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Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  6,573 Ratings  ·  546 Reviews
“To my taste, the greatest American myth of cosmogenesis features the maladjusted, antisocial, genius teenage boy who, in the insular laboratory of his own bedroom, invents the universe from scratch. Masters of Doom is a particularly inspired rendition. Dave Kushner chronicles the saga of video game virtuosi Carmack and Romero with terrific brio. This is a page-turning, my ...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published April 24th 2003 by Random House (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30)
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Andrew Frueh
Jul 04, 2012 Andrew Frueh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
A hell of a good read, especially if you grew up playing id games and/or have a background in computer programming. The story has all the elements of a great Greek tragedy: the unlikely rise to success of two heroes, and the tragic flaw in each of them that ruins it. I wonder how many stories there are like this throughout the history of the business: Romero and Carmack, Jobs and Wozniak, Zuckerberg and Saverin, etc. It seems like a pattern that repeats itself: two friends that together propel e ...more
Executive Summary: This book is what I wish Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation would have been. As a huge fan of id games growing up, and a software developer this book really worked for me, but will probably be too slow for many people.

Audio book: I was doubly excited to do this book when I saw that Wil Wheaton was the narrator. He's a perfect fit for this book. He also does more accents and voices than I'm used to. Overall an excellent job.

Full Review
Jul 23, 2007 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Doom, computer programmers, consumate gamers, dreamers of all sorts
The true story of John Carmack and John Romero and how they created Id software and became the most prolific computer game designers in the 1990s.

The story describes how two misfit geeks were able to follow their passion of games and through hard work were able to make impressive advances in game technology and get rich at it as well. It also shows the ravages of arrogance on business and how letting ego come into play can destroy friendships and companies.

The story uses an extended metaphor for
May 04, 2013 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, non-fiction, audio
First off, Wil Wheaton, one of the nerd gods narrates Masters Of Doom by David Kushner, so I just had to have it and listen to it. I also figured that Masters Of Doom would be a welcome change of pace – as it’s non-fiction about video gaming. I went in hoping for something a bit similar in tone and geekery as Ready Player One, which actually was kind of a false expectation, yet in all honesty that is exactly why I put this audiobook on my Audible app. Also, I totally used to have Doom but was aw ...more
Willian Molinari
May 17, 2016 Willian Molinari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paid-somehow
I love this book. The two Johns created an empire by using the engineering capabilities of Carmack with the enthusiasm and ideas of Romero.

There are some other thoughts to put on this book. The two Johns are doing great and creating amazing games following the startup way of life, relying on junk food and diet coke. Everything was balanced, they had a committed engineer that are addicted to create new things and pursue really hard challenges. But they also had a good game designer that are eager
Abhay Rana
Oct 27, 2013 Abhay Rana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An amazing account of the two Johns. I was obviously more bent towards Carmack, him being a programmer, but this book beautifully highlights the ups and lows of the journey. It leaves you waiting for more, and I wish to hear more of this story. Even though it focuses mainly on the two Johns, this book is not a biography. Rather it is an account of the Silicon Valley Gaming & Startup Scene in the 80-90s. I would go so far ahead to label this as a "startup-book", with two entrepreneurs making ...more
Mark Sanchez
There aren't many specific details from this book that I want to remember.

The dynamic between the two John's and the employer at which they met is interesting: the stealing the computers at night, working on company time, releasing a game behind his back, after all that being offered a deal by their old employer to finance their new company (he must have seen they were going places), and him having to take back that offer because of his other employees.

The fact that that the games were written
Книга о героях моего детства, гениальном фантазёре и гениальном социопате, которые творили историю вместе, а разошедшись, так никогда и не приблизились к прежнему успеху, могла бы быть умеренно интересной, но крепкий средненький нонфикшн был загублен переводом. Даже не знаю, что тут хуже всего. Избыточные комментарии? Пожалуйста: ценные комментарии сообщают нам, что игра "блек джек" (sic!) в России известна как "очко", напоминает, что такое must-have, а аббревиатура BFG расшифровывается аж дважд ...more
May 13, 2011 29alabs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masters Of Doom cuenta la adicción de dos jóvenes, uno de Kansas y otro de Colorado, por los videojuegos, una adicción que los llevaría comprar Ferraris, mansiones en Tudor y sin duda a transformar para siempre la cara de la industria electrónica. Masters of Doom es, la historia de id Software.

Masters Of Doom es un viaje frenético de pizza, coca de dieta y arboles BSP aunque por supuesto los groupies nerd no pueden faltar. El enfoque principal del libro es la creación y transformación de la comp
Feb 11, 2016 Victor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and inspiring book on the ups and downs of the geniuses and the different personalities behind the game. The team dynamics and issues with the development cycle, the conflicts between business and development, they are all real.

I would definitely recommend this read to any developers, not just game developers. It's a fun and addictive read :)
David Lawrance
Oct 28, 2015 David Lawrance rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great character study of The Two Johns (Romero and Carmack), the creators of the video game Doom. The Two Johns are programmers with very different and complementary skill sets: Romero is the ultimate gamer, while Carmack is the ultimate coder. Romero represents chaos, while Carmack represents order. Together they made some of the greatest video games of all time, but once they fell out, each man's limitations were exposed; Romero's immature energy and unbridled enthusiasm went unchecked and d ...more
Vasil Kolev
Dec 21, 2009 Vasil Kolev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-read
As a kid, I've played commander keen. I've lived with Doom, had dreams of it, I've seen the guys' code and their tremendous influence. There's a lot to be learned from them.

(in 'Coders at work' Seibel should've interviewed Carmack instead of all the javascript people)
Michael Scott
Just how was it possible that Doom, a computer game about mutated humans, gore, and a Big Fucking Gun, would define the pop culture of the 1990s? Enter stage David Kushner's Masters of Doom, a book that fictionalizes the true story of the Two Johns (the tight, algorithm-oriented Carmack and the loose, game design-oriented Romero) on the road to richness, fame, and ultimate collapse. What's so interesting about this? Five ninth the (typical?) American story, with the outcasts getting the one-up a ...more
Adam Wiggins
Brash young upstart geniuses take advantage of emerging technology to invent a genre of entertainment that would go on to be bigger than Hollywood.

Big-budget games in the last ten years have predominantly been first-person shooters, the style of game invented by id with Wolfenstein, Doom, and perfected with Quake. It would be hard to even catalog all the traits modern games take from id's works: first-person perspective, network play, the weapon assortment (pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket l
Dec 06, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of John Carmack, John Romero, and id Software. It does a great job describing the early times, both in terms of relaying the facts, as well as giving a great feel of the excitement of discovery and invention, of pushing computers and gaming through incredible leaps to do things that most people thought just were not possible.

The two Johns sound like one of those cliched partnerships between two brilliant, and somehow vastly different yet ultimately compatible geniuses t
Nov 12, 2013 Philipp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, america, games
A fun book, and very well researched (several hundreds of interviews went into this one), but I can't vouch for its authenticity since I have no clue.

I grew up with Carmack's and Romero's games, getting my first PC (a 386 with 16 MHz and a fancy turbo-button for a blindingly fast 33 MHz) in 1994 was right at the height of their career - I had most Commander Keen parts, and until this book I didn't even know they were basically the start of the career of "the two Johns", both having created Comma
Jan 16, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me this book was one part nostalgia and one part heroic programming tale. I can still remember playing Wolfenstein 3-D, one of id's early hits, on my parents' 25 Mhz Mac, reading about the gods of the gaming world like Thresh, and vainly attempting to understand gaming engines (they're complicated). I loved the stories of Carmack disappearing to a hotel in another town fueled by Diet Coke and Pizza and coming back a week later with huge leaps forward in gaming technology.

By the end of the bo
Dec 20, 2015 Karl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book gives a great insight into some of the greatest game developers of the 90's. I've grown up playing these games and it is a recommended read for anyone who did the same.

The book does well to showed the grueling and tireless amount of work needed to develop the games the 2 John's made, and how those conditions drove them apart. I will say that the author aims this book at an audience who is somewhat expected to know what the gaming scene was like during the time id was developing games.
Kala Rose
Apr 08, 2015 Kala Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a hardcore gamer, I haven't played Doom, and I don't enjoy playing gory video games (unless you count Skyrim, which I mostly explore and indulge in the ambiance). So, why did I read Masters of Doom? Well, initially, I was drawn to the stories of the two Johns, particularly, how they overcame their screwed up childhoods and achieved something so revolutionary. While reading, I was pleased to discover a well-researched account of their personal stories and I found the dynamics of the Johns ...more
Troy Blackford
Jan 07, 2014 Troy Blackford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at how the 'Two Johns,' Carmack and Romero, came together to be pioneers of PC gaming, leading to breakthroughs in PC-based sidescrollers (Commander Keen) and 3D PC gaming (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake). As much a tale of startup business gone amuck as it is of software creation and domination, there's a lot here for people of all types to enjoy. If you're like me, remembering your first computer (386 SX with 20 Mhz, a 80 MB hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive with a plastic caddy), ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone, like me, caught up in Doom, Quake and the beginnings of the internet age, such as it was, this was a great read. Two main characters, different, but both driven in their own ways and visions, formed the nucleus of the account. I found the dynamics of the business interesting largely because it doesn't matter if you're making games or cheese, the issues are still broadly the same. Make, market, sell. Your routes to market may be different, but get it to the market you increasingly hav ...more
Jan Willem  Nijman
Jul 30, 2016 Jan Willem Nijman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun, well written, informative and extremely romanticized. In my memory it goes a bit like this: "America had flooded, rain torrented down and coated the world in its shadowy hue. brakes squeeled as a red ferrari u-turned into the garage outside the empty and evacuated office. A door slammed. Wide-eyed and soaked from top to bottom, Romero stood in the doorway, his silhouette outlined by lightning. Carmack was already, or even better, still there, surrounded by cables and heavy metal albums. The ...more
Patrick Book
Aug 04, 2016 Patrick Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Sooooo interesting! I had either forgotten or never knew how many of the games I liked in my youth were the result of one group of prolific young men. But this is a great "rise and fall" story from an industry that probably has more than their fair share of them.
Oct 14, 2012 Niclas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly awesome book. For a guy that grew up playing Commander Keen on the school 386, moving on the Doom on our first home computer which was, in turn, quickly followed by Quake, I immensely enjoyed reading about how they came to be.

While I'm sure Kushner takes some creative freedom with the story, he really brings it to life and makes the reader feel as if one were really there, all the way from the lake house where ID began until the bittersweet ending.

I really recommend this book, especially
Andreas Thilander
This is a book I decided I will read again, while reading it.
Absolutely loved it.
Frank Ritter
Nov 22, 2015 Frank Ritter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spannend, wenn man sich für Videospielgeschichte interessiert. Das Buch bekommt den Spagat zwischen technisch anspruchsvoll, etwa in Bezug auf Carmacks Engine–Meilensteine, und nachvollziehbar auf der interpersonellen Ebene gut hin. Schade, dass Romero und Carmack etwas eindimensional geschildert werden. Auch sind die neuesten Entwicklungen (Rage, Konkurrenz zu Epic, Zusammengehen mit Bethesda, Carmack bei Oculus) nicht drin, das Buch hätte eine aktualisierte Neuauflage verdient. Habe Masters of ...more
Vlad Vinogradsky
The most fun book I've read in a while!
Urmilesh dixit
May 16, 2016 Urmilesh dixit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-in-audible
Such a great experience listening to this one, Will Wheaton really brings it all to life. I did not expect him to do as many impressions as he did (and did well).

The book chronicles the journeys of 'The Two John's', as they pursue their interests, immerse themselves into video games, and build an empire in the process. Any one, who has spent any amount of time playing Doom in their childhood, would be hard-pressed to avoid the hair on their skin standing up when the narrator brings up Doom the f
Feb 13, 2016 Cms rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was OK, I guess. I enjoy re-reading accounts of 90s and 80s technology movements, and startups because I lived through most of it, moderately close to many of the front-lines, and nostalgia can be compelling. This also makes me a bit reflexively over-sensitive to inaccuracy or editorialising, or lack of any real feel for technology on the part of the author. Often this genre of books aren't even terrifically well written, or even that well researched. I would say this one is slightly above ...more
Void lon iXaarii
I devoured this book with great interest in record time. Fascinating stuff for somebody like myself who grew up on the games of iD software and is working on a career in the games industry. That being said i don't know if the book is super fantastic for everybody, here's my attempt at some objectivity:

+, + a lot of interesting details
+, - a lot of character and person details can be sometimes interesting but other times fluff
+ found out a lot of things i didn't know
- the logic of the author seem
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David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a contributing editor of Wired, Rolling Stone, and Spectrum and is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
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“In the information age, the barriers just aren’t there,” he said. “The barriers are self-imposed. If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don’t need millions of dollars of capitalization. You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it. We slept on floors. We waded across rivers.” 10 likes
“Carmack was of the moment. His ruling force was focus. Time existed for him not in some promising future or sentimental past but in the present condition, the intricate web ol problems and solutions, imagination and code. He kept nothing from the past–no pictures, no records, no games, no computer disks. He didn’t even save copies of his first games, Wraith and Shadowforge. There was no yearbook to remind of his time at Shadowforge. There was no yearbook to remind of his time at school, no magazine copies of his early publications. He kept nothing but what he needed at the time. His bedroom consisted of a lamp, a pillow, a blanket, and a stack of books. There was no mattress. All he brought with him from home was a cat named Mitzi (a gift from his stepfamily) with a mean streak and a reckless bladder.” 3 likes
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