The Unending Quest to Play Doom: Now with Gut Bacteria

Is there any greater scientific endeavor than the unending quest to get Doom to run on everything? The ingenious ways people have found to play the seminal 30-year-old shooter on new platforms never ceases to amaze. Now, a researcher from MIT has taken it to a whole new level by using bacteria found in the gut to create a display for Doom. While the results are fascinating, the performance leaves much to be desired.

MIT biotechnology PhD student researcher Lauren “Ren” Ramlan has developed an unusual setup using E. coli bacteria as pixels. She created a 32×48 1-bit display by lighting up the individual cells as required using a fluorescent protein. Each cell effectively acts as an individual pixel, forming the gameplay visuals. However, Ramlan emphasizes that running Doom using the cells would be an enormous undertaking due to their limited capabilities.

To display one frame of simplified black-and-white gameplay, the cells took a staggering 70 minutes to illuminate. And it took an additional eight hours and 20 minutes for them to return to their starting state when they were no longer needed to be illuminated. This means that it would take around eight and a half hours to display each individual frame of gameplay. Such a slow pace makes even the worst framerates seem smooth in comparison.

If we do the math, considering a typical playthrough of Doom takes around five hours and the original game runs at a maximum of 35 frames per second, the cell display would take a mind-boggling 599 years to complete. Clearly, playing Doom using a bunch of gut bacteria is not a practical option anytime soon.

While the idea of using gut bacteria as a display for Doom is undeniably fascinating, the impracticality and sluggish performance make it more of a proof-of-concept experiment than a viable gaming platform. The prolonged time required to illuminate and reset the cells significantly hampers the gameplay experience. It’s safe to say that you’re better off sticking to traditional methods of playing Doom for now.

Despite the incredible potential of using bacteria as pixels, there are several inherent limitations. The slow response time of the cells renders any real-time gameplay impossible. Additionally, the resolution of the display is limited to 32×48 pixels, which is a stark contrast to the high-resolution displays we are accustomed to in modern gaming.

The quest to get Doom to run on unconventional platforms continues to push the boundaries of what is possible. From teletext to pregnancy tests to tractors and now gut bacteria, Doom enthusiasts are not shy in their pursuit of innovation. While the practicality of these endeavors may be questionable, they serve as a testament to human creativity and our insatiable desire to explore new possibilities in the realm of technology and gaming.

Playing Doom using gut bacteria as a display is an impressive feat of creativity and scientific curiosity. However, the sluggish performance and impracticality make it a novelty rather than a legitimate gaming platform. Until advancements in technology allow for faster and more responsive displays, it is best to stick to traditional means of playing Doom if you want a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience.


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