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

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture was a biography by David Kushner of the game developer id Software. I really liked video games growing up, so I always liked reading video game history. Most of it I read online. Here and there I’d borrow a book from the library. Most of the stuff was what I had already read online. Masters of Doom was different. It had new information, never before available. It got good recommendations in the gaming magazines I read, so I put it on my Christmas list.

The story focused mostly on John Carmack and John Romero, the two main guys behind id Software. Carmack did all the programming with Romero doing all the design. They worked with several other people for art and sound, but the book focused on these two. They were really the face of the company. They were the ones that showed off the games at conventions. Sometimes this was a mistake. Neither of them were the best at PR, so they sometimes made promises they couldn’t keep or offended people with their statements.

What I loved about this book was the style David Kushner chose. It wasn’t written like a history book. Instead, it was written like a novel, but everything was true. I mean, he was free to choose which words to describe the history he had uncovered in his interviews, but the history itself was all truth. I think sometimes he embellished things a little. He made Carmack and Romero out to be rock stars of the gaming world. I’m sure they were worshipped by a small segment of the gamers but definitely not by everyone. I followed games quite a bit. I knew of them as good developers, but I thought other developers like Blizzard Entertainment were better.

Over the years I’ve been continually disappointed with the lack of video game history books in the same style as Masters of Doom. There are a few others, just not many. I was hoping that David Kushner would go on to write more books like this for other game developers. He could have carved out a real niche here. I guess it’s possible the book didn’t sell that well, so it wasn’t feasible to do research into other game developers. He did write another biography years later about the game company Rockstar Games, but it wasn’t a company I was interested in. I’ve never liked their games.

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