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The first episode of id Software’s Doom was released onto the internet twenty-five years ago today. A quarter-century of our nameless marine’s steely eyes surveying the surroundings. This disembodied head is about all you ever see of the player character in the original game – a countenance reflecting back at you in the game’s heads up display, giving you an idea of what shape you’re in. Having taken a look at the cast of loathsome monsters a few years ago, I thought he would be worth attempting this time. I resisted the temptation to plonk a party hat on his head, though. I don’t think that’s his style.

Doom is one of the most important gaming releases to date, and it happens to be one of the first games beyond Sonic that I can remember really playing at length. It was quite a departure from those whimsical adventures with everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog. As I said before, it wasn’t really the gore that appealed to me – I was useless at the combat, and indeed, if you saw me play you’d probably think I’d never done so before. It was the environment – which I thought definitively 3D at the time – and ominous atmosphere that pulled me in. Mournful music playing as we trawl the infested moon base, the endless desolation of Phobos outside, the groans of monsters growing louder – it paints an obvious picture: you’re on your own, and the only way out is through. Such excellent design means the first episode is still a blast to play through, even knowing all the secrets; the sense of progression and staging, building up to the climax against the Barons of Hell, is legendary.

Everything was a step up from its predecessors. Hype for Doom was such that, at midnight on 10th December, id couldn’t even access the server for its initial release. Once a few students were kicked, they were finally able to upload the game – and it wasn’t very long before the servers crashed completely. The daddy of multiplayer was born, with players taking on the game’s campaign in teams or going hell for leather against each other. It’s said that, within weeks of its release, universities and even workplaces had to issue strict Doom-specific rules, so badly was it affecting their networks.

Once you were done with the main game or multiplayer, all was not over. Creativity was always intended to be a big part of Doom. Storyline was mostly jettisoned for action during development, and what remains is sparse, allowing you to fill in the gaps. Customisation was one of the big draws, and sure enough, user-created levels were appearing online by early 1994 and are still being made. Over the years, source ports have added fixes and greater capabilities to supplement the engine – it’s still a hugely popular resource, with a tremendous community around it. I can’t see that dying down any time soon. Total conversions such as 2010’s extra-gory Brutal Doom transform the experience whilst underscoring the power of the original. Others go for something completely different, demonstrating impressive versatility – in an unexpected meeting of two defining games, even Sonic has been given a series of games using the Doom engine.

If ever proof were needed as to just how far this community stretches, here’s what happened when an esteemed creator known as ‘The Ultimate Doomer’ turned Doom into The Crystal Maze. Of course, it’s absolute genius:

Gruesome, gory, controversial? No doubt. But Doom was a rare example of a game delivering on all that it promised and making no apologies. Though it might have been technically surpassed several times over by now, there’s still no doubting the mark it made back in December 1993, and on myself five years later. So, here’s to id Software and our nameless marine.

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keyush-1YouTube can throw some curious recommendations at you. Current suggestions for me on the site include an ancient episode of Blind Date, coverage of the 2018 Tetris World Championships and a nuclear siren test. I’ll let you decide what that says about me and my viewing habits.

One recent recommendation that I am grateful for, however, is K’eyush the Stunt Dog, our subject. I’ve always liked huskies for their lupine appearance, intelligence and pronounced character, but Key seems to take it to the next level, having full-blown conversations with his mum and making sure his many demands are met. Throw in the soft silliness that many large dogs seem to possess and you have a real comedian.

So, let this quick portrait be a nod not only to our cool canine friend but also YouTube recommendations. Sometimes, you do get it right.

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It’s not often the windmills are upstaged in the Norfolk skies, but a murmuration of starlings should do it (yes, it’s a murmuration, not a menstruation; Chrome, please take note). A bewitching, spectacle that can involve anywhere from a few dozen to a few million birds, primarily a defence mechanism against predators. It seems it has a similar effect on them as it does us – the hypnotic sight of countless starlings twisting and turning in unison makes a catch virtually impossible.

This was really just a bid to shake up the nine hundredth or so Norfolk and/or windmill landscape (not that I apologise for that). I tried to capture this phenomenon a year or two ago, but never posted it as I wrote it off as, well, dreadful. Looking at it now, though, I kinda like the landscape, so I’m showing it for that at least – and, if the starlings have taught me anything, there’s strength in numbers.

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It’s happened. I never expected it to. I have a new favourite wrestler – or rather, I have a favourite new wrestler. What is this? Well, I say ‘new’, but the adorable Jervis Cottonbelly has actually been teaching his opponents some manners for several years. Ever the gentleman, he characteristically trades the strikes and slams for hugs, tickles, and light-hearted trickery. This chap is the epitome of wrestling theatricality.

My first Cottonbelly experience was actually a couple of years back, when he was a guest on a Twitch live-stream I was watching. I wasn’t convinced at the time, but he was memorable, that’s for sure, and curiosity was there. Recently, I read about his mental health issues, and gained real admiration for him using the character to share his own experience whilst also allowing the sunniness of Jervis to brighten the day for others. It certainly worked for me; it’s been a low couple of weeks, but just a few minutes of his motivational speech (and mean ukulele) at least had me creating again. Thanks so much, Jervy!

A fun, lovable character with what seems like a genuinely sweet guy behind it, I wish Gentleman Jervis nothing but success.

Obviously, there was no contest for subject here. I originally went for a vanilla portrait, but ended up turning him into some kind of desktop wallpaper. How very 1990s of me. Hopefully, the fuzzy cocktail of violets, daisies and tie-dye possesses both the pleasantness and razzmatazz that so exudes Mr. Cottonbelly.

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I’ve been gaming a lot more than creating lately – unforgivable, I know. But it did, at least, lead me to our subject: wrestler Shelton Benjamin.

A young Benjamin decided against training for the Olympics to become a professional wrestler. He signed with the WWF in 2000, and made his debut on television a couple of years later. This was at the tail-end of my watching wrestling – I was far too big and grown-up for it by then, of course. It was just silly. Whilst there was an element of that, I think a bigger factor was that I was starting to admire certain superstars in a different way; newcomer Shelton was no exception, his impressive figure squeezed into a royal blue singlet. It was confusing and scary in equal measure, but I think we can safely say it’s no longer either of those things.

On a less shallow note, I remember Shelton as a pure and gifted athlete, though, such were the times our paths crossed, I don’t know an awful lot about his career. He enjoyed multiple tag and Intercontinental title runs, upset Triple H once in a great match, and there was an incredible moment where he leapt off the top rope into a super kick from Shawn Michaels which looked, as the youth of today would say, sick. As this is not part of a series from two years ago, we’ll move swiftly on. What I do know is that he’s an avid gamer, often challenging fans at conventions, and art lover. All of this made him a natural choice. I hope you approve, Shelton. I recently made a new texture brush, and used it here – swifter movements brought about some promising results at first, but, characteristically, I found a way to overwork it, the face in particular. There’s a likeness, though, so we’ll run with it.