The truth about Doom's "ProTip" meme
“To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies."
The original Doom was one of gaming's great milestones. It wasn't the first of its genre - or even the first by developer id Software who previously made Wolfenstein - but it was arguably the best. So popular was Doom that nonchalant musings about it in trade magazines became the stuff of legend. Who could forget Edge's famous "If only you could talk to the creatures" review, or GamePro's hilarious "ProTip" caption "To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies."
Only that last bit isn't actually real.
Indeed GamePro never released such obvious advice under the guise of a specialised wisdom. To explain the popular meme's origins, former GamePro writer (and current Ubisoft community developer) Dan Amrich penned a blog post on how such a rumour came to be.
Amrich noted that a one page GamePro review would contain seven screenshots and writers were encouraged to caption at least three of these with advice. "For credibility, reviewers often liked to show screens from late in the game that were not, say, major plot spoilers; some of us were adamant about proving they had finished the game before levying a verdict, and rightfully so," Amrich said. "Well, if you've played the original Doom to the end, you know there's nothing to do but shoot and dodge on that last CyberDemon boss - not exactly the stuff of fantastic ProTips."
As such, there was nothing ProTip-worthy about Doom's penultimate boss, but a blasé sardonic caption wasn't out of the question. "It is entirely plausible that an editor with a particularly dry sense of humour, like Wes Nihei or Mike Weigand, would have written that caption as a sarcastic joke - the literary equivalent of 'well, duh.'" Amrich said. "So plausible, in fact, that nobody realised that it was actually a joke created by Doomworld.com's Andrew 'Linguica' Stine."
Indeed, Stine took credit for the meme in 2013, noting on the Doomworld forum that the whole thing had been an April Fools prank that went viral.
"Funny? Yes. Possible? Yes. Actual GamePro editorial content? No." Amrich said of the widespread goof.
Amrich admired the craft of the joke, though it he hated how many people fell for it without ever understanding what it truly was: a gag. "It's been held up as an example of lazy game journalism," Amrich lamented. This was especially a sticking point for him as he went out of his way to ensure that GamePro didn't talk down to its audience. "During copy editing, rather than swapping out SAT words, there was a general attitude of "well, if they don't know that word, this will help them learn it," the former video game journalist said.
"That's why this meme still bugs me after all these years. It assumes the worst, that our editorial stance was not to put any effort forth - that the writers were lazy bums who thought the reader was just some dumb kid. The opposite was true: We figured the audience wanted to be treated with respect while still having fun, and we created the magazine accordingly."
"Linguica fooled everybody for years - and, seriously, well done. But it's time to stop pointing fingers at GamePro and start applauding for Andrew Stine."