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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2014
I was delighted when someone pointed out the book Masters of Doom. It's not a new title, dating back to 2003, but it covers a period that anyone of a certain age with an interest in computer games will regard with interest.

Describing the rise and fall of the two creators of id software, John Carmack and John Romero, it is a classic silicon valley business/bio - with some particularly extreme characters. I knew nothing of these people at the time, but reading the book brought on waves of nostalgia as they were responsible for three of the key milestones in gaming history. I was still programming PCs when Wolfenstein 3D came out and I remember being amazed by the effects and responsiveness they coaxed out of the early PC's terrible graphics. By the time Doom and Quake came along, I was reviewing games for a living. Though my personal tastes ran more to the X-Wing series and Seventh Guest, I was stunned by the capabilities of the id games. They were the only first person shooters I ever found interesting - and each moved on the field immensely. All the first person shooters that are popular today from Call of Duty and Halo to Destiny owe them so much.

So from a techie viewpoint, this was fascinating, though the author does tend to rather brush over the technical side to keep the story flowing. And from the personal side, there were plenty of fireworks too. While the book slightly overplays the traditional US business biography style of presenting disasters and triumphs to regularly fit chapter boundaries, there is no doubt there was a real roller-coaster of an existence in a way that all those reality TV stars who overuse that term wouldn't possibly understand.

Although there are plenty of other characters, the two Johns are at the book's heart - Carmack the technology wizard behind the engines that powered these worlds, and Romero the designer and flamboyant gamer. The pair inevitably clash on direction and when they split it's interesting that it's the John who doesn't go for the classic US software developer heaven of turning the offices into a playground who succeeds.

All in all, truly wonderful for anyone who was into games in that period (and should be of interest to those who have followed them since). It's a shame it stops in 2003, as things have moved on a lot since its 'how the main characters are now' epilogue - but a quick visit to Wikipedia can bring you up to speed.
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on 31 January 2016
If you, like me, were a serious player in the 90s and, still like me, you spent endless nights playing Doom, Quake and other related titles such as Hexen, Heretic, Rise of the Triad, etc. you *must* read this book and discover the story behind the the groundbreaking company that created them. The book is a long, deep and fun dive into the story of id software following the parallel stories of John Carmack and John Romero starting far before the id software founding to the time the two guys went different roads. That's a beautiful book and you should read it and go back playing those games yourself to feel the experience again. You will feel very nostalgic but that's a good thing. You loved those games.
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on 2 January 2018
This is a review of the audiobook version: I really enjoyed David Kushner's book itself - the story is interesting and the writing is engaging and exciting. However, Wil Wheaton's narration is terrible. He sounds like an overexcited drama school dropout. To me it sounds like every word is over-emphasised, it's slow, and painful to listen to. Sorry, just didn't do it for me.

I'd steer clear of the audio book and just read the normal book instead!
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on 27 February 2016
Wasn't sure what to expect from this as I don't read many books (digital generation) but the nerdy gamer in me ended up very satisfied and wanting more. The book is easy to read and gives lots of background information on the development and aftermath of some of the greatest games of all time. It explores the working relationships of the developers (who are now legend) and gives flashbacks to how weird/awesome the 90s were. I remember playing Final Doom on PS1 at about 8 year old, I had no idea Doom was this huge revolutionary game at the time. Reading this puts it all in perspective, it's bizarre! Amazing book, must read for any hardcore gamers.
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on 28 January 2016
Great book which will make anyone who grew up with Doom and Quake (or were in their 20s like me) want to get the games back out. It's slightly long winded at times (and perhaps too focussed on minor details) but it's an engrossing story of the two Johns and their love of making games. There is a sense of inevitability about the story (ever played Daikatana? No, me neither) and I felt very sad reading the later Romero elements.

Would love to have an update section as it all stops around 2003.

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on 20 August 2013
David Kushner not only manages to write this book with incredible accuracy (having had a long interview with John Romero himself for instance)but also manages to write this book as if it where an unfolding story rather than a simple account of video game history. Managing accuracy with an interesting and appealing writing style that is entertaining, witty and unique is incredibly accomplished. I have read no other book on gaming history that has both of these strengths. Many video game history books lean toward the academic, which can be a chore to read, or to the editorial.
Kushner somehow manages to avoid being too academic and too editorial in this book, and as such it is a book I can recommend to anyone interested in Commander Keen, Wolfesntein 3d, Doom, Quake and the respective careers at those who worked at id software etc.
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on 26 August 2015
I don’t usually read biographies. I find them to be a bit dull and intrusive. But I broke my own rule this time and read “Masters of Doom” by David Kushner. The reason? Well, I am a gamer by heart and loved the computer game “Doom”. It was a game of my youth, a first person shooter full of demons and violence. A match made in heaven…or hell if you like.

This book is the account of how Doom came into existence, created by a group of pioneering computer programmers in the 90’s. The book’s main protagonists are the “two Johns”; John Romero and John Carmack. Romero is the crazy, wild designer of the pair, mirrored by Carmacks calm, collected hardcore programmer. There are other ‘characters’ that appear in the book, such as Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall etc. But the two Johns are the focal points of the novel.

The book starts with the childhoods of the Johns and describes how they finally meet and how, from humble beginnings, they jump from strength to strength and end up creating a multi million dollar business. Very much the American dream. From reading this book I can only define Carmack and Romero as Geniuses. Programming is hard. I’ve tried it. It’s full of hard maths, syntax problems and logic arguments. Its like trying to measure the moon, with your eyes closed. With your hands tied behind your back. And yet the Johns (and many other bit players of the industry who make an appearance in this book) seem to just “get it”. The book doesn’t show the hard graft that I’m sure went into learning the programming languages, but by the age of 14 they were already coding. You have to be extremely intelligent to be able to pick it up that easy and with this intelligence and hard work they made themselves millionaires.

The two Johns’ careers started with creating small simple games in high school on early Apple computers. They then got small jobs with developers such as Origin and Softdisk. Ultimately, with their eagerness and entrepreneurial spirit, they finally branched out on their own. Their beginnings were questionably legal, with them borrowing work equipment and moonlighting. However the whole era just oozed rebellion and breaking loose the shackles of big business so this ambiguity of law just increases the spirit of self actualisation. Where young, passionate, hardworking and not forgetting extremely clever individuals made their fortune in their own way. This book makes it look so easy to make millions from computers. If only it was that easy.

Games created by the team include Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake 1, 2 and 3, all synonymous with the video game revolution of the 90’s and both the birth of first person shoot ‘em ups and the prevalence of PC gaming. Its touched on briefly in the novel that the Johns were not the only people capitalising on the rise of the video games industry, but the majority of the book does read like they were.

In the end the duo run into the humanity side of all business’. Arguing, jealousy and contempt all led to their eventual split. Following the split, they each run their own companies in their own different styles. With successes and failures, the book tapers out and brings us up to the books publication date.

The positives of the book are many if you are fan of the games and the gaming industry. The book goes into some what detail of the creation of the games and gives insights into how the minds of the creators processed. Even if your not a gamer, the book is still a good tale of the underdogs making it big. The tension during the crunch days, when deadlines were looming, is brought to life by Kushner and each characters personality is shown to the reader. For a book written some 10 years after the majority of the facts, it goes into quite intricate details. This is proof of the amount of research carried out by the author. The epilogue at the back tells us he interviewed all parties in depth, as well as spent months sifting through mountains of old computer magazines to gather dates and locations.

Theres not much to be negative about the book, its hard to criticise real life. Some of the dialogue felt pushed, but then it would have been transcribed from interviews which would have been dragged out of half-forgotten memories. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough detail on the actual design of the main games, Doom and Quake. It seemed like the design and code was glanced over for tension and drama. More prose than fact but drama sells and too much code detail in the book would have slowed it down and turned it into more of a text book.

In all a good book however its audience is automatically narrowed by its genre and topic. Not everyone will find it interesting however I found it enjoyable, intense and fascinating. I could almost see myself writing the next best selling video game and making my millions! Or maybe not…
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on 31 August 2016
Have to say the reviews are not hyperbolic, this book certainly is a great read. Couldn't put it down, probably the book I finished faster in the last couple of years.
Not a big fan of Doom or id specifically, but still this was thoroughly enjoyable as a piece of video game history, to anyone interested at least a little bit in the subject, get this, you won't be disappointed.

Disclaimer: Reading this might leave you a tad dissatisfied with whatever you're doing and give you a craving for getting into VG development.
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on 21 April 2017
If you grew up with the likes of Doom, Quake etc, then you'll find this a really interesting read. It chronicles the rise of the gaming era, back from when computers first became something individuals could afford up until around the mid 2000s, focusing on the perspective from id Software and the two guys who started it all.
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on 9 December 2014
Couldn't put this book down! What a fascinating read. Don't be fooled by the subject matter - it's more about characters than games, so I don't recommend it to gamers only. Of course, knowing the games sure helps and adds to the pleasure. I myself remember the time when Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake were the holy grails of gaming and my personal experience with these games made the book even more enjoyable.
Just like most readers, I liked the first part of the book best - about the guys' formative years, the emergence of home computers and gaming as multi-billion business and how a group of friends were creating some of the most popular games while having fun at the same time (the lakehouse part being my favorite).
Read this!
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