Inside ‘Thatcher’s Techbase’, the ‘Doom’ mod that lets you kill Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher's Techbase creator Jim Purvis on satire, Thatcher and the explosive response to his unexpected Doom mod

Next week, Jim Purvis is bringing the world a Doom mod that will allow you to kill former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. In the credits, the game is listed as being dedicated to ‘everyone Margaret Thatcher hated’ and ‘everyone who hated Margaret Thatcher’. Called Thatcher’s Techbase, this work of video game satire is a ‘love letter’ from Scottish creators to “one of humanity’s greatest threats”.

It’s controversial, it’s crazy, and it’s already taken the internet by storm. Aside from rising to the front page of r/games on Reddit, the mod has even garnered the attention of Doom creator, John Romero, as well as making headlines on mainstream and specialist games sites. Who would have thought a cheeky bit of political satire about Britain’s most reviled milk-snatching Prime Minister would make it this big? Certainly not Purvis, that’s for sure.

“I was hoping [Thatcher’s Techbase] would do alright with my Scottish pals and other known Thatcher-haters, but I never imagined it would end up on the big gaming sites or be analysed by professors at Manchester and Liverpool University,” Purvis tells NME.

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“The response outside the UK has been shockingly huge, too – Argentinians and Brazilians have been going mad for it, and I’m now rushing to get Spanish and Portuguese translations into the game before release, courtesy of some very nice guys across the Atlantic who dislike Margaret Thatcher as much as I do.”

It seems the world has it in for Thatcher, and rightly so – it wasn’t just the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (referred to lovingly as the Tenth Circle of Hell in the Boom-compatible Doom WAD) that Maggie riled up during her 11 years in office. It seems the world-at-large is happy to wreak virtual vengeance on the Iron Lady thanks to her questionable foreign policies and classist outlook.

Thatcher's Techbase. Credit: Jim Pervis
Thatcher’s Techbase. Credit: Jim Purvis

But for Purvis, it’s more personal. You wouldn’t just go plastering Thatcher’s face all over the hellspawn of Doom if it wasn’t, would you?

“I’m from a town called Coatbridge – just outside Glasgow – that was badly affected by Thatcher’s infamous policies on heavy industry and social housing in the 1980s,” explains Purvis. “I was born the year Thatcher left office, but her presence was felt throughout my childhood and even into my twenties and thirties. Almost everyone I know was affected by the decisions of the Thatcher government in some way or another, and we’re still seeing her ghost all over the place in our current socio-political situation. She was a satanic figure in Scottish culture well before I turned her into a cybernetic demon.”

It’s a story likely familiar to many working-class families affected by Thatcher’s ruinous domestic policies – I’m a 29-year-old from the Midlands, born after Thatcher’s time, and even I felt the invisible weight of her disastrous rule hover over my hometown like a lingering cacodemon in my youth. As the reaction to the mod has proved, Thatcher is as widely hated today as she was ‘back in the day’.

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“Thatcher’s Techbase basically started as a joke. At the start of the winter coronavirus lockdown last year, I was playing a lot of the original 1993 Doom on my computer, and fancied making a map for my pals to play. Not long after I started messing with Doom Builder, I saw a tweet by @spewlieandrews where he joked that if he was sent to Hell, he would spend eternity scouring the place for Thatcher – I thought that would make for a fun wee project. The game grew arms, legs and horns from there, as my pals began suggesting more and more ridiculous things to include.”

Despite the support the game has gotten from the typically left-leaning games press at large, there has been some resistance, too. Some people argue that reviving Thatcher as a mechanical cyberdemon and shooting her square in the face with a shotgun is a bit much. Nah.

“I don’t think I’ve gone any further than the many others who’ve satired Maggie over the years,” says Purvis. “Jamie Delano had John Constantine facing off against her demonic form all the time in his Marvel comics run of the 80s and 90s, and a Michael Gove puppet even wanked over a resurrected Thatcher in last year’s horrendous Spitting Image remake.

“The game pays homage to demonic depictions of Thatcher throughout history, and I hope any detractors will quickly realise I’m just doing a wee joke that’s been told many times before. Would the Iron Lady really be upset or offended by a daft computer game? Her fans seem to think so!”

Quickly glazing over the irony of the self-professed champions of free speech being so quick to try and censor a work of art, we move the questions on. “It’s my game, and [the people who say you should keep politics out of games] will just have to deal with that,” Purvis says. “The latest Call of Duty had you taking missions from Ronald Reagan, and it’s one of the best-selling games in recent years – I think people must enjoy seeing politicians in video games!”

Thatcher's Techbase. Credit: Jim Pervis
Thatcher’s Techbase. Credit: Jim Purvis

Thatcher’s Techbase project isn’t a simple affair – Paradise Killer composer Barry “Epoch” Topping and Hades voice actor Laila Berzins have been part of the development process, and with Rafael Batista de Lima illustrating the sprites, and Core Lo Art designing the key art that you can see at the header of this page.

“The initial reaction to the game leads me to believe that memories of Thatcher are still fresh in the minds of many people around the world, young and old, but the game does try to refresh memories – the levels are decorated with real Tory propaganda from the era, and the CyberThatcher Mark 1 and Mark 2 enemies parrot real things that the Iron Lady said while in office,” Purvis explains.

“Thatcher brought the Trident nuclear programme to the UK, and it’s featured heavily in the game – you can even grab a Trident Launcher weapon late in the game to give Thatcher a taste of her own legacy.”

Picking up a British Gauss Gun and annihilating demons as Union bunting flags hang around you, and assets representing Tennent’s Lager and Silk Cut cigs spill across the stage has a certain heady nostalgia to it, too – even if you ignore the in-your-face political send-up of it all.

Thatcher's Techbase. Credit: Jim Purvis
Thatcher’s Techbase. Credit: Jim Purvis

And because Purvis is very aware that cashing in on a political figure that’s caused so much monetary harm to so many is of dubious ethical value, he’s made the game free.

However, the game website suggests you could donate to organisations such as the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Stonewall, or the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (amongst others) if you feel so inclined. You know, to help offset some of the long-term damage Thatcher has caused various working-class communities across the British Isles.

And if you thought Purvis would stop at Thatcher, well, you’ve got another thing coming.

“I won’t give away the ending of Thatcher’s Techbase just yet, but let’s just say she isn’t the only reviled public figure to feature in the game,” he teases. “Stick around for the post-credits scene.”

Thatcher’s Techbase launches September 24, and as a Boom-compatible WAD you can run it on anything that plays Doom – which is just about anything. It supports cooperative and deathmatch play, and includes five difficulty levels.

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