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Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture Paperback – May 11, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812972155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972153
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Doom, the video game in which you navigate a dungeon in the first person and messily lay waste to everything that crosses your path, represented a milestone in many areas. It was a technical landmark, in that its graphics engine delivered brilliant performance on ordinary PC hardware. It was a social phenomenon, with individuals and companies hooking up networks specifically for Doom tournaments and staying up for days to blast away on them (well before the Internet went big-time). The game's publisher, id Software, used an unusual shareware marketing strategy (give away the first levels, charge for the more advanced ones) that worked very well. On top of it all, the gore-filled game raised serious questions about decency in products meant for use by school-age kids. Masters of Doom explores the Doom phenomenon, as well as the lives and personalities of the two men behind it: John Carmack and John Romero.

This book manages, for the most part, to keep clear of the breathless techno-hagiography style that characterizes many books with similar subjects. He tells the story of Carmack, Romero, and id--which includes far more than Doom and its successors--in novel style, and he's done a good job of keeping the action flowing and the characters' motivations clear. Some of the quoted passages of dialog sound like idealized reconstructions that probably never came from the lips of real people, but this is an entertaining and informative book, of interest to anyone who's let rip with a nail gun. --David Wall

Topics covered: The biographies of John Carmack and John Romero, and of their company, id Software. The development and marketing of all major id games (including Wolfenstein, Doom, Doom II, and Quake) get lavish attention. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Long before Grand Theft Auto swept the video gaming world, whiz kids John Romero and John Carmack were shaking things up with their influential-and sometimes controversial-video game creations. The two post-adolescents meet at a small Louisiana tech company in the mid-1980s and begin honing their gaming skills. Carmack is the obsessive and antisocial genius with the programming chops; Romero the goofy and idea-inspired gamer. They and their company, id, innovate both technologically and financially, finding ways to give a PC game "side-scrolling," which allows players to feel like action is happening beyond the screen, and deciding to release games as shareware, giving some levels away gratis and enticing gamers to pay for the rest. All-nighters filled with pizza, slavish work and scatological humor eventually add up to a cultural sea change, where the games obsess the players almost as much as they obsess their creators. Fortunately, journalist Kushner glosses over Carmack and Romero's fame, preferring to describe the particulars of video game creation. There are the high-tech improvements-e.g., "diminished lighting" and "texture-mapping"-and pop cultural challenges, as when the two create an update of the Nazi-themed shooter Castle Wolfenstein. The author gives his subjects much leeway on the violence question, and his thoroughness results in some superfluous details. But if the narration is sometimes dry, the story rarely is; readers can almost feel Carmack and Romero's thrill as they create, particularly when they're working on their magnum opus, Doom. After finishing the book, readers may come away feeling like they've just played a round of Doom themselves, as, squinting and light-headed, they attempt to re-enter the world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. His books include Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, Jacked, and The Bones of Marianna (a Kindle Single).

A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, Kushner has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, New York Times Magazine, New York, GQ, and Details. He served as the digital culture commentator for National Public Radio Weekend Edition Sunday. He has been included in The Best American Crime Reporting and The Best Music Writing, and taught as an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

For articles and info, visit his website www.davidkushner.com.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Wish I had read this book during my undergrad days.
Vishal B. Patil
In this book, David Kushner documents the lives of two influential game programmers, John Romero and John Carmack - the guys who created Doom and id Software.
sporkdude
The book was well written and kept my attention the entire time.
Mark H.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Americans spend more money on electronic games than they do on movie tickets. Much of the enthusiasm for the games comes from "Doom" which was released ten years ago. Every gamer knows about Doom, and every parent who had not already worried about it was able to worry about it after it was blamed for inspiring the Columbine murderers. Doom was the brainchild of two gamers and computer geeks who are among the army of dweebs changing the way the world does things electronically. Its huge success merits study and understanding, and in _Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture_ (Random House) by David Kushner, it gets just the sort of exciting and weird history that ought to bring enchantment to gamers, envy to investors, and enjoyment to anyone interested in our modern ways of amusing ourselves.
Their many fans call them "The Two Johns," John Carmack and John Romero. They were both products of broken homes, and of the years when video games were enjoyed in arcades only. Both of them were better at playing video games and writing programs than they were at making grades or making friends. They came up with real innovations, now taken for granted, like side scrolling for the PC or rooms with skewed walls. All were steps to make the games look better, of course, but the overall effect was to make them more involving, increasing the illusion that "You are not just playing the game, you're inhabiting it." They also increased the blood; monsters or bad guys that were killed did not simply vanish when brought into the sights and fired upon. These were not the only innovations; Doom, released in 1993, featured the "Deathmatch" in which players could play together or against each other.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brian Taylor on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I cannot give this book any higher praise than I will now attempt to bestow.
This is a fascinating account of perhaps the most intriguing story in the world of computer gaming: the story of id Software's rise to prominence through the development of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, as well as the highly publicized split between the two men most responsible for these blockbusters, the two Johns: John Carmack and John Romero.
The book is not only an entertaining blow-by-blow account of the events that transpired in this story, but is also a cunningly crafted and penetrating look inside the psyche and personality of two fascinating human beings, and the wild initial success of colloboration followed by the bitter conflict bred by the polar forces that drove them. As such, its appeal transcends that of the video gaming community; it is a marvelous case study in sociology as well as a chronicle of the creation of computer games.
Masters of Doom is ultimately a "rise and fall" tale, in a sense. id Software, John Carmack, and John Romero will likely never reach the heights they achieved in the glory days following the release of Doom, but it is arguable that no single company or individual developer will ever do so again either.
The book is uncompromising in its account of the conflicts, and assesses blame only through the eyes of the people involved, without sounding preachy. Kushner assumes a neutral role and presents a remarkably balanced portrayal of the events, siding with neither Romero nor Carmack on the critical issues, leaving the reader with the accurate perception that both were right in their own way.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By sporkdude on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this book, David Kushner documents the lives of two influential game programmers, John Romero and John Carmack - the guys who created Doom and id Software. It chronicles the lives, the company, the gaming industry, and the impact of these two young computer geniuses. It's a quick, fluid read that is not only entertaining, but is awe inspiring as well.
This is a fascinating book on many fronts. It describes how two kids got into games from the early childhoods, describes their fascination with computers in general, and their dreams. It goes from a tale of two kids with ideas, to their technological innovations, to business start, to their monumental growth, and finally to their fallout. It sheds light not only independent game programming, but of the type of people who develop and play these first person shooters like Doom.
Not only is this a biography, or a game book, it's also sort of the "startup.com" of the gaming world. With a good mixture of business, gaming, with unique and individual characters, it indirectly describes the world of gaming companies and what it takes to make a good, and bad, company.
While a good book for all, it's a must for anyone who loves games or is into software development.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chris Peters on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a gripping glimpse behind the curtain! Even if you don't like video games, you can't ignore the human drama in this story: two towering personalities who transcend their work; office politics for huge stakes; the birth of a multi-billion dollar industry; a blast of creative spirit so strong it still gets my heart going.
The story is perfectly readable for a "non-fan", and I'd bet a game-hating girlfriend or wife would enjoy this book and maybe even feel a connection. The game developers at "id" were like snotty kids who created a huge fad, only to discover they had talent and the fad wasn't going away. John Carmack was the brains and John Romero the heart, an incredible partnership of opposites that created (or at least cemented) an new form of entertainment, only to break up at the height of their success. Like the Beatles, fans have argued who had the greatest impact, but in truth the magic was lost and never really regained.
By now their story has been ground into the dirt by the gaming press. At the time, the events seemed very one-dimensional with clear losers (first Carmack, then Romero), but author Kushner points out enough obvious contributions that I was reminded of the greatness of the partnership, not their egos. Hardcore fans will find all kinds of "So THAT's what happened" moments, lots of cameos and observations from famous id employees, and the all important history of the "Two Johns" after their break-up. The story of Ion Storm is included but too brief to feel authentic (ion deserves it's own book) and Kushner follows the conflicts within id after Romero left.
I don't have enough good things to say. This book isn't perfect, but the subject is so fascinating I couldn't put it down. Buy it, now.
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