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 successful game franchises in history - Doom and Quake - until the games they made tore them apart. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, commerce and artistry - a powerful and compassionate account of what it's like to be young, driven, and wildly creative.
©2003 David Kushner (P)2012
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Critic reviews

"Compelling . . . Masters of Doom succeeds on several levels. It's just great storytelling, with perfect pacing, drama and characterization. It's also an excellent business book, a cautionary tale with the kind of insider detail that other writers working in the genre should envy." ( Houston Chronicle)
“Kushner’s mesmerizing tale of the Two Johns moves at a rapid clip . . . describing the twists and turns of fate that led them to team up in creating the most powerful video games of their generation. . . . An exciting combination of biography and technology.” ( USA Today)
“Meticulously researched . . . as a ticktock of the creative process and as insight into a powerful medium too often dismissed as kids’ stuff, Masters of Doom blasts its way to a high score.” ( Entertainment Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Media Fox on 22-07-15

A must read for 90s gamers

After finishing 'Ready Player One' also read by Wil Wheaton I was on a bit of a downer thinking that I would not find a book as amazing as that and everything else would fail in comparison. I was wrong. Hello 'Masters of Doom'!

With Quake and Quake II being a massive part of my life not only selling it as my job at the time but also playing Death Match with my Team Fortress clan until the wee small hours of the morning this book brought back so many great memories as well as delivering such a great insight to how ID came into being and end up making legendary ground breaking games. The two John's, Carmack and Romero, are great characters and their story really comes alive with a Wil Wheaton's narration. I love the little call out to female gamers like myself as well and shows that this book covers everything in ID's history.

If you grew up with video games in the 80s and 90s then I would highly recommend listening to 'Masters of Doom'. Now that I've finished it I am now back on a downer again until I find my next awesome listen but at least now I'm inspired to dig out my Q2 cd to keep me busy until then (as well as day dreaming that the next time I move there will be a Pacman cabinet in the back of the truck that no one wants).

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lewis J Bowman on 19-12-14

"Suck It down!" Well written, superbly read

Would you consider the audio edition of Masters of Doom to be better than the print version?

Will Wheaton adds some dramatic flair to his reading, giving every character a unique voice. Clearly he had a great deal of enthusiasm for the story while narrating, and it really shows

What did you like best about this story?

It covers a wide range of well known celebrities/characters going through a very high profile period of their lives, but maintains the "friendship story" as the core focus throughout the book, which in my opinion makes the story much more grounded.

What does Wil Wheaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

A more well rounded sense of character, largely thanks to Will's voices (one for each character) and the fervour he brings to his narration

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the two John's first experiment with the prototype of the Wolfenstein engine, you get a real sense of Romero's excitement about the design potential of such an engine and Carmack's lust to develop the technology even further.

Any additional comments?

Superb book, even for those unfamiliar with the gaming scene of the 90s. Will Wheaton brings his all to bring this book to life.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Ryan on 27-08-13

How it was

While I wasn’t at Id Software or any of its spin-offs, I was part of the videogame industry from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, working at one small company that created a blockbuster hit, as well as several studios that didn’t make it. Much in this book speaks to my personal experience. Learning to program on the Apple II and IBM PC. Getting in touch with the hacker and homebrew community via BBS’s (the real predecessor to the web). Being an eager 20-something for whom coding and life were the same thing. The huge rush of making a game that connects with fans. The politics, ego battles, and emotional burnout that inevitably come with fame, high expectations, and endless project crunch. Kushner seems to have done a thorough job with his research and interviews, and the result is a very honest account of how things were during the last cowboy days of the videogame industry, when a handful of basement coders and artists with no real professional experience could still create a technologically-impressive smash hit game. (Nowadays, you need dozens of developers and tens of millions of dollars -- at least.)

The history of Id Software itself is a definitive story for gamers and gaming. John Romero, John Carmack, and their various partners were basically just passionate young hobbyists with a dream and a lot of faith in themselves. I grew up playing their games years before DOOM came out, and it was a pleasure seeing the crew’s design and programming skills mature with each title. By the time they hit their peak of fame, they had helped push the once clunky PC into a viable gaming platform; invented the first-person shooter and online deathmatching; and opened game development up to casual hobbyists, by making their products relatively easy to customize with mods, tools, and add-ons.

The yin-yang partnership between Carmack and Romero is the central drama here. Romero was a gamer’s gamer, a brash, trash-talking, heavy metal-loving guy bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. Carmack, meanwhile, was an introverted, Aspergian whiz kid with a drive and knack for understanding technology. I can tell you that the games business wouldn’t exist without both types of people (tempered by others), and Masters of Doom casts the two of them as friends who drove each other to greater heights, until their differences became too great for them to get along, and the partnership collapsed. In my opinion, this breakdown was probably inevitable -- fame had given Romero an inflated sense of his own prowess as a game designer, and Carmack was never that interested in game design to begin with (just coding). Both were overtaken by the industry their work had fueled, as pioneers often are. Kushner gives us all the sordid details, though. There’s Romero’s hubris and humiliating downfall post-Id, after the failure of Ion Storm proved that being a rock star doesn’t equate with knowing how to run a company. There’s Carmack’s inability to manage and easily relate to other people, not an uncommon fault in technical geniuses -- though he seems to have since softened around the edges and remains an important innovator.

Being so specific to an era and a subculture, and full of dated technology and game references, this book will speak to some readers more than others, but I think it’s at least skim-worthy for anyone with an interest in gaming or game development. If you don’t tire of the immature antics of young geeks, there are some funny anecdotes, such as the moment when Romero hires a designer who’s a Mormon and keeps putting his foot in his mouth (“At least you’re not one of those crazy Mormons with a ton of kids.” “No, I have five children.” “Okay, well, at least it’s not ten kids and you’re not one of the ones that wears the magic underwear.” “No, I’ve got it on right here”. Etc...) And the tale of Carmack’s commitment to the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, to the point of destroying his own labored-over world after Romero acquires and unleashes a world-ending weapon, is telling.

As a former game developer, I urge anyone aspiring to that field to absorb the lessons here. Between them, the members of Id had many instructive successes, disappointments, and failures.

I should mention that Will Wheaton is brilliant as an audiobook narrator, his boyish enthusiasm a perfect fit for the subject matter. Sometimes he gets so carried away in his excitement, his voice actually cracks. He also does some amusing vocal affectations, from the nasally, “concerned parent” voice of an organization opposed to videogame violence, but not having much of a clue about how gamers really think or act, to a suitably cheesy “dungeon master” intonement of the bad writing in the introduction to one of Carmack’s early games.

A riveting read for the right audience. I was tripping on memories all the way through.

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38 of 39 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Daniel on 31-08-13

Narrator of the Year

Would you consider the audio edition of Masters of Doom to be better than the print version?

Yes. Wil Wheaton was the perfect narrator for this book in so many ways. Imbued with a sincere passion for the subject, his reading of the two John's story is gripping.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Carmack. I personally identify with many of his traits, very forward looking and intellectually curious.

Have you listened to any of Wil Wheaton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not listened to him before.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Commander Keen Must Die.

Any additional comments?

Again, Wil Wheaton made this book absolutely sing. One of the best narrations I have heard in some time.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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