Many things defined the 90′s: Generation X, Kurt Cobain, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, just to name a few. But perhaps the most controversial phenomenon, as well as the most influential, was Doom, a PC game made by id Software released in the winter of 1993. It was an instant cultural sensation, as people hadn’t seen this kind of visceral and violent action ever before. The graphics were head and shoulders above all other PC games, the action was so fast one could hardly keep up, and there was so much blood and gore, it made parents and politicians fearful for their children. David Kushner in his book, Masters of Doom, explores the origins of id Software and its two highly talented founders, John Romero and John Carmack. Anyone who even has a remote interest about PC gaming in the 90′s owes it to themselves to read this fascinating story.
Masters of Doom is about two exceptionally gifted people, John Romero and John Carmack, and how their diverging personalities led to their ultimate success as well as their inevitable separation. Romero represented total chaos, while Carmack signified total order. They were the perfect fit, and with their two wildly different viewpoints were able to create a video game that will go down in the annals as one of the greatest games ever made.
The beauty of Doom is that it was the perfect game for its time. Teens in the 90′s were angry at how society cast them away as pariahs. And what better way to vent your frustration and anger at the world than to shoot ugly demons in their faces, turning them into a bloody pulp. Doom was a game that completely encapsulated what kids were going through at the time: angst, uncertainty, and a whole lot of violence.
At its core, Masters of Doom is a piece of journalism. It is all factual and is simply shedding light onto past events. However, Kushner does attempt to weave a tale into it by giving dialogue and character interaction. This not only helps the book stay interesting, but also helps in keeping it a nice and easy read.
Unfortunately, for those who do not care about the subject matter will get very little out of Masters of Doom. There’s a number of references and technical jargon that will not stick to those who are not intimately familiar with the video game industry. On the other hand, to those who are interested, Masters of Doom is an enthralling book that details how two brilliant developers were able to create a cultural phenomenon.