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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  16,448 ratings  ·  1,267 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
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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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 e ...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
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
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
Masters of Doom, David Kushner tells the story of ID Games founders of classic pc games, wolfeinstien 3d, Doom, Quake their creators the 2 Johns, Carmack and Romero, both come across as rebelious anti social misfits but both bad ass game fanatical programers circa early 1990s. However the story is interesting for the comparison to watching a train wreck in slow motion, if only and what if 2 questions I wonder about these 2 guys. All the crazy memories some dated and forgotten some canon hard out ...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 boxes? ...more
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
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, own, non-fiction
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
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
During high school, I had a PC. I was a bit bummed by it (largely because it wasn't an Amiga) but that didn't last after, in my final years, Wolfenstein 3D came out. From id Software, the game saw you eventually kill mecha-Hitler in a Nazi castle. It was, arguably, the beginning of the wave of first-person shooter games that would come to dominate computers.

It was (in '92) the product, largely, of two guys: John Carmack and John Romero. They already had made a bunch of money through the sharewa
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
Brad Feld
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Uli Kunkel
One-liner: Read it. 4.5 stars
Irene Quicksword
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
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 it b ...more
Harrison Sokol
One of the cringiest books I’ve ever read. How many times does the author need to tell me that “gamers” live on pizza and Diet Coke? This book reads like it was written by a high schooler.
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 t ...more
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t really know anything about gaming besides the fact that it exists before reading this book. What a wild story!
Sep 06, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carmack is my spirit animal
Avtar Ram Singh
We knew the games we were playing were incredible for their time, but this behind the curtain look does a good job of really putting it into perspective.
Sten Tamkivi
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Willian Molinari
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, computers
I'm migrating all my reviews to my blog. I'm keeping the old version here (because it makes sense to do it) but you can read the latest one on my blog:

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 in this book. The two Johns are doing great and creating amazing games following the startup way of life, relying on junk food and diet cok
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.
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. ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 :)
Ieva Gr
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious
Why I read it: Few people whose opinions I highly respect gave it 5 stars on here Goodreads. Never read anything about gaming, so was curious to expand my horizons a little.

What I liked about it: I think there are a lot of thing you can find in this book: information about popular culture and how it changed when computer games entered the arena (I did not think mass media were so interested in Doom); inspiration about how hard work and passion pays off; cautionary tales how being extremely tale
Salil Kanitkar
Sep 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, 2021
Masters of Doom is indeed a fascinating read and even though I am not an avid gamer, the intricacies and complexities of the Gaming Tech industry are fun to dive into! This is a book about “2 Johns” - John Carmack and John Romero, who built super-popular games like Wolf-3D, Doom & Quake in the late 80s and early 90s, firmly establishing a new class of Rockstars - the programmers who build awesome games! These 2 introverted, self-taught, nerdy kids from broken homes created a highly successful Ga ...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
Jun 07, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As they say: Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Damn, this one gave me a trip down memory lane... even though I was late to the party when it came to Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Also, from following some gaming magazines in my youth, I knew that Romero was kinda cuckoo but this book told me that Carmack wasn't really better (REALLY?! HE GOT RID OF HIS CAT?!). On the other hand the book humanizes them, making them finally feel more like real people, complex and with both good and bad in them.

What I
Craig Dean
Jul 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great tale, full of nostalgia, and real life drama. It is very well told, and compelling.

However; it’s also something I lived through, and as such the author’s focus on the 2 John’s necessarily downplays the tumult surrounding Id - often representing them as being at the very centre of events that they were arguably at the periphery of. To be fair, some of the more egregious slights are actually eventually rectified as the book, confusingly, bounces back and forth between events. However, I fr
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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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As the final days of the year tick themselves off the calendar, the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge is coming to a close. Sincere...
150 likes · 146 comments
“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.” 16 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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