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  • Masters of Doom

  • How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture
  • Written by: David Kushner
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (138 ratings)

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Masters of Doom

Written by: David Kushner
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
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Publisher's Summary

Masters of Doom is the amazing true story of the Lennon and McCartney of video games: John Carmack and John Romero. Together, they ruled big business. They transformed popular culture. And they provoked a national controversy. More than anything, they lived a unique and rollicking American Dream, escaping the broken homes of their youth to produce the most notoriously successful game franchises in history - Doom and Quake - until the games they made tore them apart. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, commerce and artistry - a powerful and compassionate account of what it's like to be young, driven, and wildly creative.

©2003 David Kushner (P)2012 Audiobooks.com

What the critics say

"Compelling . . . Masters of Doom succeeds on several levels. It's just great storytelling, with perfect pacing, drama and characterization. It's also an excellent business book, a cautionary tale with the kind of insider detail that other writers working in the genre should envy." ( Houston Chronicle)
“Kushner’s mesmerizing tale of the Two Johns moves at a rapid clip . . . describing the twists and turns of fate that led them to team up in creating the most powerful video games of their generation. . . . An exciting combination of biography and technology.” ( USA Today)
“Meticulously researched . . . as a ticktock of the creative process and as insight into a powerful medium too often dismissed as kids’ stuff, Masters of Doom blasts its way to a high score.” ( Entertainment Weekly)

What listeners say about Masters of Doom

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phenomenal

very interesting story about 2 legendary johns. i as a gamer and programmer really enjoyed it. but anybody will as well.

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Simply amazing!!!

This read is a must for any fan or young kid that use to play Doom in the 90s.

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Wil Wheaton doing voices takes me out of it

Excellent book, my only complaint is that Wil Wheaton is not even close to being a passable voice actor. His character voices at certain points makes me want to commit not alive

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A fantastic deep dive into id Software

I'm a life-long hardcore gamer and love hearing about the behind the scenes history of some of the medium's most storied developers. This book is a fantastic one of those. It goes into the origins, meteoric rise and ultimately, the internal fracturing of id Software, one of the industry's most successful and important studios.

While it's probably best appreciated by people into gaming and the business of it like I am, it's written such that anyone can listen to it and understand what's being discussed. It doesn't require you to be deep into gaming to get the gist of it, not at all. Much like other creative industries, gaming is full of ego and drama and this shows what can happen when you reach stardom quickly.

Wil Wheaton overall does a good job presenting it, though he makes several mispronunciations and outright mistakes in his reading that the producers didn't catch. Very minor though and doesn't detract in a significant way.

If you love the history of gaming or are just curious about it, this is one to listen to.

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Loved it

Video game fans and makers, and anyone interested in entrepreneurship, business and entertainment will love this book.

I love these insider stories of the Wild West that was the young video game industry.

The book is also expertly narrated by the indomitable Wil Weaton, so my fellow nerds will rejoice in that :)

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Politics of self management.

Great story about the beggining of first person shooters. Interesting characters and written for the audience intended. If you are looking for inspiration in pursuing a career in your passion this book is a how-to manual.

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Great story and great performance by the narrator

If you are into video games, this is a must read, so much history that you just need to find out for yourself.

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Wow!! Who knew?

This was well written and well read. Loved the stories and insights. Engaging and fun all the way through.

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John Romero will make you his bitch...

I still remember being a snot nosed kid in the 90s playing doom. It was the start of my love affair with video games. They really were rock stars. Its a shame whats happening to the industry now with the triple A developers and publishers following trends and destroying any credibility they have with consumers with their shady practices. Publishers now suck all the creativity and force games out early all for the bottom line. It was eye opening to see how success and money change people in the industry. Well everyone except Carmack, that dude will be Carmack no matter what. Great narrator with a 90s vibe. Felt like i was there making the game with them.

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Amazing

I've already read the book before and enjoyed it a lot so I decided to give a chance to this audio book, and it was amazing! Will Weathon made me forget that it was him who was reading the book and I imagined like it was the same Romero, Carmack and the other guys who made their own dialogues. This book was the reason I subscribed to audible and I'm very happy with what I listened. Totally recommended!

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  • Ryan
  • 2013-08-27

How it was

While I wasn’t at Id Software or any of its spin-offs, I was part of the videogame industry from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, working at one small company that created a blockbuster hit, as well as several studios that didn’t make it. Much in this book speaks to my personal experience. Learning to program on the Apple II and IBM PC. Getting in touch with the hacker and homebrew community via BBS’s (the real predecessor to the web). Being an eager 20-something for whom coding and life were the same thing. The huge rush of making a game that connects with fans. The politics, ego battles, and emotional burnout that inevitably come with fame, high expectations, and endless project crunch. Kushner seems to have done a thorough job with his research and interviews, and the result is a very honest account of how things were during the last cowboy days of the videogame industry, when a handful of basement coders and artists with no real professional experience could still create a technologically-impressive smash hit game. (Nowadays, you need dozens of developers and tens of millions of dollars -- at least.)

The history of Id Software itself is a definitive story for gamers and gaming. John Romero, John Carmack, and their various partners were basically just passionate young hobbyists with a dream and a lot of faith in themselves. I grew up playing their games years before DOOM came out, and it was a pleasure seeing the crew’s design and programming skills mature with each title. By the time they hit their peak of fame, they had helped push the once clunky PC into a viable gaming platform; invented the first-person shooter and online deathmatching; and opened game development up to casual hobbyists, by making their products relatively easy to customize with mods, tools, and add-ons.

The yin-yang partnership between Carmack and Romero is the central drama here. Romero was a gamer’s gamer, a brash, trash-talking, heavy metal-loving guy bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. Carmack, meanwhile, was an introverted, Aspergian whiz kid with a drive and knack for understanding technology. I can tell you that the games business wouldn’t exist without both types of people (tempered by others), and Masters of Doom casts the two of them as friends who drove each other to greater heights, until their differences became too great for them to get along, and the partnership collapsed. In my opinion, this breakdown was probably inevitable -- fame had given Romero an inflated sense of his own prowess as a game designer, and Carmack was never that interested in game design to begin with (just coding). Both were overtaken by the industry their work had fueled, as pioneers often are. Kushner gives us all the sordid details, though. There’s Romero’s hubris and humiliating downfall post-Id, after the failure of Ion Storm proved that being a rock star doesn’t equate with knowing how to run a company. There’s Carmack’s inability to manage and easily relate to other people, not an uncommon fault in technical geniuses -- though he seems to have since softened around the edges and remains an important innovator.

Being so specific to an era and a subculture, and full of dated technology and game references, this book will speak to some readers more than others, but I think it’s at least skim-worthy for anyone with an interest in gaming or game development. If you don’t tire of the immature antics of young geeks, there are some funny anecdotes, such as the moment when Romero hires a designer who’s a Mormon and keeps putting his foot in his mouth (“At least you’re not one of those crazy Mormons with a ton of kids.” “No, I have five children.” “Okay, well, at least it’s not ten kids and you’re not one of the ones that wears the magic underwear.” “No, I’ve got it on right here”. Etc...) And the tale of Carmack’s commitment to the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, to the point of destroying his own labored-over world after Romero acquires and unleashes a world-ending weapon, is telling.

As a former game developer, I urge anyone aspiring to that field to absorb the lessons here. Between them, the members of Id had many instructive successes, disappointments, and failures.

I should mention that Will Wheaton is brilliant as an audiobook narrator, his boyish enthusiasm a perfect fit for the subject matter. Sometimes he gets so carried away in his excitement, his voice actually cracks. He also does some amusing vocal affectations, from the nasally, “concerned parent” voice of an organization opposed to videogame violence, but not having much of a clue about how gamers really think or act, to a suitably cheesy “dungeon master” intonement of the bad writing in the introduction to one of Carmack’s early games.

A riveting read for the right audience. I was tripping on memories all the way through.

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  • Daniel
  • 2013-08-31

Narrator of the Year

Would you consider the audio edition of Masters of Doom to be better than the print version?

Yes. Wil Wheaton was the perfect narrator for this book in so many ways. Imbued with a sincere passion for the subject, his reading of the two John's story is gripping.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Carmack. I personally identify with many of his traits, very forward looking and intellectually curious.

Have you listened to any of Wil Wheaton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not listened to him before.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Commander Keen Must Die.

Any additional comments?

Again, Wil Wheaton made this book absolutely sing. One of the best narrations I have heard in some time.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Keith
  • 2012-11-24

Fun with a twist of mean!

I enjoyed the world that David Kushner painted and enjoyed even more the way Wil Wheaton brought it all to life (he is an extremely talented narrator and if you have not listened to anything else he has narrated, you are missing out in a big way). I spent many lonely and bug-eyed nights playing Doom and its many sequels. I admired the way I could actually download a game and play it for free. I loved killing the demons and then being so hooked that I had to buy the whole game. This is what I loved about the first portion of the book: hearing about others and their experiences with the game. Then we moved on into the in-fighting and the clashes of personality. I was okay with that too. But when they got to the point where they split off and were no longer able to work together (big shocker for such big personalities), I kinda lost interest. I finished it, but often found myself daydreaming instead of listening. But, I will put that squarely on my own shoulders. I found myself psychoanalyzing these guys and trying to put them back together the way they were when they first started. I rooted for the lone programmer whose brilliance behind the keyboard drove the success.

I liked this book. It was a fun primer for the uninitiated (like me) in the story behind the rise, descent, and ultimate destruction of id!

11 people found this helpful

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  • L. Productions
  • 2013-03-24

Excellent work by Kushner + Wheaton

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I absolutely recommend this book. The reporting by David Kushner is thorough and balanced. I didn't like Wil Wheaton before I picked up this title, but the work he does here is incredible. If you are even considering getting this one, just go for it. You won't regret it.

What other book might you compare Masters of Doom to and why?

This book is not unlike Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The teamwork between Jobs and Wozniak in founding Apple and going big with the Apple II is mirrored in the collaboration between John Carmack and John Romero. Anyone interested in the development of modern computer technology should look into both of these tomes.

Have you listened to any of Wil Wheaton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to one other Wil Wheaton performance: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Wheaton did a great job there as well (Ernest Cline's book is somewhat mediocre). The great thing about Masters of Doom is that Wheaton's performance is surpassed by the quality of the text (Wheaton is great though, so it makes for a terrific combination).

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There are a number of inspiring moments where Carmack makes an incredible break through; these just blew me away.

Any additional comments?

I won a badge in the Audible app for listening to the entirety of this book 3 times.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Brian
  • 2012-10-04

Awesome

What made the experience of listening to Masters of Doom the most enjoyable?

A must have for gamers, entrepreneurs, and programmers alike! Though this book is not labeled as an entrepreneurship resource, as a software developer and entrepreneur myself, I place this book above the many other great books in the entrepreneurship/startup category.

7 people found this helpful

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  • TM
  • 2013-12-05

A Great Start-Up Story

Any additional comments?

Whilst I like technology books and books about start-ups, I have little interest in first-person shooter games and have not played the games described in this book more than a handful of times.

However, the book is so well written and the characters are described in such relatable terms, that I inhaled this audiobook in a couple of days.

I recommend it. Enjoy!

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  • Nate C
  • 2012-08-21

Very Intresting

It is amazing what 2 men could/did for an entire industry and pop culture. Having known bits and pieces of the story before this brings it all together and at a great pace. A must for gamers wanting to understand where and how this came to pass.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Connor
  • 2013-08-18

As Addictive as a Video Game

The story of John Romero and John Carmack who were the creators and programmers of popular PC games during the 1990’s. It’s also a book about mixing hard work with fun. The “Two Johns” were successful because of their passion to create PC games that they and their friends would enjoy playing. Fortunately, for the “Johns”, there were many others who also enjoyed these games.

Wil Wheaton, who achieved stardom on Star Trek during the 1990’s, was perfect as narrator.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jason Comely
  • 2013-01-15

If you were ever a fan of Doom or Quake, get this

Masters of Doom was a treat to listen to, and finished it completely in a few short days (I went on extra walks as an excuse to listen to it).

Wil Wheaton nailed the narration and David Kushner really captured the time and the two starkly different personalities in Carmack and Romero.

Glad I took a chance on this. Well worth it!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Fjolnir
  • 2013-01-14

Loved the games and loved the book

This was a surprisingly suspensful story, everybody who is familiar with Doom and Quake should be interested in the story behind the games. I was one of those who were waiting (and waiting and waiting) for John Romero's Daikatana and I finally gave up waiting, now I know what happened!!! The reader gives such a great performance that the book is elevated to a new level. I really liked this one.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Evil Butterfly
  • 2023-01-29

A true storie of one of the first ever startup

The gathering of a technical master and one of the best ever game designer.