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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  9,283 Ratings  ·  719 Reviews
Masters of Doom is the amazing true story of the Lennon and McCartney of video games: John Carmack and John Romero. Together, they ruled big business. They transformed popular culture. And they provoked a national controversy. More than anything, they lived a unique and rollicking American Dream, escaping the broken homes of their youth to produce the most notoriously succ ...more
Paperback, 339 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2003)
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May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though people felt like they were working without direction, at the same time no one wanted really to be told what to do.

Steve Jobs a Steve Wozniak. John Romero a John Carmack. Je až neuvěřitelné, jak moc se příběhy těchto dvou dvojic shodují. V obou případech povahově zcela odlišní géniové, kteří se nejprve přes problematické dospívání dají „v garáži“ osudově dohromady, dlouho se nebývale doplňují jako jing a jang, přetvoří tak své odvětví od základů a vydělají při tom milióny/miliardy, aby pos
Mark Sanchez
May 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Abhay Rana
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Egor Mikhaylov
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
Willian Molinari
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computers, audio
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
Andrew Scarella
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. I grew up playing computer games in the 90's and enjoyed hearing the "behind-the-scenes" stories of how some of my favorite games were made. My only complaint was an abrupt ending, I wanted to read more about Carmack and Romero and what they are up to now. Are they friends? Do they work together at all? If you played any video game in the 1990's, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
Jan 24, 2016 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 :)
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I decided to read this book based on seeing its title on the library shelves. Like many (most?) gamers of a certain age, I grew up with games from id software and its various offshoots, but until reading Masters of Doom, I hadn't realized how completely they had dominated my gaming background. Commander Keen; Duke Nukem (the side-scrolling platformer, not the FPS); the various Epic Megagames games like Solar Winds, Jill of the Jungle, ZZT, Dare to Dream, Ken's Labyrinth, and One Must Fall 2097; ...more
Great insight into game development

I liked the book for its content, which is a detailed history of id software. It was fascinating to have a glimpse into what was it like for people who created games of my childhood. Also you get to learn a bit how things work in game dev world.

I'm not a fan of style - it gets old after awhile. 5 stars for content, 2 for delivery.
Samuel Salzer
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, biography
A great biography which provides a wonderful tour of the early years of computer/video games. In a world where people worry about patents and intellectual property, it is liberating to hear about two guys who only cared about creating cool things. All they wanted was to create great games that they wish existed (plus eating pizza and someday driving Ferrari's). Spoiler alert: They did plenty of all three.
Peter Brichs
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Historien om, hvordan I software blev til - historien om de 2 x John; Romero og Carmack. Om deres venskab, og om hvordan de blev uvenner...og alt derimellem.

En rigtig velfortalt biografi af mændene bag DOOM, Commander Keen, Quake, Daikatana og teknologierne bag. Klart et læs værd, for alle, der er glade for computerspil.
Jury Razumau
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
“Pizza” is mentioned 39 times. “Render” and “polygon” combined for 19. Would you read a book about Beethoven that only mentions how great were his symphonies and how everyone loved them without ever talking about what exactly made them great (and probably not even discussing Fidelio’s plot)? So what exactly were Carmack’s innovations in game engines? Oh, he was very smart and worked a lot; now let’s talk instead about his Ferrari (have I already mentioned that his office was full of pizza boxes? ...more
Bob Mackey
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because I was producing an episode of my podcast (Retronauts) about Doom, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. I've read a few too many video game books for a mass-market audience that talk down to the reader, but Masters of Doom mostly avoids that. (Though it does contain an obligatory 20-page history of video games to give things some context.) And while Masters of Doom does dip into technical details from time to time, it's mostly a personality-driven book, one that does a g ...more
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Perry Gough
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had been waiting to read this since I heard this book existed.

Masters of Doom tells the story of John Romero and John Carmack the main two guys responible for creating Doom the grandaddy of all First Person Shooters. How they put together a small team of highly talent Game Designers and the controvesy that the game caused.

Some of the facts I already knew but there is alot here that I had no clue about and found very interesting. This book is essientially 'The Social Network' of video game book
Margaret Sankey
Nov 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Kushner reconstructs the fateful meeting of John Romero and John Carmack, which, in the early 90s world of shareware, personal computing and nascent home dial up, resulted in Doom, in which powerful graphics engines and the ability to play against other networked players revolutionized the gaming industry. Like so many other stories of revolutionaries, this is also the trajectory of visionaries having no idea how to run a business or manage other people.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book captures splendidly the wild frontier of entertainment software in mid-eighties. Also rightly cements Carmack's position as the game developer genius, and Romero's as the... well, the guy who made Daikatana and gave rise to the 'rock star programmer' stereotype.

Yeah, he's a tool. More on that in the book.
Vasil Kolev
Dec 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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)
Brad Feld
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible origin story of id Software

I love origin stories. Many are shallow or overly dramatic in an effort to tell a story rather than capture the essence of what happened and why it was so important. This one totally nailed it.
Amar Pai
Jul 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Rereading. Upped to 5 stars cos it just sucks you in. Carmack esp. is a fascinating weirdo

addendum Feb 7 2017: i actually re-read this a while ago, but back then there was no 'reread' status. is there now? how does this work
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Masters of Doom by David Kushner is a stimulating and enjoyable account of how Id software came to create two of the most influential video games of all time: Doom and Quake. The book revolves around the relationship between the two key developers of those games, John Carmack and John Romero, and while it documents their lives and how they got into the industry, the actual creation of the games is very much depicted as the messy and complicated product of collaboration between all kinds of diffe ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, computers
The early chapters covering the Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D development are the best- I'd really like to find more books covering game development in the 1980's (re-reading Steven Levy's Hacker would be a good start, but where to go after that?).

The last half of the book is office politics.

It is good to document the ridiculous '90s excesses of Ion Storm, but also sometimes painful to read. One unintentionally hilarious sequence covers the office shenanigans of Tom, Todd & Mike (and an
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent breakdown of where John (Romero/Carmack) came from, how they came together to found id, and how they split to go their own direction. This book covers the wonder years of id, from Keen to Doom to Quake. Quite good, but short of 5 stars.

I really enjoyed the history, though towards the end it felt a little rushed. The focus on success with a smaller company and each of the Johns finding problems with larger companies is telling. It is hard to find fault with their split - they were both
Sebastian H
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Tale of the Two Johns, or: How Chaos and Order Bring Harmony to Game Development, Programming and Design.

This one truly read like a novel, as though the events were being narrated by an omniscient observer with a knack for storytelling. Kudos to the author for some incredibly detailed investigative work, and for the hundreds of hours of interviews, research and digging old material this book must’ve taken.

In short, it’s an essential read for all those even remotely interested in gaming his
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apart from the obvious focus, which Kushner covers, and Wheaton delivers, with the obligatory fanboy attitude, the novel is also an anecdotal history of how the PC became the main platform for video game development and the power that such an accessible platform bestows upon those willing to learn and experiment with it.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crossposted from my blog here:

It almost seems like founder couples have a special success in the computer industry. Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft and the two Steves founded Apple. To that rockstar list can be added John Carmack and John Romero, the founders of id Software and the heroes of the book Masters of Doom. Much like a classic rockband, each John brought a special something to their group, the pair looked invincible at one time in th
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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.
More about David Kushner...
“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.” 15 likes
“All they needed was a title. Carmack had the idea. It was taken from The Color of Money, the 1986 Martin Scorsese film in which Tom Cruise played a brash young pool hustler. In one scene Cruise saunters into a billiards hall carrying his favorite pool cue in a stealth black case. “What you got in there?” another player asks.
Cruise smiles devilishly, because he knows what fate he is about to spring upon this player, just as, Carmack thought, id had once sprung upon Softdisk and as, with this next game, they might spring upon the world.
“In here?” Cruise replies, flipping open the case. “Doom.”
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