April Doomsday?

How Doom 2600 out-hoaxed the best of them. Here's the story behind "the story."

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After the lashing that videogames.com got over Electronic Gaming Monthly's "All Bonds" gag (see page 110 in EGM's April issue), you'd think we'd be a bit gun-shy to tread in the elusive waters of tomfoolery again. But since EGM started the rumor mill churning with the Doom 2600 Hoax in issue #102 (January) too, videogames.com decided to talk to the man behind the myth, to discover just what the fuss over Doom 2600 was all about.

If you haven't heard, the whole thing started when student James Catalano's 2D computer imaging class's final project required he create advertising images for a fictional or real product of his choice. He elected to create a magazine ad, box, and cartridge for the Atari 2600, and the game he was "selling" was Doom. And judging from Catalano's e-mail responses, about 90 percent of the people that heard about it, bought it.

And that's because the fun didn't stop in the school yard. Catalano, by way of his friend Bill Haslacher, launched Doom 2600 into the annals of the Web, via newsgroups and classic game web sites. EGM was the only print publication to "play along," even though editor Dan Hsu was allegedly wavering over its truth factor (Hey Dan, did you know that the word gullible isn't in the dictionary?).

Catalano was flooded with e-mail rants and raves, but did he ever consider that there could be legal repercussions? "Not really, seeing as there wasn't an actual game to make money off of," said Catalano. "The hoax was all in good fun. If anything, I'd think id Software would find the hoax amusing."

Videogames.com spoke with the Director of Business Development for id Software, Barrett Alexander, and asked him just how amusing id found the hoax to be, "I definitely find that amusing," said Alexander. "We're always flattered when people are having fun, as long as they don't step over the boundaries."

Even though Catalano just created packaging, gamers who fell for this hoax still barraged him (several even offered to pay US$150 for the nonexistent title). So obviously there is an interest in Doom 2600 - at some level.

Videogames.com asked Catalano if he's considered actually creating such a game. "The idea had crossed my mind," said Catalano. "But the only Atari system I'd be able to do the game on would be the 800XL, as that is the only system I have experience programming for - not the 2600." Catalano has, in fact, created about 60 games for the 800XL, all viewable from his 8-bit Atari web site.

Why did Catalano choose Doom? "Around that time, I had really been into playing Doom for the 32X," said Catalano. "That being the case, the game came to mind when it was time to pick a subject for my project. I picked the Atari 2600 as the system for this "new" game. Being a die-hard Atari and retro-gaming fan, the VCS was pretty much an automatic choice. I did consider using the Atari Lynx, but I also wanted to choose a system that nobody would ever think that Doom could be done on."

With the smoke finally clearing from the Doom 2600 ruse, videogames.com asked Catalano if anymore hoaxes were on the horizon, "Well, the idea of Mortal Kombat II for the 2600 has been toyed with!"

Catalano turned in his Doom 2600 final project early and got an "A," but failed to make it to the last day of class.

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