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How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

Masters of Doom by David Kushner

Masters of Doom by David Kushner

Introduction: The Two Johns

Co-creators of Doom and Quake: John Carmack and John Romero.

Chapter 1: The Rock Star

Computers felt like a revolutionary tool: a means of self-empowerment and fantasy fulfillment.

Romero’s stepfather “you’ll never make any money making games. You need to make something people really need, like business applications.”

Chapter 3: Pizza Money

Carmack was of the moment. Time existed for him, not in some promising future or sentimental past but in the present condition, the intricate web of problems and solutions, imagination, and code.

Romero was immersed in all moments: past, future, and present.

All science and technology and culture and learning and academics is built upon using the work that others have done before, Carmack thought.

Romero chose the game life over the family life.

Carmack wanted nothing less than to disappear into the wallpaper. This kind of scene — socializing, cavorting — was never his domain. He would rather be reading or programming. But contrary to what the other guys might have thought, he wasn’t inhuman. He was fun-loving too, just in his own way.

Chapter 5: More Fun Than Real Life

Carmack didn’t care where he was as long as he could code.

Chapter 6: Green and Pissed

Their friendship was not traditional. They didn’t discuss their lives, their hopes, their dreams. For the most part, their friendship was in their work, their unbridled pursuit of the game.

Romero had gone too far.

Romeros bit had flipped.

We are the wind.

Chapter 7: Spear of Destiny

The id guys were putting in 16-hour days 7 days a week.

The right thing to do. Secrets are fun.

Chapter 8: Summon the Demons

When something becomes a problem, let it go or, if necessary, have it surgically removed.

Chapter 10: The Doom Generation

Romero had taken to wearing the “Wrote It” shirt everywhere.

Carmack loved the work, the rolling up of the sleeves, the challenging of his intellect.

Romero was losing his focus.

Romero spelled out his new life code: it was time to enjoy id’s accomplishments. No crunch mode. No more bloodshot nights. “No more death schedules,” he happily said.

Chapter 11: Quakes

“Play is a significant function which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action. All play means something.” — Johan Huizinga

“A society without games is one sunk in the zombie trance of the automation.” — Marshall McLuhan

Romero just likes all the attention, which is why he does it.

Carmack never understood the appeal most people found in hapless diversions.

Chapter 12: Judgment Day

“You have to give yourself the freedom to back away from something when you make a mistake. If you pretend you’re infallible and bully ahead on something, even when there are many danger signs that it’s not the right thing, well, that’s a sure way to leave a crater in the ground. You want to always be reevaluating things and say, okay, it sounded like a good idea but it doesn’t seem to be working out very well and we have this other Avenue which is looking like it’s working out better — let’s just do that.” — John Carmack

This is not the id of the past, the id of let’s make a Great game together and have fun. This is the id of shut up and work.

Chapter 13: Deathmatch

Design is law.

Chapter 14: Silicon Alamo

“While I do take a lot of pride in shipping a great product, the achievements along the way are more memorable.” — John Carmack

Knowledge builds on knowledge.

“Romero is chaos and Carmack is order. Together they made the ultimate mix. But when you take them away from each other, what’s left?” — American

Chapter 16: Persistent Worlds

It will be just good friends making games.

In the Information Age, the barriers just aren’t there. 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.

“It really comes down to work ethic. If you’ve got two equally talented people and one works twice as hard as the other, that person is going to run away from the other person.” — John Carmack

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