In 1994, the New York Times filed a review of a first-person game under its “Arts” section, proclaiming it to be “a game that weaves together image, sound and narrative into a new form of experience.” It sold millions of copies and inspired dozens of imitators. It seemed poised to define an era. That game was Myst and it failed to define an era. Instead, a game called Doom came out three months after Myst — and then it shot Myst in the face.

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The “Aliens TC” was a total conversion mod by Justin Fisher, released in 1994. Fisher used an early community-made modding tool, DeHackEd, to hack the Doom executable to add acid blood, flashing proximity sensors, hatching alien eggs, and other fiction-building flourishes. His custom campaign roughly mirrors the structure of the film Aliens, with a masterfully paced first level called “Landing Pads” that contains no monsters whatsoever and exists only to setup tension and tell a story — you just move through the level, with no “challenges” whatsoever, then push the exit button. That is: this skillfully hacked piece of game design, the first level of the first mod of the first explosively successful, bonified first-person shooter… was a highly experimental, non-industry-affiliated, functional equivalent of Dear Esther, designed back in 1994.

-- A People’s History Of The FPS, Part 1: The WAD | Rock, Paper, Shotgun