Saturday, May 27

Why we’re obsessed with making ‘Doom’ work on the most random sites

In 1992 id Software released ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ and changed the history of video games. The FPS (First-Person Shooter) genre became an absolute phenomenon, and after it came two even more legendary titles, ‘Doom’ and ‘Quake’. The franchise has conquered millions of players and has had numerous sequels, but the curious thing is that the original ‘Doom’ has become a challenge for developers who wanted to be able to play it not on computers, but on almost anything governed by chips .

In fact there is a question that becomes a meme when any new electronic device is launched.

Can you run ‘Doom’? That’s how it is. For a while now, every time a new technological product is introduced, someone ends up asking if Doom will be playable on it. Before the question was oriented to computers and consoles, but over the years the power of even much more modest devices has also ended up generating that same question among some developers. Running ‘Doom’ on almost anything was a mix between a development challenge – the source code has been available for years – and a demonstration that by now any device can actually end up running this game. Although it is not intended for that at all.

First there were the “normal” versions. The video game was initially launched for MS-DOS in 1993, but versions for Windows would soon appear —Bill Gates even thought of acquiring id Software—, Linux, Mac OS (1994), or consoles such as the SNES and the PlayStation (1995), the 3DO (1996), or the Sega Saturn (1997). Then the ‘port’ (‘adapted version’) would come for the Game Boy Advance (2001), the Xbox 360 (2006), iOS mobiles (2009) or the Nintendo Switch (2019). But there are more places where you can run ‘Doom’. Many more.

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Then came the madness: ‘Doom’ even in a pregnancy test. We have seen how ‘Doom’ kept reaching more and more products related to technology directly or indirectly. The evolution has been amazing and basically shows that at this point ‘Doom’ can run on practically any product.

We have seen it in a Porsche 911, in the C64, in the MP3 SanDisk Sansa Clip, in the Lidl food processor, in a Windows 95 PC… created in Minecraft, in an Apple Watch, in an iPod nano, on a Raspberry Pi, on a TI calculator powered by potatoes, on an ATM, on a printer, on a hyper-cheap console for children, on the TouchBar of MacBook Pros, on a piano, on a Game & Watch, on a oscilloscope (although it’s ‘Quake’, not ‘Doom’), on an old Sony mobile, and even on a pregnancy test. There’s more, of course, and it’s not hard to guess where to go to find new places to be amazed and where people get ‘Doom’ to run.

It is, of course, in the r/itrunsdoom subreddit.

Why do people do this? There are a multitude of reasons, but probably the clearest is another question. Why not? ‘Doom’ is Open Source, it is written in C, a language that has compilers on all kinds of platforms, that code has been updated and is especially efficient and has become that ‘Hello World’ of video games. For many developers it is a good way to prove to themselves that they can do it. Not only that: for those developers it’s also fun and challenge, and since ‘Doom’ is a cultural phenomenon, getting it to run on some new device can end up giving the developer some reputation. What more could you want?

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