Encyclopedia from Hell

May 12 2022

Archiving, preserving, and studying Doom with the Doom Wiki

I guess everyone here knows what a wiki is, right? I like to describe it as a decentralized movement of information expansion. Wikipedia is the largest and best-known example of what a wiki is, and it pretty much represents the basic precepts of a wiki: free information open to everyone. This allows users to contribute to wikipedia in different ways and through different spaces. While this open contribution format can fall prey to vandalism and trolling, the measures have advanced to such an extent that it is not usually a major problem, which has ensured a better foundation of reliable and sought-after information.

Well, now, let’s go back to Doom and come across our own version of wikipedia: the Doom Wiki! An extensive and passionate community effort designed to collect and archive information related to everything to do with Doom and its derivatives, covering from the classic sagas to other lesser-known spin-offs, and even compiling unofficial information (WADs, mods, source ports, community concepts, guides, etc) by fans and community contributors, which gives it a sort of universal feature rarely found in other wikis. This quality makes the Doom Wiki not only a general-purpose encyclopedia for Doom, but also a universal knowledge library for everything that has to do with this glorious game. In that sense, the Doom Wiki is the library of Alexandria, collecting and preserving information about everything possible, if it follows the conditions of notability and formatting, of course.

The History of a Demonic Encyclopedia

Wikis dedicated to video games are not new, and Doom Wiki is probably not one of the first nor the last one. Part of this is because, well, Doom is old! The game was born at a stage where the wiki movement still needed much, much more time to be fully born. As a matter of fact, the internet still needed to take some steps to even reach the open format it has today – with less ads, though.

In due time, with the rise of internet culture and the movement for free information, a beautiful miracle happened: in 2005 the Doom Wiki was born! (https://doomwiki.org/w/index.php?title=Entryway&oldid=1) by the hands of Fredrik Johansson (the creator of the Vrack series, nonetheless) and it all went quite cheerfully from there, well, for a time. While the Doom Wiki had proven to be quite efficient and successful at its task at hand, there were some issues on part of the software used. Wikia, or better known as FANDOM, was the software of choice back then to host the Doom Wiki and its user interface. If you’ve been to FANDOM before, you will notice one thing quickly: Ads. Lots and lots of ads. This happened back in 2010 when the Wikia changed hands and became, more or less, a brand, or a just got more corporate-ish, if you will. Most of the wikia users felt disappointed, and with good reason. The whole notion and ideal behind a wiki is to share information on a non-profit basis. Its goal is not to gather ads nor become some sort of social platform. While that was one of the main issues, there was other problems included that prompted the change of software, like the fact that the FANDOM user interface (https://www.doomworld.com/vb/thread/52973) is awful and feels like a modernistic wagon of poorly done layouts by corporate artistry.

So, let’s speed up ahead a bit: By 2011, the new site was launched and the Doom Wiki was reborn, this time using the MediaWiki wiki software, the one that Wikipedia uses, as a matter of fact. While the whole migration process wasn’t as smooth as pie, it ultimately became the better decision and, since then, the Doom Wiki hasn’t stopped growing and improving. Take a moment to thank Mancubus II for hosting the site, and Quasar, for being one of the main administrators and organizers behind the movement.

Preserving History

Apart from the main goal of offering open information to anyone, a wiki’s goal is also to preserve it – like a true library, but in the modern age. Archival process can be daunting and tedious, but the result is one that’s worth all the effort a hundred times over. What you end up with is a fascinating gallery of important events, notorious moments, influential figures and community growth, and that’s something that the Doom Wiki has nailed in all shapes or forms. It collects and archives data from official sources, of course. You can find all the official Doom levels well-structured and with a great written form, and other id Software games, like Heretic and Hexen. Now that’s the basics of what you would expect, but to go even deeper, you can find even more technical or obscure stuff. There are sections dedicated to engine quirks, bugs, glitches and technical definitions or concepts. Thorough and well-done guides that help you set your Doom game can also be found, install source ports, download and play WADs and even some explanations for newcomers. It’s all done in such a handy and great way that it becomes a reference guide for users out there.

Now, that’s the official stuff. The kind of knowledge that you would expect as a given to be in a wiki. But the other great stuff that you can find is just staggering! The Doom Wiki also preserves community knowledge. There’s thousands of pages dedicated to fan made content, especially WADs. Not only that, but it also makes a great job and categorizing everything into neat sections that help you find stuff in a fancier way than simply writing in a search bar.

You can find anything from WADs to authors, and thanks to the open-editing format it has, anyone can update and upgrade existing articles to either add more information or improve readability quality, which is something I greatly appreciate.

You also must consider that all the Doom Wiki work (and the rest of wikis) is done by volunteers – nobody earns anything here. They all do it because they want to help preserve the history of our lovely game and extensive community, and that’s it. There are editors that have been active for years, making edits like machines and creating articles to preserve new knowledge. You can find active editors there to this day, and some are just so insanely good that it makes you wonder if they aren’t bot.

Speaking of which, the Doom Wiki has some insanely good bots that help with formatting WAD and map pages, all thanks to the incredible efforts of Xymph, the bot master. XymphBot is a precise and extensive bot that helps fill skeleton pages, mostly adding data and technical information that’s too tedious to manually add. Thanks to this, the wiki has generated complete pages for thousands of maps to be preserved forever. Now, that’s the technical side of things, but a bot will struggle when it comes to more graphic descriptions and historical paragraphs. You’ll need a human for that, and oh boy, there are some really nice doomers out there! People that constantly make sure to edit out mistakes, fix errors, close gaps, review references and complete articles. These guys and gals are the heart and soul of the Doom Wiki, and the true gears that keep the machine moving smoothly.

What I truly admire about this gigantic endeavor is the sheer passion needed to build such a community of archivists and historians. The Doom Wiki is not only a kind of wiki made with a limited or close motive; its mission is to preserve and conserve the history of the game and the community, from its early years until the internet ceases to exist. Every day there are new pages that highlight that mission. Working on the Doom Wiki is not something easy or something that is taken lightly. It requires a certain amount of patience, precision and a mindset designed to search for information in the most accurate way possible. There may not be hundreds of active editors or contributors, but the dozen or so members it possesses have demonstrated a natural passion for building and preserving among the annals of this history. Our history, to say the least.

For a long time I was quite attracted to the Doom Wiki mission and the way it works. It is, to say the least, a methodical and analytical system that works wonders for archiving data and information, and that is something I admire and respect, which in my spare time I try to apply to my own life. On the other hand, entering the Doom Wiki took me some time, mainly due to its syntax, which is somewhat confusing and intimidating at first. The syntax, or rather, the wikitext (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Wikitext), is the writing format that wikis use to design and edit their content. Think of it like the options offered by MS Word, but now, instead of applying them automatically with a single click, you must do it manually by inserting a huge variety of codes, symbols and combinations. That’s wikitext. An alien form of writing at first, but one that is becoming more and more familiar to me every day.

While at first, I was annoyed at the sheer complexity and difficulty of such a rustic and unorthodox system, I ultimately ended up embracing it and seeing its true benefits. For one, it allows to copy- paste easily. Formats are translated without a problem if they are in wikitext. It also allows for a nice range of customization and options, which allow you format articles in a lot of different ways according to the topic at hand. For one, there’s also the fact that it has quite the learning curve, but once you do get it, it becomes quite natural.

I initially started with small edits and move on from there, little by little getting into the more complex stuff. Unfortunately, I dipped my toes in too fast and made some mistakes during my first entries. You see, one of my early goals (and still a long-term goal) was to illustrate WAD articles with HD screenshots. I could do this easily, I told to myself, until I realized that, unlike MS Word, you must link a screenshot/picture manually but using the file layout, the gallery format and then writing the filename of the picture. That was something I did not knew at first and I could barely understand back then. So, I made some mistakes, lots of them. That’s where Xymph comes in. One of the most active editors and overall master of the wiki. He gave me a bunch of tips and instructions on how to do it, but me, being quite dumb, still didn’t quite get it and I was becoming more and more frustrated with the whole process. In the end, I left the wiki and just did small edits here and there.

It took me like a year to finally return and start over, and this time… this time I was ready.

One of the first things I did, instead of blindly trying to create articles from the ground up, was to copy and paste full articles, similar to the subject of my choice, and then replace the paragraphs with my information. That way I didn’t have to manually write every single layout or symbol, and I just had to be careful of not messing up the formatting. And the more and more I used that method, it became more and more natural to me, to the point that I was organically memorizing the codes and layouts needed to make an article or page, and then, I discovered how to copy and use templates and now it’s all formal to me. But heck, even to this day I still just copy and paste some layouts that come in handy, because it helps me out a lot in avoiding mistakes and it also speeds up the process by a whole lot.

Now, I edit and create pages with such sheer joy, it’s incredible looking back at how many years I wasted due to me being lazy and negligent. The Doom Wiki feels like a compelling and noble task, one that I greatly admire and respect. One that I cheerfully want to further contribute to more and more. Now I can create two or up to four articles a day if I feel like it, and it’s such a pleasure to see the page evolve over time with the help of other contributors and editors – and that’s something I really appreciate! As I mentioned before, a wiki, by extension, is an open project – it is not private nor invitational. It’s made so that anyone can help, and that’s how the wiki can both grow and improve each new day. If I made a mistake, someone would correct me and point me in the right direction, and now, I can also do that and help others create better articles and complete stubs.

I now mostly stick to making pages related to WADs (shocking, isn’t?) and I also like to write conceptual or historical articles. Some of the work I’ve done has been quite interesting to tackle, and super fun. It mostly allows me to both liberate my writing itch and to also make something that has weight and valor – something that, someday, might help someone. Any internet addict knows that Wikipedia can be quite addicting, well, the Doom Wiki is addicting to me! It’s like opening a thousand paged book, and randomly selecting a page, and voila, you just learned something new about your favorite game. How cool is that?

Now, for some variation and cool things, here’s a list of some of my favorite Doom Wiki articles for you to check out! Including some of my own.

A Noble Duty

I truly believe that editing the Doom Wiki, or any other kind of wiki, is a noble task. The goal is not the create fame, nor to gather revenue. Wikis are made to be, in a poetic way, libraries of free knowledge. They encapsulate that 90s feeling of discovery and preservation. They are, to me, the modern information highways. A wiki can teach you a whole month of school in a single day, and the Doom Wiki can give you a ride through nearly three decades of history in just a few browsing hours. While by goal, a wiki is never complete, I’d like to think that if the world where to end tomorrow, the Doom Wiki would rank high up into some of the best and most complete wikis in the world. The works done by some many doomers around the world have been preserved to eternity. You can’t say the same for a lot of other games, sadly. Games like Unreal, Duke3D and Quake, despite being such powerhouses and iconic legends in their own rights, have so much, so much lost information it can become depressing to even try and learn about their history and community. Thousands of thousands of megabytes of information lost to time and sheer abandonment. We can’t blame the fans, of course, because such projects like this require will, discipline and skill. The Doom Wiki has won both the test of time and quality, and heck, even quantity. It still grows each day, and it keeps on moving.

If you ever go to the Doom Wiki, take some time to explore around and learn about this glorious game. Heck, just hit the random page bottom and you will probably find something new and interesting.

If you ever feel like contributing to it, please, do so! Even small edits such as grammar or typo fixes are more than welcome, and, in due time, you can learn the ropes of it and start making beefier edits that contribute to this sea of knowledge.

After all, what are we but the sum of our actions? And how can we remembrance our lives, our history, our victories, if we don’t preserve our deeds?

Stay tuned for the full feature on issue #18! Featuring an interview with Xymph, Dynamo and Quasar!