October 21, 2005

Why I am going to see Doom

Everybody is panning the movie Doom, but I don’t buy it—this is a landmark moment in human consciousness.

For the last eight years or something like that, millions of kids have steered space Marines around bombed-out space stations in this first-person shooter game. The Doom screen scaled the videogame world to fit between your own two eyeballs, changing the way we imagine things forever.

In this genius first-person view, “you” chopped fleshy pink alien meatballs, trolled through slime pits, and pushed open doors with “your” digital appendages. Pounding the keyboard in Doom, you had the jumpy, 3D illusion that “your” shotgun was sticking out into the zombie moonscape.

Now this movie will try, and undoubtedly fail, to approximate that sense of first-person perspective—ruined as soon as they replace the imaginary “you” with actors. Directors used to worry about how to transfer readers’ imaginary expectations about novels into movies; now they are figuring out how to transfer an imaginary expectations about “you” into movies.

Doom is just the beginning, imaginary versions of "us" will never be the same. From movies to novels, we have to figure out how to represent these new perspectives. Will Carlough defended videogame movies in Slate this week, and it’s time to start paying attention:

“When this trend started, I thought Hollywood would get sick of video games after awhile. But it's not happening. Now they're making movies out of games I've never even heard of. (What system did Alone in the Dark come out on, Atari Jaguar?) Watching every video-game movie may be lame, but it's not as lame as giving up after Doom. Anyway, I figure that in 50 years the line between games and movies will be so blurry that the whole idea of a video-game movie will be moot. Then, my mission will finally be complete. Or, as Raul Julia would say, ‘Game over!’”

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