Doom has always been about killing the demons that the inept Union Aerospace Corporation keep summoning into reality. Doomguy, the Marine, and the Doomslayer have been our avatars for this wanton and righteous destruction for decades. But despite the imposing size of the Barons of Hell, or the grotesque form of the Mancubus, it’s been the UAC all along that has remained the true antagonist of the series. The Doomslayer, not the demons, is the UAC’s ultimate foe: an employee that won’t listen to them.
Chainsawing a demon in half might be impressive, but it’s nothing compared to what the Doomslayer is capable of in Doom 2016 and the upcoming Doom Eternal. He might be able to stare down the hordes of hell without flinching, but even more extraordinary, he can defy management. And in 2019, a lot of people would be much happier going toe to toe with a big floating eye monster than with their boss,
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The Monsters We Work For
We all have to work for a living, and as transnational corporations proliferate, it’s harder and harder to find work that isn’t associated with one of them somehow. Google, Amazon, Facebook all make the headlines regularly for being pretty openly bad. But even the less obviously evil companies today can’t seem to stay on the straight and narrow. Whether it’s a food conglomerate that encouraged unsafe practices leading to infant deaths, pub chains that spend millions on propaganda for their millionaire boss, or even just home furniture stores selling beds to child detention centres, it’s hard to have a clear conscience working anywhere. None of these businesses are actively trying to tear open portals between earth and hell, at least not that we’re aware of, but they’re not exactly creating a heaven on earth either. That’s capitalism, baby!
And even when the business practices of your employer aren’t terrible, abusive management and workplace bullying are extremely common. We’ve all had bosses that demand too much, think yelling is effective reinforcement, or treat us like trash. They’re not using us as fodder for the legions of hell — at least not yet — but they still aren’t great. And there often isn’t much we can do to combat their management style or the business practices they push. Thanks to zero hour contracts and a poor job market, defying the boss might not just be awkward but life altering. A rebellious employee might get less hours, or be given worse tasks, or just generally mistreated. (Which is why unions are so important!)
The Doomslayer isn’t a union man, if anything, he’s a freelancer. Called upon by the UAC when they need him, subject to all levels of abuse with no employment rights to shield him from absurd commands or demonic fireballs. Doom 2016 was scattered with interactions between the Doomslayer, revived to put a stop to the demonic invasion, and Hayden, the UAC boss who allowed the incursion to happen. But from their very first encounter at the beginning of the game, where the Doomslayer destroys the computer Hayden is using to speak to him, most of these conversations revolve around Hayden making demands of the Doomslayer, which he, and the player, gleefully ignore.
Small Acts of Defiance
We don’t usually get to be so blatantly rebellious at work, so we all do little things to try and make our positions less terrible. Maybe it’s giving some friendly customers a discount they aren’t technically entitled to, or overfilling the portion of food because it’s overpriced anyway. Maybe it’s taking a little longer in the stockrooms just so you can have a minute to yourself, or just having a moan about the conditions on a slow shift.
Once I worked at a cinema that suddenly began paying some of its employees less than minimum wage. After management dismissed my concerns and the government said I couldn’t do much because “the cinema was working to resolve the problem,” I wrote a small angry essay on the employee ticket scanner. It didn’t do anything but severely anger the managers when they found out about it, but it made me, and the other staff who read it feel a little better. The Doomslayer does so much more.
Work Like Hell
In the beginning of the Doom Eternal demo from QuakeCon and E3 this year, the Doomslayer walks out into an office space on a demonically besieged orbital cannon. The employees of the UAC are scrambling to try and control the situation, which is rapidly unravelling around them. At one point, one member of staff calls out that management “wants us to let them through”, allowing the demons to travel beyond their perimeter and seemingly make their way to Earth. It’s an absurd suggestion, and it seems like the staff on this platform aren’t going to listen to it.
But that’s all they can do. The UAC is a terrible company, ignoring humanity in a very literal sense to make pacts with hell itself, but the company is still run by humans. Humans who might disagree with the policy, but can do little to change it. Instead, they, like the rest of us, stage a tiny moment of defiance and attempt to keep the cannon running when they know it won’t make a difference in the larger scale of things.
And in that moment Doom Eternal reflects us. Outside of the game, we’re the peons working for unknowably vast companies that make inhumane policy decisions for money and power, performing tiny acts of rebellion where we can, and hoping these little moments of defiance are enough to help someone else.
But in this same scene Doom Eternal reminds us who we are in the game: the Doomslayer. We don’t care what management wants, and we don’t have to worry about unfair disciplinaries, suspensions, or our hours being slashed. The Doomslayer walks through that office with all the swagger and arrogance of a person without someone to answer to, and for once we get to feel it. A moment later you’re dashing across the external walls of the gun platform, slaying the demons that management wants to let pass. And that’s the real power fantasy here. Anyone can shoot a demon, but so few of us ever get to properly defy our employers.
Slaying In The Gig Economy
Technically the Doomslayer might not be an employee of the UAC, but he’s treated like one. Like the large companies of today, The Doomslayer is treated like an employee, with enough legal distinction to avoid calling him one. Hayden was the one to revive him after all, and he spent most of Doom 2016 ordering him around. Dedicated fans have even found links between the Doomslayer and the Marine from Doom 3, an actual employee of the UAC who eventually gets to kill his demonic boss. Doom gives the player a chance to stand up the unfair practices and dehumanising treatment of the bosses and companies so many of us have had to work under at some point.
We’ve all felt trapped in a bad job, doing something we aren’t proud for people we don’t like. And we’ve all daydreamed about giving the boss, the manager, or whoever is in charge a piece of your mind. We’ve wanted to march away from work when ordered to do something we disagree with. We’ve wanted to laugh in the face of the manager screaming at us, because we can see how much they’re enjoying it, and how trivial the crime was. But we can’t, because we need that job. Instead we knuckle down, do what we can get away with and continue to imagine how fulfilling it would be tell our boss what we really think of them. Doom Eternal lets you live that fantasy, at least digitally. It even lets you kill some demons too, which is nice, but nowhere near as satisfying.