You Haven’t Really Played Doom Until You’ve Played ASCII Doom

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Centuries from now, digital anthropologists combing through the remains of our civilization will note a regular sequence of 1’s and 0’s that began appearing on computers in the early 1990s and soon spread across everything from smartwatches to copy machines. They will undoubtedly conclude that this program represents some form of vital information or research that was carefully preserved across many different types of devices to ensure that it remained accessible even as other, incredibly valued works of film, literature, and software languished on obsolete mediums or were lost to the ravages of time. If they’re fortunate enough to stumble across 1337Doom, they’ll likely think an homage to earlier methods of communicating in text, all rendered as part of an art project to recreate one of humanity’s most treasured historical moments known as “Knee Deep in the Dead.”

This latest ancient video game-cum-arthouse project mashes up ASCII art and Doom itself to recreate the levels and monsters of the original game entirely in numbers and letters. The craziest thing about it? At minimal difficulty (meaning, with small letters that create a game world that looks vaguely similar to the real thing), 1337d00m doesn’t look too far off Doom itself.


The mod’s difficulty slider controls the size of the text used to create the illusion. At “high” difficulty, letters are enormous and it’s nearly impossible to see anything. This, combined with the fact that the game uses fairly high enemy counts and damage to begin with — I must humiliatingly report that I died multiple times finishing the first level — makes it a surprisingly challenging experience.

Doom has enjoyed no shortage of remakes, updates, and improvements over the years. Those of you yearning for a fresh take on the classic game would be highly advised to check out Brutal Doom, which basically asks “What if Doom was tougher, played somewhat more like a modern game, and offered fatalities, aggressive melee combat, and even faster gameplay?” The answer is, “You get a damn good game.” And of course, those of you looking for something a bit more contemporary could do far worse than playing the 2016 Doom game, which remains a fabulous take on the title and a worthy reimagining of the franchise — better, in this reviewer’s opinion, than the poorly paced and ultimately disappointing Doom 3 of 2005.

Of course, Doom remains beaten in one key metric — oscilloscope play. To the best of our knowledge, and likely due to limitations in the original game engine, Doom has never been ported to an oscilloscope. Quake, on the other hand, can tuck a feather behind its ear by that particular metric.

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