Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib’d
In one self place; for where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be.
— Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
1. Irish Hell
Hell is in the midlands: Rathcroghan, the largest unexcavated royal site in Europe, a network of burial mounds and ringforts built over 5,500 years. It was once home to Medb, the warrior queen. It is also a door to the underworld.
Hell is in the north, at Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, another ancient site, this time in Donegal. Where Rathcroghan is the domain of pagan gods, this is its Christian counterpart: a cave revealed to Patrick by Christ himself, offering a glimpse of the inferno. Patrick used it as an educational tool, for scaring the locals into converting.
Hell lives in Galway, or rather, a celebrated architect of hell. Romero Games, the video game company founded in 2015 by Brenda and John Romero, has its offices just off Eyre Square. John Romero has worked on over 130 games, has founded eight companies, and has won over 100 awards for his work as a game designer and programmer. He made his name in the early ‘90s as a founding member of id Software, the developers who gave the world the first-person shooter, the deathmatch, and the goriest, grisliest, most hellish games the world had ever seen.
At midnight on December 10th, 1993, after roughly one year of working with all the febrile enthusiasm of twenty-somethings fed on heavy metal, horror films and pizza, id Software released Doom, its genre-defining first-person shooter. You play as the ‘space marine’ Doomguy, a tough, nameless motherfucker with a shotgun and a pixelated brush cut. Sent to Mars as punishment for insubordination, he faces down legions of demons before it’s revealed that, through experimentation with teleports, scientists have accidentally opened a portal to hell, and the demons have overrun Earth.
Doom raised the bar, not only for gameplay, but for gore. It birthed a new kind of moral panic; rich in blood, guts and satanic imagery, critics labelled it a ‘mass murder simulator’. Both of the Columbine shooters were Doom fans (in a video made on the day of his killing spree, Eric Harris even claimed ‘It’s going to be like fucking Doom’). Media outlets treated the game as dangerous—one paper even claimed it could ‘widen the hole in any kid’s soul’—while then-President Bill Clinton used his weekly radio address to highlight Doom’s role in ‘a culture that too often glorifies violence.’ In 2001, id Software was even named in a lawsuit filed by families of Columbine victims, along with entertainment companies including Nintendo, Sega and Time Warner Inc. The case was eventually dismissed.
I’m fascinated by moral panics relating to media and art; they attribute a near-mystical power to their target, whether it’s a book, a film, music (played backwards, preferably) or a video game. The larger the panic, the stronger this power becomes. Ultimately, moral panics highlight the transformative potential in art, one which we often overlook until it’s seen to go wrong.
Doom was transformative in so many ways; it introduced a new form of gaming, unprecedented in its violence and its possibilities for customisation. Perhaps this is why religious organisations and politicians wished to censor it. ‘They did criticise it,’ said John Romero, speaking to me over Skype from the Galway offices of Romero Games, ‘but we never paid attention to that, because, you know, everybody loved it.’
This is no exaggeration. Doom was a phenomenon, a moment in tech and gaming history on par with the launch of the iPhone, or Windows 95, but a lot more metal. The night Doom launched shops were mobbed, whole university computer networks broke down, and systems belonging to schools, corporations and even government facilities ground to a halt due to the number of people trying to play it. ‘It was the most fun thing anyone had played,’ said Romero. ‘People were going out and buying computers just to play the game, and networking got massive, because the game supported it. ‘
Doom established a genre, a way of playing, and an aesthetic which endure to this day. New first-person shooters are released every year, their protagonists walking in the frenzied footsteps of Doomguy. There have been eight Doom sequels and four Doom spin-offs, and fans continue to convene for Deathmatch tournaments, where players battle each other in a bloody free-for-all.
Decades have passed, but Doom still feels current. It continues to attract players across generations, not only for its gameplay or its place in history, but because it taps into something eternal; our fear of—and fascination with—hell.
2. A Map of Hell
There is a hell for almost every culture. Aztec hell contains jaguars and rivers of blood. Zoroastrianism details a ‘House of Lies’, while Jain cosmology features a hell built on seven levels—you won’t have to stay there forever, but it may take several billion years to get out. In ancient Mesopotamia hell was dry and dusty, and the living poured libations on the ground for departed relatives to drink. In the Apocalypse of Paul, hell has rivers of fire, but also rivers of ice for the cold-hearted. Dante’s hell is highly structured and delivered in cantos, with levels for those who indulged wrath, lust, greed and so on. The Christian hell is rich in imagery and specific detail; it’s a hell made for artists, writers, and designers of video games.
In 2018, Pope Francis is said to have denied the existence of hell in an interview with Eugenio Scalfari, a journalist he has spoken with on several occasions. In response, the Vatican stated that Scalfari’s article was not ‘a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father’—a convenient claim, given that the interview was apparently held in private, and not recorded.
Even if hell has been cancelled, we will continue to visit it in video games, where each day new conscripts are lured to the inferno. On Steam, the online video game marketplace, a search for the term ‘hell’ gives 22,781 results, suggesting games like Hell Blade, Hellbound and Waifu Hell, a hentai game where you alternate between ogling and shooting at naked, levitating women.
Shortly before Doom was created, in late 1992, the id team was heavily involved in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, with co-founder John Carmack acting as dungeon master. Romero tried to procure a magic sword and caused the earth to be overrun by demons, inspiring, quite suddenly, the premise for Carmack and Romero’s next game. It’s worth adding here that Dungeons & Dragons was itself the subject of a moral panic; in the early ‘80s it was sued by anti-occult group BADD, which stands for ‘Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons’. BADD linked the game to ‘blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic-type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism’ and other practices. The lawsuit was dismissed.
The id team worked with a copy of H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon on the table in front of them, and the name, famously, came from a Tom Cruise line in The Color of Money (‘What’s in the case?’ ‘In here? Doom.’). ‘When we made it, back then, we just started with a bunch of gruesome images,’ said Romero. ‘Blood lakes, twisted faces, all kinds of stuff we found unnerving. And then just a lot of burning stuff. Pentagrams, you know?’
The aesthetic influence of horror films—as well as their ghoulish humour and their spirit of low-budget audacity—is palpable in Doom, as in id Software’s earlier classic, Wolfenstein 3D, and, later, the wildly successful Quake. ‘Basically it was Evil Dead, and Aliens, and Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal,’ said Romero. ‘It was all those things mixed together, with dark humour and a shotgun and chainsaws. We wanted it to be like in Aliens, with lots of stuff coming at you. Hordes of bad things! And that fear that you felt with Alien, because it’s dark, and you don’t know what’s around the corner, but you hear the noises. . . ’
Doom was built to showcase technologies that had never been used in games before. As designer, Romero played through each level repeatedly, refining it, until he had run through each one hundreds, even thousands of times. Carmack built an improved graphics engine, with binary space partitioning and texture-mapping; shadows deepened at a distance, ceilings slanted menacingly, and walls contained secrets and interactive panels. The design was murky, mutable and brilliantly sinister, lending a chiaroscuro horror to proceedings even before the monsters arrived.
Doom’s other surprise was its subject matter, which turned out to be rooted in religious imagery as much as in science fiction. Romero said, ‘The thing about Doom was that instead of humans meeting aliens in space, which is what you’d expect, you’re meeting hell instead. . . It’s as if hell really exists, and now it’s something you actually have to deal with.’ Romero cited H.P. Lovecraft as an influence—in fact the final boss of Doom’s follow-up, Quake, is the Hell-Mother, a direct import from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. ‘It was always a question of doing something different, and interesting, that we hadn’t seen before. Quake had a Lovecraft influence in terms of the feel of the game—that constant, unsettling feeling that something is wrong. It was hyper-violent, and anything could happen, so you had to stay on your toes.’
3. Hell as Bestiary
I’ll tell you about the imaginary beings you meet in hell. They move in ways unfamiliar to humans; scuttling, sailing through air, issuing squelching, moaning sounds which haunt you long after you take off your headphones. The creatures of Doom strain at the limits of ‘90s technology. They possess a physicality I find deeply unnerving.
The Imp, Doom’s most mundane enemy, is sludge-coloured and easily defeated. Its eyes blaze red, while its face is fixed in a strained rictus of shock.
The Mancubus is a mass of seething flesh, a slightly-more-mobile cousin to Jabba the Hutt. It has two flamethrowers for hands, and its death is spectacular; an implosion of blood and viscera, body collapsing, head exploding, green glowing eyeballs that fall to the floor.
The Cacodemon is Doom’s mascot; one-eyed, blazing red like an inflamed organ. It pulsates smugly in the air, spitting out flame balls. Its death is a lesson in occult anatomy; it spurts red blood when you shoot it, but bleeds blue goop when it finally dies.
The Pain Elemental: found in Doom II, the best-named creature has a single red eye, horns, an otherworldly croak, and futile little T-rex arms. Kill a Pain Elemental and it splits itself into three Lost Souls; floating skulls which blaze across the room.
The Spider Mastermind, leader of Doom’s battalion, is a kind of Krang 2.0 crossed with the robot from Wild Wild West. When you finally defeat it, its metal body breaks apart and only its leering teeth remain.
Musclebound, red, with the legs of a goat, the Baron of Hell emits a cosmic darkness. Sometimes I worry that if I look at one too long, I will become sexually attracted to it. The Hell Knight is a weaker, smaller relative of the Baron of Hell, while the Cyberdemon is its gigantic, Minautaur-like godfather.
The Arch Vile, lurching and spindly, is perhaps Doom’s eeriest creation due to how closely he resembles a human. Tall and bald and emaciated, his ribcage protrudes across his contorted back. Sometimes he throws up his arms, as if giving thanks for the chance to kill you.
Finally there’s the Icon of Sin; the boss of bosses; a wall-mounted goat head. Projectiles emerge from its wound, a flash of rosy exposed brain. Its eyes are dead, its mouth smiling. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Baphomet’. Approach the Icon of Sin, leap into its wound, and you’ll find the game’s true nemesis: an Easter egg, the ultimate Oz-behind-the-curtain moment in gaming. You’ll see a familiar head impaled on a stick, speaking backwards in the game designer’s own voice: ‘To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero.’
You shoot him, but hasn’t he already won?
4. Hell as Other Players
Inspired by games like Street Fighter II, which the team played during breaks, Romero proposed the ‘deathmatch’ during Doom’s development. Up to four players could battle over a local network, or two could use a modem. ‘This is the first game to really exploit the power of LANs and modems to their full potential,’ id wrote in a Doom press release. ‘In 1993, we fully expect to be the number one cause of decreased productivity in businesses around the world.’
Doom is also credited with popularising the mod, or ‘modification’, a customised version of a game created by its fans. Mods can add new levels, objects, weapons, settings or characters. Modding was—and remains today—a popular first step for future game designers.
During our conversation, Romero noted the difficulties that prevent modding communities from forming around games today. ‘Now when you talk about any big game it’s basically un-moddable,’ he said, ‘because the games are so complex.’ The exception is if a company specifically wants to encourage mods: ‘You have to deliberately open it up and let people in, and make specific tools to help them mod.’
Doom arrived at precisely the right time in history, a point when the hacker ethic crossed over into popular culture. The game was customisable from its inception. Soon there was Doom Simpsons, Doom in a shopping mall, and even Marine Doom’, created by and for the US Marine Corps as a training aid. Today, versions of Doom number in the tens of thousands. Recently there was BorderDoom, a mashup with Borderlands, the gory Meatgrinder Co-op, and Brutal Minecraft, which is as it sounds, a shoot-em-up set in the wholesome, pixel-bricked world of Minecraft.
In this sense, Doom keeps alive the DIY ethic of early gaming, an industry largely created by teenagers making games at home, the way Soundcloud rappers build careers from their laptops today. ‘The entire industry was founded on indies,’ Romero said, ‘and it still is indies that are pushing the boundaries with new ideas.’ Romero himself began by making such games; as a teenager in the ‘80s he sent homemade games to magazines, where they were printed as code (readers would type the entire programme into their computers in order to play them).
As well as mods and deathmatches, id Software gave the world another small yet crucial trope in modern gaming: the presence of a hand—the protagonist’s hand, more often than not holding a weapon, and always positioned at the bottom of the screen. This hand first appeared not in Doom, or even in Wolfenstein 3D, but in its precursor, id’s 1991 title Catacomb 3D, where you play as a high wizard battling skeletons and reapers with spells that shoot from your fingertips.
The hand came back for Wolfenstein, then for Doom, and later Quake, by which time it had become an industry norm. There’s something richly symbolic about this hand. Instead of a figure like Virgil to guide you through the underworld, it invites you to guide yourself. Here are limitless levels of hell which you can build yourself; a customised hell, different for every player. Much like the plot of Doom, its creators opened a portal which seems likely never to close.
When I asked Romero how it feels to have created something potentially eternal, he compared it to something unexpected: exotica music, the genre created by composer Martin Denny in 1950s America. ‘Martin Denny started to create this Hawaiian jazz-lounge music, but he added animal and bird noises to it,’ said Romero. ‘He created a whole band where people were making animal noises—because who can teach frogs to make sounds on command? The people who were in his band after they finished repeated that idea, and continued to make exotica in their own style.’ Exotica’s afterlife was earned through its inherent strangeness: ‘It died out after some point, but it lasted for decades. That was very niche back then, whereas Doom is huge in gaming, and is still going strong twenty-six years later. With the new games coming out too, Doom will definitely see a fiftieth anniversary.’
5. Production Hell
Often I suspect that the gruelling quality of certain games hints at the circumstances in which they were made. From documentaries, and from watching game designers have occasional Twitter breakdowns, I get a sense of the industry as vampiric, attracting talented young outcasts and draining them of life. Much like writers, game designers suffer for their art in deeply unglamorous ways: mood swings, instability, caffeine dependence, and fighting with co-workers (if you have them—another thing I notice is how lonely the process of making a game can be). Designers’ work requires persistence in the face of hopelessness—in the face of releasing a title that might never be reviewed, and will sell on Steam for a median price of $5.99.
John Romero knows about production hell. Work was delayed for years on his game Daikatana, a first-person shooter set in futuristic Japan, ancient Greece, Norway in the Dark Ages and finally, a futuristic San Francisco. Ideas clashed, one game engine was swapped for another, and the company’s office, an extravagant penthouse, caused problems when it turned out that light from the ceiling prevented employees from seeing their screens. After multiple missed launch dates, staff departures, an overrun budget and an infamous print ad which declared that ‘John Romero’s about to make you his bitch’, Daikatana was released to poor reviews and angry players in the year 2000.
Even in the earlier days at id Software’s office, ‘Suite 666’, the team seems to have worked in permanent crunch mode. Tony Kushner’s book Masters of Doom reveals that their office was next to a dentist’s; the sound of drills and, occasionally, screams drifted in through the wall, inspiring the demonic ambience of Doom. Wolfenstein 3D was made in roughly seven months, while Doom took just over a year. Doom II was released the following year, and two years after that id Software put out Quake. Each of these games were hugely successful and influential, and their teams faced conflict, tight deadlines, no sleep and a diet of pizza in order to pull this off.
‘You put into the game what you’re feeling,’ said Romero. ‘It’s something I think a lot of people don’t pay attention to. With Quake, the mood was that everyone was expecting to have put a game out already, but we weren’t able to because the technology wasn’t ready. People were creating things they’d then have to delete, or make massive changes to, because the engine wasn’t finished. We didn’t know it was going to take that long.’ If the designer’s mood can influence a game, then perhaps a game can influence its creators in turn. Quake, with its brutal gameplay and nightmarish tone, was the product of an arduous creative process: ‘That disturbing, unsettling feeling in the game needed to happen, no matter how we were feeling. So that’s what we made.’
Within the last three decades, the game industry has grown to a market value of roughly $148 billion, and game development has changed accordingly. Assassin’s Creed, as one example, could have over a thousand people working on the game,’ Romero said. ‘It’s massive. It’s hard to have a really strong creative force driven into a game, to the heart of it, to make sure it stays true to its vision.’
It strikes me that the industry runs on extremes of over- and under-staffing, with larger titles sometimes bloated and over-financed, while indie games rely on one or two fanatically devoted creators to see them into the world. Perhaps this is why so many of the indie games that stand out to me are framed as a journey through the protagonist’s fraying mind—titles like The Beginner’s Guide, or Braid, or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, or even Hotline Miami, with its claustrophobic sleaze and hallucinatory violence.
I am, evidently, not the first person to romanticise the highs and lows of creative employment; as I write this, a TV show is in the works about the early days of id Software, based on Masters of Doom. I know it’s wrong to valorise exhaustion, not least in the context of larger development companies, but there’s something I admire deeply about people who make video games; a kind of madness, an alienation and desire to be heard, which I see in writers too. It’s a job that’s contradictory to its core, requiring independence of thought, coupled with an almost maniacal need to reach people. It requires control, purpose, dedication, and, finally, the ability to give your project away and see it reinterpreted by everyone else.
6. Screen Hell
In recent years I’ve played several games set in the underworld. There’s Undertale, which I never finished, a kind of anti-Pokémon where you’re given the chance either to talk to monsters or fight them. Pinstripe, an indie game about a self-destructive former minister, is set in a hell that’s snowbound and lonely, while in Limbo, by far my favourite, you play as a boy running through a forest in black and white, searching for his lost sister.
These are not violent games; they’re more like meditations, dismantling the tropes of gaming to ask questions about agency and guilt. They treat the screen as a canvas for spiritual inquiry. They ask what it is about hell that keeps us coming back.
I started working on this essay in Berlin at the end of the summer, shortly before moving back to Dublin. I began with the very enjoyable research task of playing Wolfenstein 3D. What made the game more fun was my understanding that it was banned in the country where I was playing it; due to section 86a of Germany’s criminal code, which forbids depictions of symbols linked with unconstitutional organisations (even if the point of the game is to mow down Nazis), Wolfenstein and its sequels were illegal. I was wrong: a 2018 court ruling granted ‘case-by-case examinations’ of controversial material, and Wolfenstein 3D was made legal. It’s still great, for the record, but it was more fun when I thought it was banned.
I grew up in an Ireland slowly making peace with its urge to censor, allowing the public to draw its own conclusions on morality and art. In the ‘90s and early ‘00s almost all the banned books were allowed, but video shops had entire shelves of yellow-stickered ‘extreme’ films like Baise-moi or A Clockwork Orange, made all the more enticing by their warnings, which implied that you could watch them, but at a risk to your own integrity, and possibly your soul. Video games took this sense of agency and possibility even further, landing the player in the middle of the action and inviting them to kill or be killed, to resist or embrace their own damnation.
Another game I enjoy, Hotline Miami, famously asks ‘Do you like hurting other people?’ I don’t. In fact, I spend a ridiculous amount of time, in everyday life, worrying about hurting people by accident. Yet I love first-person shooters, top-down shooters, games where I shoot zombies or mutants or fascists or pixelated monsters. I rely on them in times of stress, playing with such fanatical consistency that my coffee goes cold and I lose sleep and little animated guns flash behind my eyelids for hours after I stop playing. My Steam account is a home for my contradictions as a person, a place to indulge murderous impulses I lack outside the screen.
I suspect the majority of games hold a latent morality, a prospect Doom interrogates with grisly irreverence. Why does it pit technology against the demons of hell, as though they’re forces as strong as each other? The default skill level in Doom is called ‘Hurt Me Plenty’. Do I enjoy hurting other people? Do I enjoy hurting myself?
Or have I absorbed by osmosis a view from American headlines printed when I was a child: the belief that a game might be too dangerous to play, and can damage the soul of its player?
7. Hell International
In Tartarus you don’t die, because you’re already dead. Instead you simply fail, again and again, at repetitive tasks, exhausting, futile, almost murderous in their mundanity. These are dark nursery rhymes, morality tales that lack an ending.
King Ixion is tied to a flaming wheel for lechery and the murder of his father-in-law. Sisyphus is made to push a boulder up a hill, which falls down again. The Danaides, husband-murderers of legend, are forced to carry water in a jug to a bath, but the jug is full of holes. King Tantalus, after murdering his son, is condemned to stand in water, starving and parched, under a branch bearing perfectly ripe fruit. Each time he reaches for fruit, the tree pulls it away, and when he stoops to drink the water it drains away too.
In Ireland, before de Valera, before Bishop John Charles McQuaid, before the British and before even Catholicism itself, our own pagan ‘hell’ was a place notable for its moral ambivalence. We didn’t really have hell, just an all-purpose Otherworld, built without segregation.
In Celtic mythology, the Otherworld is not a place of punishment, but a land of happiness. It’s elusive—‘other’, but never very far away. It’s known by multiple names, in multiple permutations—Tír na nÓg, Mag Mell, Mag Cíuin and Hy-Brasil, the phantom island located in the mists to the west. In some myths it’s even called Tír na mBeo, the ‘Land of the Living’; its residents are not dead, but alive forever. The Celts ran into battle fearless, because they believed they would endure beyond death. Their Otherworld could even be accessed from our one; burial mounds, and openings such as the Cave of the Cats (Oweynagat) at Rathcroghan, allowed passage between the two worlds, at Samhain and at Bealtaine.
As a Catholic, however lapsed, I find it a challenge to imagine an afterlife without the prospect of damnation. It feels central to morality, and to our national identity, however far we progress from our roots. It’s woven into our language; after Saint Patrick arrived we learned to threaten each other with curses. One goes ‘Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat’ (‘May a cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat’). Another is ‘Go ndéana an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn’ (‘May the devil make a ladder of your backbone, so that he can pick apples in the garden of hell’). Finally, in the late twentieth century, the earnest discussion of hell became unfashionable, and we consigned it to video games.
Rathcroghan, the hell-gate in Roscommon, is a site older than the Egyptian pyramids. At face value the Cave of the Cats is an unprepossessing hole in the ground, but it’s also a place of pilgrimage. On YouTube there are videos shot by tourists; the person holding the camera climbs down, through darkness, into an oblivion of stones. Each video ends with a return to the light; they always stop before they reach the Otherworld.
In legend the cave functions like a teleport; a cow is dragged in and emerges a short time later, one county over, from the Caves of Kesh. Then there are the monsters which emerge; the Ellen Trechen, three-headed and scaly; the werewolves; the swarms of red birds and feral swine that wither crops with their breath before vanishing. There are the giant wildcats, which give the cave its name, and the Morrigan, goddess of war and fate, who sometimes takes the form of a crow. In legend the Morrigan emerges from the cave in a chariot pulled by a one-legged horse, a detail which strikes me as extremely metal.
I imagine the Celts and their baffled Christian successors repeating stories about a cave in the midlands simply to amuse themselves, and not guessing these stories would endure for over a thousand years. The cow-teleportation and the three-headed beasts remind me of games we play today; they prove that we keep the bad things close—but not too close—because it makes life more exciting.
8. ‘In Hell is All Manner of Delight’
The above line is spoken by Lucifer in Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play. I keep returning to Faustus, in part because it does something hundreds of video games and horror films like to believe they invented; it implicates the viewer, by delivering moral damnation as entertainment. Faustus makes a pact with the devil in return for magical powers and knowledge; consequently, he brings these wonders to the stage for us to enjoy. It’s only at the end, when Faustus is dragged off the stage to hell, that we have second thoughts.
Another reason to love Faustus is that, centuries before headlines about games, critics claimed Marlowe’s play had driven some of its audience members mad. There was even a suggestion that real demons appeared on the stage, ‘to the great amazement of both actors and spectators’, breaking the fourth wall by revealing the play itself to be a summoning ritual.
In Doom you go into every level expecting to die, again and again, but you keep playing. Unlike the calculated addiction tactics used by games today—the loot crates, the dark patterns and behavioural design—Doom’s approach was relatively straightforward. Romero and his team wanted to make a game so fun that you couldn’t stop playing it.
Perhaps the danger critics saw in Doom was not that its players would be sent to hell, but that it might teach us to love hell. Perhaps we would become too powerful by playing; hell-bringers, gods of tiny, violent worlds.
Romero said, ‘It’s funny, with my son, when he was probably around eight years old we talked to him about hell, and he asked, “Why would you send a bad person to a place where only bad people are? Wouldn’t that be awesome for them, like heaven for bad people?’’’
It’s tempting to claim that Doom exists because we transcended traditional morality, but then, what are we doing in playing it, but killing demons, and battling the armies of hell? Instead, Doom pays tribute to hell as a cultural phenomenon, a story which changes with every retelling, every player, every mod. Hell is a game we play with ourselves, and moral panics emerge when one hell-narrative falls away, and is replaced by another.
Create and destroy. Create, and be destroyed, then get up and create again.
Hell is eternal. ‘Of course hell is eternal,’ Romero said, laughing, ‘because that’s the whole idea of hell.’ That final scene works as a sigil launched in the name of creativity. The demons are loose. Where will you go, now that hell is everywhere?