Joe's Reviews > Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

Masters of Doom by David Kushner
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's review
Dec 06, 2008

really liked it

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 that combine to create something greater than either alone could accomplish. One of them has better technical capabilities, but doesn't have the drive and vision to do much on their own. The other sees the big picture, and has the business sense to take advantage of the right opportunities, but doesn't have the necessary level of skill to make a product that will stand out enough. Together, they join up and change the world. Eventually, they start to fall out of sorts: they want to take their partnership in future directions, because one wants to make it larger and the other wants to keep working on neat things, or because one wants fame and fortune and the other wants to keep a low profile, or because one wants to keep it small and secluded and the other wants to expand, or any number of reasons. id Software hits pretty much all of those points, right on cue.

The book also talks about politics and ethics of more mature (violent, scary, etc) video games, but it almost feels like it was tacked on to the main story. It doesn't have a real ending, but that's partly because the main players are all still developing new things. Beyond those minor faults, though, this book is an excellent read.
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