The Beat Box
A pixelated demon with red eyes and gaping maw from the videogame DOOM.

The Beat Box – DOOM

The cacodemon behind Doomguy, in a hallway full of dead demons.

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #153. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Selections of noteworthy hip hop.


When I first heard that this month’s theme was DOOM, I immediately thought I should undercut the theme and write something about MF DOOM. But, I realized I’ve said most of what I want to say about DOOM when he died, and writing anything more would feel pretty repetitive. I almost gave up and skipped this month because I haven’t really played Doom at all. I remember playing the Doom-clone Chex Quest a lot when I got it for free in a box of Chex in the late 90s (to be honest, it was dope), but I had barely ever actually played the game itself.

But then, I started to dig into “barely ever” because, actually, I have played Doom. Yes, it was probably 25 years ago, and I was never that good, but I do have very clear memories of the game. For some reason, my grandmother (Boomie as we called her) had a Gateway PC in the mid-90s with Doom on it. I can’t be certain, but one of my cousins who lived in the same Wisconsin city as her must have installed it. The computer lived in the back room on the second floor of my grandparents’ house, the room that my brothers and I would crash in when we stayed over for Christmas.

Before we found Doom, we would play the normal kind of card games that come with the computer, Solitaire and Hearts. At home, we also had a Gateway at some point and we had freeware games on it that came 300 to a CD named Galaxy of Games – games like The Adventures of MicroMan and Castle of the Winds. These were all basically poor imitations of other games, cheaply made and sold at grocery stores, and my parents thought we would love to just plow through these games. They weren’t wrong. We played the shit out of those freeware games.

But, when one Christmas we suddenly found ourselves introduced to Doom, the world of videogames changed. Bouncing around microchips as a micro-man or walking around a 2D dungeon, rolling hits on a gelatinous blob felt like child’s play to the splattering gore of Doom. My brothers and I were fiends, battling each other for control of the game as much as we battled demons, watching eagerly from behind one another for one of us to die so the other could take control.

In a first-person perspective from the videogame DOOM, the protagonist holds a chainsaw in front of himself as enemies flood through a stone archway.

Then, the dreaded call would come and we had to leave our chainsaw behind and get ready for Christmas stuff. We always had quite the ornate Christmas Eve celebration at Boomie’s house, full of Norwegian regalia and bunads, tuxedos and singing, ribs and fish pudding with lobster sauce, and eventually, plenty of Manhattans. But as kids, it was always a chore to sit through, especially with Doom lurking upstairs, sitting in the back of our minds as I forced my way through the fifth chorus of Fred Over Jordan (I know that isn’t the name of the song, but it was in Norwegian and that’s what it sounded like). Finally, when the singing had finished and my aunts and uncles had left, my brothers and I raced back upstairs to get back to the grind.

Christmas day offered even less time for Doom. We had to open presents, go to church (unless we managed to stay awake for the midnight mass the night before) and start preparing for the even larger party on Christmas night. This bigger party was still my extended family but closer to 100 people would show up for a night of feasting and partying, all still in their Norwegian bunads and lederhosen. The kids would be relegated to their own area that served hotdogs and baked lasagna instead of smoked goose, caviar and gluhwein. I always wanted to hang out upstairs with the grownups, except for the couple years that Doom was sitting back at Boomie’s house. Those years, I wanted to go home. I wanted to go back to the violence, the destruction, the slaughter.

Doom was only on the computer for two years probably. The Gateway didn’t last forever. I had to go back to my own freeware games at home, or worst came to worst, the dreaded outdoors. Time passed on, and Doom faded into the background of my life. I kept playing videogames and I kept going to Christmas in Wisconsin, but I never really played Doom again (unless, of course Chex Quest counts). In the end, Doom is a distant memory for me, tied into some truly happy holiday times as a kid, spending time with family, even as I pined for the chaos on Mars. Looking back, maybe that’s how I ended up where I am, an adult child who associates videogame horror and slaughtering evil minions with the good times.


Noah Springer is a writer and editor based in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @noahjspringer.


Ad Free, Beat Box, Games, Life, Unwinnable Monthly