severe announcement

John Romero

Computergames can be spectacular, first-person shooters (FPS) in particular. Electronic sports (e-sports) almost always are spectacular. Marketing in turn definitely has to be spectacular. Marketing a computergame for e-sports for sure will be a spectacle. From the beginning on a new project in this realm has to be advertised in a fashion which generates the most impact possible. Already the announcement should be spectacular and correctly placed. Here a lot depends on the choice of the announcer. Since decades almost every championship bout in heavyweight boxing is announced by Michael Buffer, who, together with his coin phrase “Let’s get ready to rumble,” has become a trademark himself, a spectacle not only re-recognized, but cherished by the according audience worldwide. Buffer’s dressman looks and drawn out vowels have become a part of the ritual. For pre-placing a new product not only on a market, but into a vast culture, which gaming surely is, a professional announcer would not be the correct choice. Way better is to contract a legend and controversial personality, because provoking discussion is the golden way.

Just recently the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) has proven to have a sure hand in this kind of choice. To announce its first own game project called “Severity,” the CPL sent up front one of the most prominent figures in the whole gaming business, a legend who was crucial in the shaping of what we today know as computergames and e-sports, one of the most prolific game designers, the man who coined the phrase “deathmatch”. (Kushner 2004 [2003]: 150) And a tremendously controversial character.

During the CPL 2006 Championship Finals, which took place from Saturday, 16 December through Wednesday, 20 December 2006, John Romero announced that the CPL will develope its own game, which will be “the ultimate FPS for team and for solo matches,” and is thought to become the “de facto standard in deathmatch competitions”. The whole announcement, available as a video at YouTube, is pure vintage Romero.

In his book “Masters of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture,” (Kushner 2004 [2003]) an essential read for the understanding of computergames and gaming culture, David Kushner not only tells the history of FPS, but masterfully renders the personalities of the “Two Johns”, John Carmack and John Romero, the uneven but congenial pair, which indeed transformed pop culture. The picture given is by far not always flattering, especially if it comes down to Romero’s boastful rockstar airs and graces. Nevertheless he just recently voiced, that the book is “100% accurate ;)”. The differing personalities of Carmack and Romero also become clearly apparent when looking at their respective weblogs. In both cases style, layout, and content perfectly match with the characters from “Masters of Doom”. But it goes even farther, or: you don’t even have to go as far as to actually look at their weblogs, the URIs already are telltale: vs. Plus, the above mentioned announcement itself again is proof that Kushner hit the nail right on the head with his characterizing Romero. In the latter’s case, Poirot again is proven right: Let him talk on any subject, and he inevitably will give away himself. He does so on YouTube ;-)

The news quickly was widely spread, and the gaming community reacts accordingly as can be read in the many comments scattered around. Romero’s boastful claim of the ultimate FPS is countlessly countered by mentioning Daikatana and the infamous advertisement featuring the glorious phrases: “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch. Suck it down.” [For the background of this see ↵Kushner 2004 [2003]: 239]

Although it has been mentioned several times, within the according forums and comments-pages and in here, for all those people who have a big question mark appearing well above their heads when they hear the name John Romero, but nevertheless merrily wisecrack away on shooter games: Do read David Kushner’s “Masters of Doom” and you will have the foundations for understanding contemporary gaming culture … by the way, there would be no Doom, no Quake, and no deathmatch without John Romero. Well, yes, all right, there wouldn’t have been any “Daikatana” as well, *sigh*.

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