Being hardcore has always been part of gaming culture. To some, you're not a real gamer until you do a nude run of Demon's Souls during which you beat all the bosses by flicking their noses until they stop acting out. Easy mode is for babies. Save points are for n00bs. But you know what is truly the mark of a "casual"? Playing games with graphics.
As we've discussed before, modders keep finding new and weird ways (see: Space Jam NBA 2K) of messing with a game's appearance. But while most video game graphics mods focus on improving the visuals, modder Dario Zubovic has decided to go in a bold new direction with 1337d00m, a mod of the first nine levels of the original Doom with its old-school graphics reverted all the way back to ASCII.
ASCII, for those readers who don't intimately know the smell of an unventilated 1980s basement, stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, or simply put, all the characters in your computer's pre-emoji alphabet. ASCII has existed as long as personal computers have, so before the days of actual graphics, ASCII art was made which turned these symbols into the kind of images you'd expect coming out of a malfunctioning fax machine.
Of course, 1337d00m still keeps the fast-paced gameplay of the original -- something ASCII isn't really built for. If you think that makes it ridiculously harder to play the game, that appears to be the point. Zubovic claims that it's "a parody of difficulty sliders in games," with their random qualifiers for making things artificially easier or harder. 1337d00m's difficulty slider that is basically just a font resizer. The lower the difficulty, the smaller the font and the more detail there is on the screen. Meanwhile, the "Impossible" difficulty doesn't resemble anything other than a random string of keyboard inputs, making it look like the game was rage-quitting on you instead of the other way around.
And aside from its criticism of difficulty levels in games, 1337d00m also serves as a clever jab at the recent rise in nostalgia gaming. From retro ASCII and pixel art to countless reboots (Doom being one of them) to even just re-releasing classic games with slightly updated graphics, video games have finally gotten old and popular enough we can be all hipster-y about the good ol' days of vague sprites, hand-drawn maps, and non-regenerating health bars. 1337d00m runs with this retro aesthetic and demonstrates that there's a fine line between "challenging" and "the folly of madmen." And if 1337d00m isn't tough enough for you, remember you can always play Doom on a printer.
Cedric Voets never got the smell of '80s basement out of his hair. Please check him out on Twitter.
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