ingau's blog

Book review: Masters of Doom

Masters of Doom, by David Kushner, tells the story of the two Johns - John Romero and John Carmack; and how they created Doom and Quake - which revolutionised computer games, giving rise to the gaming culture as it exists today.

I’m not a gamer. What, or who caught my interest was John Carmack - a legend in the field of technology and programming. Also, I love to read on how makers make. The book did not disappoint me in both fronts.

We get a glimpse of the Silicon Valley gaming industry, culture and tech landscape of the 90s, which I found fascinating.

A major theme is the difference in personalities of Carmack and Romero, and how they complimented each other.

Romero was enthusiastic and artistic while Carmack was stoic and technical. They worked in tandem. Carmack would come up with technological breakthroughs and Romero would design the game around it.

Another important difference was that Romero was a gamer first, programmer second and Carmack was the opposite - which eventually led to their split.

Key takeaways:

In the information age, the barriers just aren’t there,” he said. “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 capitalisation. 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. We slept on floors. We waded across rivers.

The writing is fluid and fast paced, which feels natural for the subject. It becomes repetitive at times though ( yes, we get that the gamers survived on coke and pizza ). The programmer in me wished that the book went into more technical details.

I would recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in gaming, technology or startups.