Get psyched! It’s time for some profound carnage.
My family got its hands on a reasonably powerful PC sometime in 1994; I’m not entirely sure how, given how much my mother already hated the Atari, Nintendo, and SNES. Maybe she convinced herself that the family would use it mostly for educational games and word-processing, and there’s at least some merit to that theory.
See, in the old days games were significantly harder to find and purchase for the PC than they were for dedicated videogame consoles. A lot of them used the shareware model, where the first portion of the game was given away for free, but you had to call and order the rest. Our parents sure as heck weren’t going to let us use their credit card for that, so in a lot of cases we weren’t able to get a hold of the games we wanted… but that didn’t stop us from playing the shareware portion over and over.
The copy of Wolf3D that found its way into my household was part of a boxed shareware collection that also included Blake Stone, Doom, and some terrible maze game that I’m pretty sure plagiarized mech designs from Battletech. I tried the latter a few times and promptly gave up on it, and of the remaining three games, Wolf3D was the most brightly-colored and least intimidating, so that’s naturally where I gravitated at first… even if the cartoony, child-friendly exterior hid something much, much more adult.
My parents had absolutely no idea what I was really up to when I was locked away in our little office space. If they had known what I was seeing — the corpse-littered prisons, the Nazi torture chambers… If they had known what I was doing — stabbing attack dogs and gunning down German soldiers… If they had known how much more adult and uncensored games were on the PC, they never, never would have allowed any of this to happen. They probably would have thrown the computer directly into a dumpster and busted the typewriter back out.
They didn’t, though, and I thank every lucky and non-lucky star in the sky for that. Wolfenstein 3D was my introduction to violent videogames, and I played countless more on that same family computer for something like six more years — until I had a computer of my own.
Back then in ’94 I was getting to be old enough to understand how my parents would react if they knew what I was up to. I was old enough to know to pause the game when they walked by. I was old enough to get in on my brothers’ little conspiracy to keep our parents in the dark to the fact that we had cheated the system; even if they wouldn’t let us watch grown-up movies or TV, we had grown-up things of our own. We had videogames.
Wolf3D was the beginning of things decidedly Not For Kids. The mere act of playing it was a transgression, a secret rebellion. I knew it I shouldn’t be playing it… but it felt so good.