Brown Is The New Black

I recently played through Doom 2 at ultra-violence –level. It wasn’t the easiest task to do, but it was the most pleasurable gaming experience for a long time, I can tell you that. This playthrough was one of those rare cases, when I wasn’t playing a Doomgame with cheats on, and it strikes me how different game can be with a little bit of challenge (really?).  And at the same time, it saddens me how I spoiled the game with cheats when it first came out back in 1994. But that’s beside the point.

My point is, look at how brown Doom 2 is. It’s far browner than its predecessor Doom ever was, or any other its contemporary. This got me thinking, if Doom 2 was the very first of so-called “brown games”? The thing is, there has been lately this tendency to see brown as dominant color in every other game, the most iconic example being Gears of War. Why is that? Some say, in GoW -case, it’s the Unreal 3 –engine, but engines generally don’t make such artistic decisions. People do.

Color management in visual arts is a tricky business, and it can get frustrating quickly. All those different colors which don’t match… what to do, what to do…? One obvious solution is the color grading, that is to tint whole color-scheme with one particular shade of color. That’s easy and effective way to make a unified and coherent visual look, no matter what the underlying colors are, just take a look at The Matrix.

So, I believe Doom 2 is a victim of this easy way out. But why brown? Let me ask you a question: what color do you end up with when mixing complementary colors?

Brown. It’s like a meta-color!  Brown is the least decisive color, a compromise, a safe bet and in paper it should irritate people the least, at least that’s how they must be thinking:

“Guys, we need a unifying color to save this mess, now!

– How about Red?

Not everyone loves red!

– Blue?

Same thing!

– Brown?

Is it even a color?

– Yes, but it’s the least color-y color.

Then brown that is!”

I bet this kind of dialogues have been taken place at Codemasters lately (Race Driver: GRID, DIRT, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, upcoming Formula 1 –game). Boys and girls at NeoGaf refer to Codemasters’ current visual look as a “piss filter”.

But why Doom 2 particularly was so brown? This is just speculation: Doom 2 was a cash-in release to be sold in retail to complement shareware-Doom’s sales figures (which, however, were great alone), so the passion and creative fury, which were present at making the original Doom, just wasn’t there anymore. Still, Doom 2 had to look different than Doom, so the brown-look was the way to go.