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

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4.26  ·  Rating details ·  12,022 ratings  ·  924 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 ...more
Audible Audio, Unabridged
Published July 12th 2012 by Novel Audio (first published 2003)
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Samih Omer Late to answer but no. Unless your 14 years old is really into retro gaming or the begging of the compute/PC age.
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Andrew
May 20, 2012 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 ...more
Rob
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.

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Dan
Jul 23, 2007 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
...more
April
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, non-fiction, own
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 ...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
...more
Jury Razumau
“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 ...more
Nemo
Oct 21, 2013 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
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.
Koen Crolla
Sep 24, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vidya
It's kind of stunning that even someone as sympathetic and breathlessly ready to take the Johns at their words in every situation as Kushner can't even begin to make John Romero and John Carmack appear remotely likeable. Literally nobody in this book is a good person (of course not, it's about video games), but Romero and Carmack come off as some of the worst people it's possible to be without killing someone.

Part of the issue is that Kushner himself is also a piece of shit* and so just doesn't
...more
Sreejith Puthanpurayil
As someone who used to play a ton of video games and who got into programming making or hacking them, this was an enjoyable, nostalgic experience. Written in dramatic fashion, yet technically not too demanding, this book takes you through the evolution of pc gaming, the rise of an entire sub-culture, and the molding of art, bleeding-edge tech, and storytelling in the birth of doom. It's the story of 2 immensely talented people, their successes, and the differences that ripped them apart amidst ...more
Bastard Travel
Cool little history about two incredibly cringe-inducing dudes, their revolutionization of the industry, and the sad nerd fight that tore them apart.
Sten Tamkivi
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic long form journalism to share the behind the scenes story of how 2D platform gaming become 3D first person shooters dominant (Wolf3D, Doom, Quake...) and never looked back. Also, this is a classic tech startup story before they were called startups -- mostly taking place in Texas.

Personal touch: as we were just trying to create a 2D side scroller called Drunkard as high school kids in Tartu at the time, we got smashed by this wave forming 6000 miles away. Had distribution chat attempts
...more
Willian Molinari
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, computers
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
...more
Margaret Sankey
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.
Victor
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 :)
Mindaugas Mozūras
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'll someday definitely reread Masters of Doom again. The story of the two Johns is just an interesting as the story of the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak). For me, as a software developer, Carmack is the more fascinating and inspiring of the two. Not only have I played games made by him, but I've watched multiple talks he did. He's a geek's geek.
Gavin
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kinda amateurish prose, everything "classic" and "legendary" in the same sentence.

It's saved by the singular, remarkable character Carmack. Neuroatypical, ascetic, principled, focussed to the point of dissociation. He slept on the floor for months, despite being rich, because he didn't see the need for comfort. An excellent example of what someone profoundly creative can do, if they also love work. (: All the glories of the species.)

Romero is less interesting, because he is a fairly ordinary
...more
Maurício Linhares
Did you know Doom was one of the main instruments for the resurrection of the PC gaming industry? Now you do!

How Carmack and Romero (the two Johns) came together and founded one of the most influential gaming companies and built not only genres and movements, but a whole market, is an amazing tale of the beginnings of what we have in games today. From their start with the side scroller Commander Keen (building the very first side scroller on computers) after copying Mario and trying to convince
...more
Brian
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
Kirill
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't just a book about John Carmack and John Romero. While telling a compelling story about the id Software at the dawn of the video game industry, the book points out some good examples of principles for building a successful team.

Difference in personalities of "two Johns", coupled with the small size of the team in their early days, helped in creating a healthy diversity of ideas and building ground-breaking products like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, that are forever canonized in the
...more
Blacktaxi
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 ...more
Andrzej
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one for me was a real sentimental travel to the 90's and a story of people who developed the game of my youth - Quake. A great coming-of-age story and probably one of the last true manifestations of the American dream come true.
Paige
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Charles Collard
I both love and hate this book. Not the author's fault, it's extremely well written with great details.

I guess any really well documented history is this way. both the wonderful and the grungy ugliness are on full display.

Masters of Doom made me nostalgic about discovering computers and games in the early 80s as well as the wonderful wild-west environment and camaraderie of working at start-up companies in the 90s. The combination of the two: after-work LAN parties playing doom, quake, MOHAA
...more
Andrew Scarella
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alex
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: technology, games
Good read and really exiting, especial for me because I spent countless hours with commander keen/wolfenstein/doom/quake.
Its like the patterns always repeats itself;
couple of friends from broken home gather together and bound by the love of creating games.
Deliver the one of the amazing games for that time.
Once the success get's to their head, internal tension raises. (drama/breakups/fights/power struggles)
But at the end they somehow return and get together.
Sabin
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Dan
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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.
“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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