A man whose life has been helped by Doom will be putting his life into Doom.
A walking corpse, a fire hurling ghoul, a cybernetic demon spider, even a luminary game developer's head impaled on a pike, are all normal things to encounter within Doom II, the 1994 follow up to one of the most important video games in history, and a stellar game in itself. Encountering a suburban BMX, a Circle K parking lot and a running copy of Doom II on a desktop computer are much more unexpected things to find within Doom II, but less so to the life of JP LeBreton, who has decided to create his autobiography as a Doom mod.
Since Doom came out in the early '90s, and especially after it went open source, it has become one of the most vibrantly modded games in history. Most mods are customized maps or similarly trigger-happy Doom-related experiences. Autobiographical and essay games have been a growing trend, such as with Nina Freeman's Cibele, Ryan Green's That Dragon, Cancer or Davey Wreden's The Beginner's Guide, and while narrative and abstract Doom mods are not out of the ordinary, LeBreton's project, Autobiographical Architecture, promises an inspiring lyrical quality.
Scenes from the Doom series blend and feed into environments and moments from LeBreton's life, the life of a level designer. Behind each sliding door could be a sincere childhood tableau, or a repulsive Cacodemon. A what-if Charlie Kaufman got to take 2005's Doom movie for a spin instead of the guy who directed Romeo Must Die.
"Doom made a huge impression on me back in the day," LeBreton told Motherboard in an email. "It kept popping back up at various points in my life, spanning different cities I lived in and people I've shared my life with."
LeBreton told me that the idea for Autobiographical Architecture came when he realized not only how important Doom has been in his life, but that as a result of that connection he felt comfortable talking about himself within the game. He has worked as a designer for Double Fine and Irrational, and is currently making games independently. His professional skills seem attuned because of his literacy with Doom. In 2010 he even doubled back and remade a level he designed for Bioshock as a Doom II mod.
"The Doom engine's simplicity and low fidelity are a valuable source of constraints for a solo creator like me," LeBreton said. "With its level building paradigm I can build and detail a space in a fraction of the time it'd take me to build something in a more modern engine. The pixel art renaissance of the past 5-10 years shows that people can still make really nice visuals at low fidelity… Modding has made Doom way more of an open canvas than almost any other game from the mid 1990s, and that openness means the game has changed along with me, to an extent."
It seems Doom has given a lot to JP LeBreton's life, and now he'll be installing his life into Doom. The first volume will be out later this year, detailing his experiences growing up in Texas, obsessed with the very game you are playing. The following episodes will document his adulthood, and more trying times.