The Creative Director of Dear Esther wrote a book about DOOM.

That's right. Dan Pinchbeck, the creative director for Dear Esther (and I imagine Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs) wrote a book-length analysis of Doom as the prototypical first person shooter. Hard copies haven't actually come out yet, but you can read it for free online.

It starts off kind of rote, cribbing some stuff from Masters of Doom and retreading the boring old "yo, id kinda made that whole FPS thing happen" argument. Once he gets to the shot-by-shot walkthrough of Knee Deep in the Dead, though, it really picks up. Chapter 15 in particular really has some interesting stuff to say about video games and affordances (the things you can do in a game.) One of the more interesting points he makes is that the paper-thin backstory in Doom is exactly the amount of story that game needed, because it got the fuck out of the way of the player and let them get right down to shooting monsters and revelling in the pitch-perfect controls.

I don't really know how many video game studies folk actually hang out on Giant Bomb, but it's absolutely worth a read if you're into stuff like diegesis in video games. I think he has a lot of really cool stuff to say. Again, it's so weird to see Pinchbeck have so much praise for Doom when thechineseroom is clearly about experimenting with the first-person perspective.

12 Comments
12 Comments
Edited by TAFAE

Hey, this is pretty cool, thanks for posting it. Only read the first couple chapters so far and you're right about the retreading at the beginning. Do you think it's safe to just skip to Chapter 8 or are there some important nuances later on I'd be missing out on without the context of the earlier chapters too?

Edited by Video_Game_King

I don't really know how many video game studies folk actually hang out on Giant Bomb

I'd say a fair amount of such people do.

Edited by MuttersomeTaxicab

@tafae said:

Hey, this is pretty cool, thanks for posting it. Only read the first couple chapters so far and you're right about the retreading at the beginning. Do you think it's safe to just skip to Chapter 8 or are there some important nuances later on I'd be missing out on without the context of the earlier chapters too?

Pinchbeck usually does a pretty good job of keeping things conversational throughout. Depending on your interests, chapters 4 and 5 get into some nitty gritty details about the way the game functions. Chapter 3 goes into some detail about the game's alpha, but yeah, if you've already heard the story of id, Pinchbeck really starts to dig in with Chapter 8. If that stuff doesn't interest you, you're probably fine to jump around a bit.

Posted by MuttersomeTaxicab

@muttersometaxicab said:

I don't really know how many video game studies folk actually hang out on Giant Bomb

I'd say a fair amount of such people do.

Huh. Good to know. I just don't see that stuff come up too frequently outside of a few Bogost dogmatists here and there.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@video_game_king said:

@muttersometaxicab said:

I don't really know how many video game studies folk actually hang out on Giant Bomb

I'd say a fair amount of such people do.

Huh. Good to know. I just don't see that stuff come up too frequently outside of a few Bogost dogmatists here and there.

I have an essay on level design in Psychonauts open in another tab that I've been meaning to read; @thatpinguino and....@grantheaslip, I think?....write gaming essays quite a bit, along with some other guys; and I've been considering throwing my own hat into the ring once my schedule clears up some more.

Edited by CornBREDX

Again, it's so weird to see Pinchbeck have so much praise for Doom when thechineseroom is clearly about experimenting with the first-person perspective.

If you put it in perspective it makes senses. At the time, Doom was something new. It had never been done before (graphically it did a lot and game play wise it was preceded only by Wolfenstien 3d). So, in it's own way, it was experimentation at the time- even if now it makes total sense and you cant imagine a world without FPS'.

That thought alone is kind of fascinating.

But, anyway, it was also (i think) the first scary game I ever played. That seems like nonsense now, but again at the time I actually did find Doom scary. The ambiance alone was so fantastically done.

Posted by thatpinguino

@muttersometaxicab: That looks like an interesting book, I may have to check it out some time.

@video_game_king: I would say I hope to one day be a video game studies guy, but for now I am just an english guy who is trying to reapplying english essay techniques to games.

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Posted by MuttersomeTaxicab

@muttersometaxicab: That looks like an interesting book, I may have to check it out some time.

@video_game_king: I would say I hope to one day be a video game studies guy, but for now I am just an english guy who is trying to reapplying english essay techniques to games.

That's pretty much how most/all video game theory programs are handled these days. I'm in a masters program for experimental digital media, but it's being run from an English department.

Edited by thatpinguino
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Posted by GrantHeaslip

@video_game_king: I wish! I do plan on doing more writing in the near future though.

Posted by Chumley_Marchbanks

I'm definitely going to give this a read soon, it could be really useful for my final year project.

Also, fun fact: Dan works at the university where I study (University of Portsmouth). Unfortunately, he's been on sabbatical since I've been there and the only opportunity I've had to meet him was during a presentation he gave last year. He's a cool bloke, and I do hope he comes back soon.