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Today I connect DOOM Guy—the nameless protagonist of the DOOM series—with Shy Guy—the cute pajama-ed and Jason masked enemy from the Super Mario Bros. series.

You know that social theory that everyone on earth can be connected to anyone else by no more than 5 intermediaries? They call that 6 Degrees of Separation. I do the same thing here, except I connect video game topics in strange ways using 6 Degrees of Pixelation.

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Welcome to 6 Degrees of Pixelation, the show that brings the social theory 6 degrees of separation to video games. I’m Caleb. This is my office, and today I’ll be connecting Doom Guy to Shy Guy. And in the process maybe we’ll find out that there’s a bit of shyness and a little bit of doom in all of us.


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Now on to the first connection. Doom guy to Wolfenstein

1.-2. Doom guy to Wolfenstein

Doom Guy, the nameless protagonist avatar of the Doom series, is perhaps the most lazily named video game character since jump man. But where jump man got off his ass to become a named plumber, Mario, Doom Guy stayed on his ass and became…you. Ha. Gotcha. But it’s true. Doom Guy’s lack of a name is meant to encourage player immersion. According to John Romero, co-creator of Doom, Doom Guy is supposed to be YOU, the player. That’s must be why he’s so attractive (flash Please Subscribe).

The Doom novel series gives the protagonist a name–sometimes Flynn Taggart, other times John Kane–but officially Doom Guy doesn’t have a proper name. Now, if we look beyond Doom and into Wolfenstein, another series in the Id Software family, we get a hint that Doom Guy may be named Sergeant Stan Blazkowicz a descendant of Wolfenstein’s William Blazkowicz. But that’s only if you put any stock into a video game’s story, and as we know, Doom lead programmer John Carmack doesn’t much care for story in video games: “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie; It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” I’ll never get tired of citing that quote.

It’s interesting then that Wolfenstein would have a direct connection to one of the most enduring stories ever told, a tale straight from The Bible.

3. Wolfenstein 3D to Super 3D Noah’s Ark

The story of Noah’s Ark, as told in the Bible, is widely known. So for those few of you who don’t know, let me give you the abbreviated version by way of comparison. The story apparently basically mirrors World War II, as portrayed in the game Wolfenstein 3D. Only instead of shooting guns, Noah shot with slingshots. And instead of killing Nazis, Noah puts animals to sleep using tranquilizers or by stuffing them with enough food pellets to put them into a cartoon comma, I’m not 100% sure what’s going on there. And instead of taking place in an irrationally designed labyrinthine castle, the story of Noah takes place in an irrationally designed labyrinthine boat. I don’t want to question God, but I’m not sure Noah was firing on all cylinders. I know you promised there wouldn’t be another flood, God, but considering how unfit Noah was for the original job maybe you could go back on that promise in an effort to redeem yourself.

The first 3D Wolfenstein game, appropriately titled Wolfenstein 3D, provided the game engine on which Super 3D Noah’s Ark was built. It seems strange that a game known for violence would be the backbone to a game meant to convey wholesome values. According to rumors, Id Software allowed Christian game developer Wisdom Tree to use the Wolfenstein 3D game engine for their game out of spite. See, Nintendo of America censored the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D, which surely must have angered Id Software. Super 3D Noah’s Ark was to be an unofficial game, and unofficial games have a history of angering Nintendo. The most high-profile case of which involved Atari who, in the early 1990s, was able to copy Nintendo’s lock-out, copy projection system in order to make unofficial NES cartridge games via their Tengen label.

Rumor aside, the real situation is simply that Wisdom Tree purchased the license to the Wolfenstein game engine and that Id Software considered Wisdom Tree just another licensor for their technology. But it’s more fun to assume nefarious intent.

Super 3D Noah’s Ark isn’t the only Noah game on a Nintendo console.

4. Super 3D Noah’s Ark > Bible Adventures’ Noah’s Ark

In addition to Super 3D Noah’s Ark, Wisdom Tree developed another animal collecting game based on the Noah story. This one lacked the edgy 3D virtual space of the Super NES Wolfenstein re-skin, but thankfully maintained questionable animal herding methods. Where 3D Noah used a hilariously pedestrian slingshot to literally do God’s work (thanks for the slingshot, God), NES Noah used his brute strength and his physics defying stacking skills. Eat it, this guy (show video of person stacking bricks).

But it wasn’t just Noah posing as the Jenga hipster. David, of David and Goliath fame, stacked sheep and “this person” of “This person and Moses” fame carried Moses through spider-infested pyramids. These three games came packed together as part of Wisdom Tree’s unofficially licensed game Bible Adventures. Upon its release, Bible Adventures was panned for being terrible. That’s fair. Because it is terrible. Not only are the controls a mess, the mechanics uninspired, and the entire premise an insult to Christianity, I’m a bit disappointed by–and I admit this may be a personal gripe–the fact that Moses can’t even drown in this game. If Moses can’t drown, what was all this basket talk in the Bible? That’s wasting valuable carrying container resources, resources that poor Noah and David could have used to heave around all those animals. You’re being selfish “this person.”

It wasn’t uncommon at all for Wisdom Tree to simply apply a Christian veneer to existing games, most often games that were developed by their parent company Color Dreams. They did it with Wolfenstein 3D and they did it with Menace Beach, which became Sunday Funday, and they did it, though to a much lesser degree with Super Mario Bros. 2, which acted as the basis for comparison to many reviewers when Bible Adventures was released.

5. Bible Adventures > Super Mario Bros. 2

I mentioned uninspired mechanics earlier, and that because the primary mechanic in the three Bible Adventures games–lifting and carrying–is an obvious steal from Super Mario Bros. 2.

Admittedly, I’m being hard on Wisdom Tree. Copying successful game mechanics for other games isn’t new, and is in fact a backbone to video game evolution. Mario didn’t invent the jump mechanic, after all, but Mario made it better. Mario turned a simple verb into a grammatically extravagant sentence filled with brick breaking, enemy killing, and shell pushing. Bible Adventures didn’t evolve the language of video games at all. Probably because it doesn’t believe in evolution.

You might be thinking, “what’s with all these Noah games stealing from other games?” I prefer to imagine these Noah games are simply honoring the repurposing history of the Noah bible story itself, considering that story is part of a long tradition of religious flood narratives, perhaps the most well-known being The Epic of Gilgamesh. There is nothing new under the sun, indeed, Bible.

Super Mario Bros. 2, to be fair, is its own nebulous world of repurposed mechanics, which is important to state here for the sake of full transparency. Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a re-skinned version of a game called Doki Doki Panic. That’s right, many of the characters we’ve come to know as part of the Super Mario universe, including Birdos, Bom-ombs, Pokeys, and even Shy Guys–were not originally Super Mario characters at all.

6. Super Mario 2 > Shy Guy

And here we are, at the sixth degree of pixelation. The humble shy guy, an often-enemy, sometimes-partner, who appears throughout many mario universe games, from the core series, starting with Super Mario Bros. 2 though offshoot Yoshi vessels, puzzle games, terrible cartoons, and more, taking on many forms as well. We have red shy guys, pink shy guys, black shy guys who never appear alongside probably racist white-hooded shy guys (I can’t blame them for that), terribly animated shy guys, helicopter headed…fly guys, and on and on. The shy guy is a staple of the mario universe in much the same way that the goomba is or that Yoshi is or that, hell, the way doom guy himself is part of the doom franchise. To be successful, a series needs a set of common building blocks. Doom guy and shy guys play well the role of build material.

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This has been 6 Degrees of Pixelation, from Doom Guy to Shy Guy.

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Until next time, I’m caleb, you’re still so attractive [flashing subscribe], and we are Burning Books.

Research/Sources/Credits/Inspirations (this is not a comprehensive list, as that would be impossible, especially the “inspirations” items)

Music Credits

Murdered Darlings