MyHouse.wad is not another gimmicky Doom map with ingenious level design

This game refuses to die. This December, Doom will turn 30 years old. Even in this geriatric age for a videogame, after sequels, reboots, and hundreds of other first-person shooters it heavily influenced, this game refuses to die. Booting Doom on every digital device possible has become a discipline in itself, but people still play Doom for sheer pleasure. It’s just that good—simple as it is. With a vast and still thriving community that creates a mad amount of user-made content for the game, Doom has become an amalgamation of all that is good in PC gaming. There’s a poetic beauty in the fact that the game, focused on brutal anger and destruction, serves as a perfect conduit for pure creation. And this stream seems everlasting.

MyHouse is a new Doom level that caught a spotlight outside the fandom. It’s a peculiar creature—captivating not merely by level design but also by how it was presented to the public. On March 3rd, user Veddge created a thread on the Doomworld forum, stating that he’s releasing the myhouse.wad map as a tribute to his childhood friend, Thomas, that passed away recently. It was a map found on a floppy drive among Thomas’ belongings. As stated in the post, Veddge hadn’t touched an editor for almost 15 years but decided to polish up the map and make it public. “1 map: Not much of a challenge and roughly 10 minutes of play time.”

It’s not a lie. And yet…

A Google Drive folder, linked within the post, contains several subfolders with old photos, a couple of sketches, screenshots, and myhouse.wad itself. But there is also a text file called Journal and the file called myhouse.pk3. PK3 is an alternate extension for ZIP files used in the Doom community to distribute mods, in addition to WAD.

Myhouse.wad is a simple map of a house stuffed with monsters. You kill them all, get a blue key, and leave. That’s it—roughly 10 minutes of playtime and not much of a challenge. Myhouse.pk3 is a whole different matter. As stated in the Journal, it’s a file seemingly uploaded by mistake and stayed on the Drive despite the author’s intentions to delete it. Before diving into it, it’s worth examining this Journal a bit.

Written in the format of a personal diary about working on myhouse.wad, it begins with an entry about the news of Thomas’ passing (dated August 4, 2022) and ends with an entry regarding the mysterious PK3 file (dated March 9, 2023). Between these entries, we witness how the creation takes control over the author, who eventually shows glimpses of madness and probably lacks understanding of how digital writing works (you don’t need to cross out the text when you can simply delete it). For people who spent some time online in the golden age of the internet, Journal will bring back the vibes of chilling anonymous creepypastas of old. Hold on to it because it’s a significant hint of things to come.

If you haven’t yet played MyHouse, continue reading this at your own risk—it’s impossible to talk about this map without spoiling things. You’ve been warned.

Theoretically, it’s possible to finish myhouse.pk3 without even noticing that something’s wrong. I don’t know a man that would ignore a soul sphere floating in the backyard, but there is a theoretical possibility. But practically, you go outside to take it, it vanishes, the house gets repopulated with monsters, and new rooms appear. Madness begins. It involves an alternate behind-the-mirror reality, traversing various locations, lots of map design ingenuity, and a plethora of secrets.

Basically, MyHouse is a pastiche compiled from many old creepypastas and their themes. In order to get to the best ending (of course, there are different endings), you have to collect sixteen artifacts—random items with a symbolic meaning that are hidden throughout the level. This collectathon tradition is a known theme among the creepypasta community—one of the first games that brought creepypastas to the gaming scene was Slenderman, which also focused on collecting things in creepy environment; one can also remember The Holders series of stories that tell about hundreds of various artifacts that can be gathered throughout the world.

Endless stairs, a mirror world, liminal spaces, and more—every element of MyHouse can be found originating from or popularised by the creepypastas. But as a pastiche, the map isn’t a mere compilation of concepts and ideas; it has a meaning and message that give artistic merit to the creation. Two primary themes can be identified in MyHouse—one is dominant among the map’s content, and the gameplay itself highlights the other. The former is the concept of duality, and the latter is—an outbound exploration.

MyHouse is filled to the brim with secrets. Some are necessary to discover in order to reach the best ending, while others are entirely optional and even meaningless. The map reacts to almost every action the player comes up with: falling from the brutalist house brings you to the endless staircase, where each door behaves differently; the closet in one of the bedrooms has a slim chance of opening to a dark labyrinth in which you can spend hours with a little chance to find something useful or even an exit; ‘noclip’ cheat leads you to the backrooms (straight from the self-title creepypasta); dying and waiting a bit brings you to the hospital (but only once); you can even beat the level and come back to it while bringing super shotgun with you. Moreover, the most straightforwardly evident actions can lock you out from the real ending—the burning house sequence, for example. While the least obvious things give you more content—under very specific circumstances, you can see Thomas’ updated obituary that states that the author, Veddge, died the same day.

The concept of exploratory gameplay is not new, especially for Doom—after all, finding secrets in this game is almost as important as killing monsters. But to efficiently explore MyHouse, you need to get out of the bounds of usual thinking—don’t expect the usual visual clues like less saturated wall parts or blinking lights to point you to the secret room with BFG in the middle. I’d argue that it wasn’t made purely for the kicks—the theme of outbound exploration coincides with the theme of duality, and together, they elevate MyHouse above the level of a mere meme map.

Duality is evident throughout the map’s content. First and foremost, the narrative importance of mirrors is the obvious aspect of it. Throughout the playthrough, the player shifts from the normal house to the mirror one and back. Each house, apart from being expectedly a mirror reflection of the other, has different artifacts to gather and different locations to conduit the player to. Some other locations also have mirror alternatives. An alternative, mirror reality, is a familiar horror trope, but the duality theme doesn’t end here. “Running from Evil,” a music track used in the first map of Doom II, is played backward throughout the playthrough; the brutalist house location is divided into two symmetric apartments inhabited by a dog—one is a cute little puppy that follows the player while barking cheerfully, the other is a giant two-headed hound from hell that chases you with straightforward murderous intentions. If you kill one dog, the other also dies, which highlights them being different symbolic manifestations of a sole being.

It is possible to dive into the analysis of every artifact found throughout the map. There is a vast variety of these objects—a soda can, a rubber duck, medications, a frisbee, a gaming joystick, a wedding ring, etc. They are so mundane and rich with connotations that such analysis is utterly meaningless—one can find innumerable arguments for every possible idea ever. The common denominator of these objects, though, is that they are mundane, simple things that accumulate symbolic meaning through intimate feelings and personal stories. The realm of personal is where most of MyHouse’s symbolism lies-from the metatextual presentation of the mod to the community to the map itself.

I won’t even try to measure how much of the meta-story around MyHouse is true. It’s obviously fictional, at least partly. Did Thomas indeed die? Did he even exist? I don’t think it matters to the general public. What matters in MyHouse is the symbolic representation of exploring personal duality. There are several hints that can specialize what kind of duality this is. One can argue that it comes from the realm of the psyche—with madness and sanity getting their borders erased by everything MyHouse does. But I consider such an explanation too surface-level to be meaningful.

The fusion of exploration and duality may hint at the queerness of the artistic text. A wedding ring and several sentences in the Journal may add homoeroticism aspects to the whole story. And there is an airport restroom sequence that is too specific to be a mere part of the horror spectacle but too isolated thematically to be a strong enough argument for the overall artistic message.

In the airport location, there are two restrooms—for men and women. Nothing happens in the first one. When entering the female restroom, we pick an empty bottle of medication. In the mirror reflection, we see the toilet cabins covered with bloodstains. If the player loops around mirrors, the bloodstains appear everywhere, and an ambush of bloodfiends gets triggered. When exiting the restroom, the player picks up a full bottle of medicine, and the signs near the doors interchange: a male restroom becomes a female one and vice versa. The symbolic charge of this sequence is impossible to ignore—such specific it is. Can it be that a personal exploration represented by MyHouse is about gender transition? It’s so rich with connotations that it can hardly be unintentional: the restroom discourse, medications, mirrors, and an airport as a metaphorical place where the journey begins. These are strong symbols, and, combined, they have a strong impact.

There are three endings to MyHouse (apart from the one when most of the content is ignored). Each can represent a psychological state if we consider the house itself as a journey of personal exploration. The first is when the house gets sold. It feels like a failure—this ending is achievable even when the other two get cut off due to a house fire. It’s an abandonment of the journey—a surrender, the ultimate failure.

Two other endings are both similar and completely different from each other. We reach the first one by entering a location that looks like a beach. But when we explore it a bit, it becomes evident that everything is a cardboard decoration—the sea, the sun, the trees—everything is fake. We can go around the back of the set and see the clapperboard. Using it turns the screen black, and the level ends. It can also be considered a failure—the performative nature of the journey leads to the fakeness of its resolution. We need to gather all of the artifacts to achieve the real ending.

The third ending is getting to the real beach—a place of true personal tranquility. If the dog survived the encounter with the player, it also would be here, sleeping peacefully—a manifestation of getting over the duality of things: the rejection of its destructive aspect. The real beach is the only official secret MyHouse has. And there is no black screen in the end. There is no end at all—we remain in this quiet and peaceful place forever. Until exiting the game, that is.

MyHouse is not another gimmicky Doom map with ingenious level design. It’s an art piece with a strong and effectively delivered message. The message of the importance and complexity of personal exploration, however frightening, dangerous, and challenging it can be. I see it as especially powerful due to its medium of choice—not just a videogame, but one of the most transformative videogames ever made.

3 responses to “MyHouse.wad is not another gimmicky Doom map with ingenious level design”

  1. Found this article from Google, and wanted to say that I was captivated from start to finish. I’ve never played Doom, and this is the only thing I’ve read about MyHouse, but just wanted to say that this was extremely well written and was a joy to read. Nice work!


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