A recently resurfaced review of Doom Eternal has drawn widespread mockery over its accusation that id Software’s latest entry in the demon killing franchise is sexist and transphobic because it features “no sex and no women”.
Written by Nick van der Waard in April 2020 for his website Nick’s (Gothic) Movie Insights and updated one year later, the over 4,000 word review subtitled “No Girls or Trans People Allowed” gained little attention upon its initial publication, only recently coming to more widespread infamy after it was discovered by YouTubers such as Midnight.
Waard begins his review of Doom Eternal by taking issue with the role of the game’s singular human female character, Dr. Ellena Richardson.
Through the game, collectable audio logs follow Dr. Richardson’s descent from a scientist with a shaken resolve to a devout “believer” in the Doom Slayer as humanity’s savior.
“In Doom Eternal, the one human female character is an invisible cheerleader lusting after the protagonist while enforcing traditional gender roles,” writes Waard. “She might as well be an uneducated housewife kissing her husband on the cheek before he marches off to war. Maybe women don’t want that?”
Waard then laments how female equivalents to the Doom Slayer, even the likes of Samus, are “from a traditional standpoint, heavily regulated sex objects. Attempts to adopt the same position for female characters are generally sexualized for men.”
“At the very least id [Software] could make the protagonist optionally female, but they didn’t” Waard proclaims. “They went out of their way to exclude women from any powerful role in-game… except the Kahn’s role of Archaic Mother*, a type of patriarchal boogeyman for the hero to slay (thus preserve maintain order).”
In support of this argument, Waard presents a busty fan-render of a female Doom Slayer as an example of a character being sexualized for men.
(Curiously, the genuine nature of Waard’s outrage towards this particular point is called into question by his later disatisfaction at the fact that Doom Eternal has “no sex and no women.”
Assuming Id Software wished to cater to the “norm,” Waard speculated that this is also why “their solution is to make trans people vanish, and for women to be of a singular position: damsels, with no mind of their own, or desires divorced from the Slayer’s pointedly Conan the Barbarian physique.”
Lamenting how Doom Eternal is “for men”, despite the fact that women and queer people also regularly enjoy its use of metal music, fantasy violence, and demons, Waard then proposes that “after Trump’s election, however, id pandered to male gamers with a Marvel-esque vision of the world, replete with traditional gender roles tied to binary images of conventional war.”
“Is Doom Eternal explicitly political?” asks Waard. “No, but politics and popular media are seldom directly linked in America. Instead, media is sponsored by those with political views, regardless if that cash comes from corporate or consumer pockets.”
“And traditionalists pay for media that supports their attitudes, regardless if the authors publicly state their intended audience,” he added. “The content and the purchase adumbrate these ties nonetheless.”
Waard goes on to denounce how “everyone’s a male beefcake flexing at each other”, drawing from Umberto Eco’s “14 common features of fascism” to argue that the game is “action—specifically strength—for the sake of itself. A perpetual casus belli that grants men total power in society and abroad.”
“This imperium regulates everyone, though, including men,” says Waard. The biggest regulation is that which is absent: women, trans people, and sex. With its purified, ’80s violence, Doom Eternal is masculine, bellicose and chaste—with obligatory male butts plastered all over the place: ‘It’s not sexual; it’s masculine!'”
After a brief discussion on the game’s Gothic inspiration and his opinions that its story lacked gravitas and its levels felt linear and disconnected from one another, Waard voices his frustration with how they felt Doom Eternal’s “target community is effectively an all-boys club, filled to capacity with men who loved Doom (1993) in the good ol’ days.”
“There’s no sex, and no women,” Waard spotlights. “I couldn’t shake the feeling of a didactic series of action figures brought out of the closet for les enfants terrible to reclaim their lost childhoods. And honestly this would be fine if that past wasn’t so sexless, so ostensibly ‘neutral’ and male-centric.”
Further bemoaning the fact that the game doesn’t appeal specifically to his views, Waard decries how “girls,” “queer people,” and “open-if-optional sexual preferences” did not “exist in Doom Eternal”, lamenting, “All we’re left with is the outmoded, homosocial worshiping of the Doom marine by a largely male audience: the giga-Chad admired by Real Men everywhere.”
“It can be exciting to know that something was lovingly made, and just for you,” says Waard. “I just hate to feel alienated from a franchise so near and dear to my heart because of its staunchest flag-wavers: ‘This is ours; it was made for us!’ And maybe it was.”
“Maybe I’m an outsider and always was,” Waard reflects. “It’s still jarring to see the sequel to a clean-slate revival backtrack so abruptly tone-wise. Doom Eternal shamelessly panders to a fan base the 2016 reboot largely ignored.”
Yes, the Doom community is quite real, but is there any room for an old Doom fan like myself to enjoy the same game for my own reasons?” he further implores. “Yes, but not through its dated treatment of gender and sex.”
Appearing to blunder past his own introspection, Waard sarcastically dismisses the possibility that he was not the game’s core audience, “Apparently that’s my problem, not theirs.”
Ultimately, though he admits the game is cleverly designed and “holds up rather well”, Waard feels that “what doesn’t hold up so well is the ‘made for boys’ attitude—the Marvel-style endgame that will keep sexist, toy-hungry comic book nerds coming back for thirds.”
“Consumers can buy whatever they want,” he concludes. “The problem is, Doom Eternal ignores demons and videogame violence as a realm for everyone, especially women and queer people. In Doom Eternal, they simply don’t exist.”
In a brief section dedicated to Doom Eternal’s The Ancient Gods DLC, Waard criticizes the lack of challenge and how in-fighting among fans over the issue essentially absolved id Software of any responsibility for designing the game in such a way.
“Players are attacking each other en masse, with words like ‘toxic’ being applied to other consumers instead of criticizing those in power— id studios, but especially Bethesda and Microsoft,” says Waard. “These kinds of AAA clusterf–ks are generally the fault of the publisher trying to push their content creators around.”
“I certainly don’t want to go after id, since they very obviously made a hard-as-fuck game right out of the gate, and Bethesda and Microsoft have been dumbing it down ever since,” he adds. “The situation sucks because id is beholden to their bosses, who change fairly often.”
In yet another moment of oblivious insight, Waard next notes how the DLC’s attempt to please everyone was its downfall.
“First, id butters up hardcore players in October 2020 with ‘TAG 1,’ pissing off casuals,” he recalls. “Then, Bethesda is purchased by Microsoft in March 2021. “A couple weeks later, ‘TAG 2’ debuts, but id nerfs ‘TAG 1.’ Ostensibly the company can’t make up their mind and are trying to please everyone.”
With comments under the review as recent as March 17th of this year, it seems many are still discussing Waard’s piece. Though 11 comments were “removed by a blog administrator,” those that remain are critical of Waard’s opinion.
“As someone who actually is transgender,” one anonymous commenter claimed, “I can confirm that I really don’t care that there’s no trans stuff in Doom Eternal. The whole point of the game is to kill demons and have fun.”
Besides, you only get to see other human characters for about 1% of the entire game. Who cares what any of their genders or sexualities are? They’re all just background characters anyway,” the user commented. “Except for maybe the Intern, but really who tf cares what his deal is? I just wanna blow shit up lol.”
Another unnamed commenter was more friendly in his disagremment with Waard.
After agreeing that the DLC was rushed and hampered by Microsoft, the user homed-in on the issues, writing, “My man. Nick. Buddy. Ol pal…. DOOM ETERNAL is simply a game about killing demons and saving humanity. The only damsel in distress is every other human on Earth.”
“The Doom Slayer is supposed to be an unstoppable force of nature in his universe,” the user explained. “So, it would somewhat make sense to have his physique be based off of Conan or Rambo or Terminator. I can understand the bit of disgust, as muscles are not made for everyone. However, saying that his design is sexist and transphobic is just pure malarkey at this point.”
“Saying that the game is sexist and transphobic because there is no representation of trans people, or because the only female character are Khan Maykr and the Doktor, is just grasping for straws now,” they said. “A game purely about slaying demons left and right does not need a strong female character, or a trans character so the LGBTQ+ community gets recognition.”
“Now, I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I respect that, so I won’t say that it is wrong,” they somewhat relented. “However, as I am allowed to disagree with it, I post this in hopes that we can respect each other’s opinions.”
One lengthy comment by “LessermooK” proposed several counterpoints. “Why shouldn’t it be just for men?”, “Would it be a problem if it was just for women?”, “Why aren’t men allowed to enjoy something without it being attacked because women aren’t involved?”, and why female-focused media is not criticized for not appealing to men.
“What’s stopping women, or whatever other group from enjoying the DOOM games anyway? Nothing,” said the user. “Women don’t need to be in everything, especially if it’s for men, and they don’t need to be in obligatory powerful roles to check off boxes for the sake of agenda.”
“The difference is, if the female centric media is just that good– the average cat can watch it too or we just don’t. It’s that simple,” they stated. “But anything for men, women have to be forcefully jammed into the ether (Whether women like it or not) or when they are involved, it’s still a problem because the female character is god forbid attractive IN ANY WAY.”
“When in reality, women on mass: Aren’t complaining about DOOM Eternal, never have, and the people speaking on behalf of women for some reason think Women should’ve seen this as a problem, when they don’t,” they noted. “Either play the f—–g game or don’t; It’s okay for Men to enjoy something, and it’s okay for Women to enjoy something. It’s okay for Women to have their escapism, and it’s okay for Men to have their escapism.”
“As it’s acceptable to Society for women to be pandered to constantly across all media (even in media that was originally for boys),” LessermooK claimed, “Then it’s okay for Men to be pandered to as well, without ‘obligatory’ female presence. Period.”
This comment prompted a response from Waard, though it was clear from the outset he was perturbed. “I’m not sure this is in good faith, but I’ll bite,” he began.
“The status quo isn’t simply catering to men and women; it’s enforcing the standard position (re: white, cis-het male) as universal,” Waard explained. This includes all of the problematic elements said position tacitly or explicitly promotes: outright sexism, racism and transphobia, but also whitewashing and minority erasure by flooding the market with material For Men™.”
“If both sides were being equally catered to, this lopsided treatment wouldn’t exist, but it does,” he elaborated. Women, be they assigned-at-birth or trans, DO NOT get an equal shake and share as men do.”
“The videogame as something used to reinforce gender norms for decades is in full effect with Doom Eternal, and the game, at its core, represents that standard in a disturbingly pure way,” Waard howled. “Where are the women, the trans people, the persons of color? They simply don’t exist.”
A select few replied to Waard, all unimpressed his counter-arguments. As others had stated, they felt attempts to please everyone would only create division and please no one (as did the DLC), and that it ultimately didn’t matter in a game so grounded in its philosophy; rip and tear.
Nick van der Waard has previously tackled Doom Eternal’s flaws in speedrunning spectation, and Cobra Kai “through a Marxist lens, with some queer-feminist elements included as well.”
Other curious works include a chapter in his upcoming book on anti-facism discussing “James Cameron’s Military Optimism in Metroid” and a piece arguing that Metroid protagonist Samus Aran is a “phallic woman” exploring weaponized “vaginal spaces.”
What do you think? Did Waard make any valid points? Let us know on social media and in the comments below.