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Book review – Masters of Doom

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

By David Kushner

I used to be a very avid gamer, and I would estimate I’ve spent thousands of hours of my youth playing the Doom and Quake games. They were fantastically immersive and exciting. But I haven’t seriously touched a game in years, not through any deliberate action nor is it something I’m particularly bothered about, I just naturally found less time for games. These days if I do have a few spare minutes its usually programming that I spend my time doing. But I do have one thing to thank this book for and that is reigniting my passion for reading, something that if I’m honest I’ve spent far less of my life doing than gaming.

This book covers in equal measure the social, technical and game industry related aspects of the history of id Software. It closely follows the lives of John Romero and John Carmack, two of the founding members of id Software that have gained incredible ‘rock-star’ notoriety. Though times have very much changed since they started out, this book still has some relevant themes which resonate today. The author carefully navigates the history of the company remaining neutral without casting any aspersions, leaving you to make your own mind up about the what can be learned from what happened. And ultimately though this neutral stance removes some of the tension and suspense, the story stands up as an enjoyable one nonetheless.

The book really gives you a sense of the success that these quirky ‘nerds’ had at a time when there was no Big Bang Theory and ‘nerd’ culture. They overcame some of the difficult times they experienced to not only develop amazing pieces of software, but become Ferrari driving celebrities in their own right (whether they celebrated their new found popularity or not).

Masters of Doom also reminds you of the fact that games were instrumental in the progress of new ideas like open source software and community driven software development. I almost forgot how many expansion packs and extra levels there were available online for these games, which secured them a much longer shelf life – I even made a few (pretty poor!) add-ons myself.

I can thoroughly recommend Masters of Doom, and as it has got me reading books again of all kinds (biographies, fiction and software related) I may well post similar book reviews in future.

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