones trying to skirt controversy, and it would have been a major disappointment to me, and likely millions of other gamers. You make zero progress by shying away from controversy. You don't help creativity with conformity. Make exceptions. Make statements. Make what you dream about making, and do it unapologetically. Bring it on, DOOM.

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