The ever-growing list of random electronic devices that can play Doom—which already includes pregnancy tests, Christmas tree ornaments, and even farming equipment—grows slightly longer with James Brown’s functional Lego computers now being able to actually play the classic first-person shooter using motion controls and touch-sensitive studs.
If your interests or obsessions happen to include both gadgets and Lego, then you’ve probably seen the work that James Brown, a graphics engineer at Weta Workshop, has been sharing on YouTube over the past eight months. It started with Brown wondering if the Lego computer pieces made popular with the classic ‘80s Lego space line could be upgraded with functional screens that display animations and faux computer interfaces.
The answer was yes, but it’s taken months of work, which Brown has documented on their YouTube channel, including learning how to create custom Lego bricks with various finishes and transparencies to maximize the visibility of tiny OLED screens embedded inside.
Months ago, Brown managed to get a lightweight version of Doom running on the Lego computers using a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller, and then followed it up a few weeks ago with a custom Doom-playing ring that served as a testbed for small batteries that could eventually help make the Lego brick self-contained and self-powered.
In both cases, the game was self-playing in demo mode, but in Brown’s latest video, they show off some impressive upgrades to their Lego computer. Not only is it free of wires and no longer dependent on a large Lego block with a 9-volt battery inside for power, but thanks to a much smaller Lego piece snapped onto the bottom, the computer gains an accelerometer allowing Doom to be played by simply tilting the brick in different directions while tapping the touch-sensitive studs on top opens doors and fires the player’s weapon.
It is, without a doubt, one of the worst ways to enjoy iD Software’s iconic game, but this creation is less about playability and more about realizing a hack that, until eight months ago, few would have thought would even be possible. And as rough as Doom may look on a 0.42-inch monochromatic OLED screen, it will probably be a welcome distraction for Lego astronauts on long intergalactic voyages.