The release of Doom 4 got me all nostalgic and thoughtful about my horrific teenage years. I haven’t played computer games for many years but I loved them when I was a kid. I’d completely lose myself in the original, 3D Doom world, shooting up demons, finding secret areas, being utterly isolated from a world outside that seemed intent on my defenestration.
Doom, to what passed for my friends and I, perfectly encapsulated our ethos. Utter, furious, helpless nihilism. A back story that nobody cared about, gruesome violence for no good reason except fun. It was like ISIS for lazy atheists. Listening to Pantera, roasting enemies, eating junk food, hiding my zits and weak physique, my social retardation, immaturity, insecurity and my stupid hair from everyone and everything.
The nihilism of our 90s subculture was born of a dismal view of the future. Every adult I knew was miserable. My parents, my teachers, the people at the bus stop, the neighbours. The economy was tanking and for any family, unemployment was a daily hazard. School was a shit-show of depressed, burned-out, child-hating boomers trying to make it through to 55 and their generous (now defunct) pension. Oh, the kids were awful. I don’t know how anyone could want to reproduce after sharing some of those cruel, riotous classes. You’d get more warmth from a pet tarantula.
I was dodging psychopaths of every size and ethnicity, some of whom ended up in prison. Even people like me who didn’t really get bullied, got bullied. People constantly breaking your stuff, knocking it on the floor, messing up your hair, body slamming you in the corridor. Picking your lock and throwing your stuff on the oval. Sometimes out the window. This is how normal boys were treated. The ones who got bullied copped far worse. If the victims are still alive I’d avoid them because they must close to their omega rage killing spree by now.
Oh, and the girls. The girls were the worst. I don’t know how anyone who attended a public high school could be capable of love after seeing female humans at the pinnacle of their unmasked, hormonal, animalistic years of muscling for rank. The horror. The horror. Looking back, it seems adolescent girls’ greatest fear is being perceived as having a low sexual market value. Such a value can come from (a) being a slut, (b) being a prude, or (c) worst of all, having sexual relations with a low-ranking male. This meant that they were required at all times to be just the right balance of slutty and prudish, to condemn the day’s rival as a slut or a prude, and to treat low ranking males like myself like a Nazi official might treat a Jew if he’d mislaid his gas chamber.
Every single aspect of my life, and everyone else’s life, was dark, chaotic and cold. Meaningless. If not Hell, very close to it.
So we played Doom. Disembowling demons with chainsaws. The world, outside, distant and irrelevant just for a few hours. At school the people who passed for my friends and I fantasized about blowing the place up. About building pipe bombs and just wiping all the shit away. That, we thought, would be the coolest thing in the world. Dying immediately afterwards would be the icing on the fucking cake. Fortunately this was just before the popularization of the internet and the fantasies remained just that. We escaped our educational prison through the law of increasing entropy and moved on, having learned nothing much except how to give a dead leg and how much receiving one hurt.
And then it happened for real. Two crazy American kids, whose lives seemed very much like my own, shot up their school and tried to blow it up. They’d played Doom and lived meaningless lives and decided to fulfill the fantasy that millions of others had entertained. I was at university at the time. I was with a few people who passed for my friends and they discussed the killings with horror. How could anyone do something like that, they wondered. I can understand it, I said. People get to that point sometimes where something insane like that makes sense. When there’s nothing to lose, there’s no right or wrong, just the coolness of killing and power and revenge. Could happen here. Look at that building over there – perfect sniper position. You’d pick off twenty people before anyone could stop you. Or put a bomb in here – bang, there’s another fifty. Hehe. The people who passed for my friends didn’t pass for my friends any more after that and we fell out of touch.
Most people in these waters don’t like Michael Moore and especially despise Bowling For Columbine. But Marilyn Manson made the most sensible observation of all in his interview. He said something like, “I’d wish I could say to them, guys, it’s over. High school is not real life. You’ve finished. Real life starts from today. You made it.” Both those boys were highly intelligent and creative. If they hadn’t gone on a rampage they’d probably be quite successful and happy thirty-somethings right now. Even the one who was a psychopath would be a CEO or politician and the dorky one would be living like a king running an online business in Thailand. But then, I looked up the video to find the exact quote and it seems Marilyn Manson never said anything like that. My memory is faulty. Perhaps all those other memories are faulty too, realistically written over by later experiences and interpretations. Maybe this entire post is a crock of shit.
But still, for any nutcase kids reading this, what I imagined Marilyn Manson saying is good advice. Things get better. The future is unknowable so it might be brighter than you envisage. If you don’t go on a suicidal rampage you’ll probably be glad one day that you didn’t.
Convincing young, unpopular men that life is not as bad as it seems and that they may have reasonable prospects is the most effective way to stop them getting sucked into passive escapes from reality like Doom or WoW, or active ones like killing sprees and ISIS. It is very hard to convince a man who has no hope for the future that anything matters, and a true nihilist is a pathetic and dangerous thing.
Further reading: A heartwarming story to revive your faith in humanity
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