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On a Number of Aspects of Artistic Computer Games
Tilman Baumgärtel


I. Introduction: «There’s no turning back now!»

This opening scene is etched into the minds of an entire generation of computer players: a hall with grey walls, from which several passageways branch off; and in the background, dark mountain scenery. There are no humans around. We have landed at the Union Aerospace Corporation, a research laboratory on Phobos, a moon of Mars. We—or, more correctly, our avatars in the ‹first person Shooter› game «Doom»—are part of a unit of Space Marines who have been deployed to find out what happened to the people who had been working at the laboratory. After secret experiments, during the course of which matter had been sent through ominous gateways on an inter-dimensional journey through the universe, radio contact with the station had broken off. «Securing your helmet, you exit the landing pod. You hope to find more substantial firepower somewhere within the station. As you walk through the main entrance of the base, you hear animal-like growls echoing throughout the distant corridors. They know you're here. There's no turning back now.»[1] Thus begins the famous and notorious ‹first person Shooter› «Doom», which rang


in a new era in the development of computer games when it was released in December 1993. The game comes from Texas computer game manufacturer id Software, which at the time was known for producing games with an extremely high level of violence. But the company also enhanced the technical possibilities of computer games. The genre of ‹first person Shooters› for the PC—games that are seen through the eyes of a fighting protagonist—was basically id‘s creation. But the most important of the developments that came from id was not the new perspective from which it allows its users to view computer games. In fact, id converted the principles of a hacker ethic[2] into a functioning business model. It has released the code for its games and has sold them over the Internet as shareware. In this business model, which is only possible in a digital economy, the program is available free of charge and only those who like it pay for it, but they can then also use additional functions. This sales technique was the basis for the breath-taking success of a business that made its founders multimillionaires. And when they discovered that their fans had hacked their games and had developed several versions of their

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