Book Review: Masters of Doom

I recently had the chance to read through Masters of Doom by David Kushner. It covers the history of Id software, the creators of Doom, Quake, and a bunch of other games.

Before reading this book, I had a rough idea about the history of Id software, at least from Wolfenstein on. In my youth I would go over to a friend’s place, and play Doom or Quake. Because there were two of us and only one computer, it usually worked out that he would control the character’s movement and I would do the shooting (often to dreadful consequences). My introduction to Id software’s games is partially what sparked my interest in computer gaming and consequently game development.

I will say, the book does contain some fairly strong language. It’ll most likely sit on my shelf for quite a while before I pick it up. It isn’t anything that you wouldn’t hear on public transit, but it’s the kind of language that I’d rather avoid reading if I can.

That being said, the book does weave quite an amazing narrative of how Id came to be, how they hit their stride, and how things went sour between the founding fathers of Id. I found it did an incredible job of describing the feelings of each of the team members as various things happened.

Perhaps just being at a particular period in my life, this book got me thinking a lot about my own priorities. It would be amazing to have the skills of someone like Carmack or the charisma of someone like Romero, but after reading about how things have gone for them, I’m not sure I’d want it. To me, the most valuable thing I have (and will have) is my family. Being a hardcore programmer and spending 18 hours a day either coding or partying does sound like fun, but that fun has it’s price – a proper social life and relationships with loved ones. It does touch a bit on this in the book – Romero’s marriage and the effect that working crunch hours had on everyone.

Was it worth the read, and would I recommend it? For someone who is interested in the history of Id software and who is OK with a bit of terse language, I’d recommend it.


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