At this stage, id Software’s shooter Doom is not just a classic game, but a major part of the industry’s history. As one of the most genre-defining FPS titles ever made, it continues to be a source of influence, with the 1994 follow-up Doom 2 being just as successful, if not more so, and the recent reboots proving that the IP still has life left in it. With people still playing the games and it being on the cultural gaming conscience, it was only a matter of time before it would become the subject of scientific experiments, and now one neuroengineer has been training rats to play the second game, and wants people to see it happen live.
According to a recent interview, Viktor Tóth, a scientist formerly from The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York, has expressed interest in using Twitch to show the world how rats can play Doom 2. The software programmer and neuroengineer says livestreaming the experiment could help to fund the project, which was inspired by him seeing Neuralink analyzing snout detection through brain implants in pigs, and is ultimately a way to understand more about how brains interact with computers.
A couple of months ago, Tóth uploaded a video to YouTube which showed a rat playing Doom using a VR setup, in which the rats, named after id Software co-founders Romero, Carmack and Hall, would control Doomguy down a hallway. Although it was only a rudimentary method, it is still a fascinating way of looking at “brain computer interfaces.” The rats were also given an obstacle, in this case an Imp, which the rats would be rewarded for if they managed to shoot it. Tóth believes that the rats could possibly run the map for 10 to 20 minutes.
He hopes that any public interest in the experiment could help fund the next iteration of the project. One of the ideas that has been thrown around is possibly conducting similar tests using a 3D Pac-Man game. The scientist believes that this would make a bit more sense given that the object of the game is to avoid danger, adding that rats “don’t really like to attack stuff.” However, he did say that it could be difficult as the rats would need to turn around in the maze.
It’s clear that there is so much more that the influential FPS can offer. With John Romero still making maps for Doom 2, it’s an IP that is continuing to keep itself relevant, nearly three decades after being released. Let’s hope Tóth can manage to get his project onto Twitch and gain a boost in public interest.
The original Doom was released in 1993 for multiple platforms, and has been ported to newer consoles since. Doom 2 was launched a year later.