MASTERS OF DOOM: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

David Kushner, Author . Random $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-375-50524-9

Long before Grand Theft Auto swept the video gaming world, whiz kids John Romero and John Carmack were shaking things up with their influential—and sometimes controversial—video game creations. The two post-adolescents meet at a small Louisiana tech company in the mid-1980s and begin honing their gaming skills. Carmack is the obsessive and antisocial genius with the programming chops; Romero the goofy and idea-inspired gamer. They and their company, id, innovate both technologically and financially, finding ways to give a PC game "side-scrolling," which allows players to feel like action is happening beyond the screen, and deciding to release games as shareware, giving some levels away gratis and enticing gamers to pay for the rest. All-nighters filled with pizza, slavish work and scatological humor eventually add up to a cultural sea change, where the games obsess the players almost as much as they obsess their creators. Fortunately, journalist Kushner glosses over Carmack and Romero's fame, preferring to describe the particulars of video game creation. There are the high-tech improvements—e.g., "diminished lighting" and "texture-mapping"—and pop cultural challenges, as when the two create an update of the Nazi-themed shooter Castle Wolfenstein. The author gives his subjects much leeway on the violence question, and his thoroughness results in some superfluous details. But if the narration is sometimes dry, the story rarely is; readers can almost feel Carmack and Romero's thrill as they create, particularly when they're working on their magnum opus, Doom. After finishing the book, readers may come away feeling like they've just played a round of Doom themselves, as, squinting and light-headed, they attempt to re-enter the world. (May 13)

Reviewed on: 04/28/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-31345-2
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 219 pages - 978-1-58836-289-6
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-8129-7215-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-943499-01-4
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