October 25, 2005

From Doom to the Washington Post in less than five minutes

A cross between a naked emperor and a teenager with an obviously fake ID, the movie Doom collapsed because it pretended to be an old-fashioned space thriller instead of a groundbreaking cinematic interpretation of a videogame.

Still, in the climactic scene, the director abandoned the inept plot, broke away from the standard third-person omniscient camera view, and suspended the laws of physics—redeeming an hour of god-awful cinema. For five glorious minutes, the movie pretended that “we” were blasting zombies like a real videogame.

In those woozy scenes, the first-person camera chased zombies with compulsive glee. The claustrophobic camera-lens wobbled around on roller-skates, and “our” character screamed every time a monster swiped “us.” It felt crazy, it felt obsessive, and it felt…

I can’t explain it yet, and that’s the dazzling part. Hardly anybody can write how it feels to be “you” running around in a virtual world—even though environments like Doom or Second Life are becoming more important every day. In an article about tournament first-person shooter players, Jose Antonio Vargas from the Washington Post described the feeling of being inside the online first-person shooter, Counter Strike:


"Bombs are exploding. The AK47s and the Desert Eagle pistols, two of the guns in CS, are firing. Team 3D, at least in this particular round, is losing."


Reading that description, you can see how normal language stutters and stalls inside these games. In a sea of smart, even-handed prose, this reads like a cheesy action novel. Nobody knows how to convey the feeling of playing with virtual version of “you” yet, but I’m glad Vargas crossed over into this new frontier, ever so briefly…

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