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Masters of Doom by David Kushner

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture
by David Kushner
Random House, 2003

Just about everyone has heard of Doom, id Software's groundbreaking and controversial first-person shoot-'em-up. No one outside of the gaming community is likely to know the names "John Carmack" and "John Romero," id's co-founders.

That pretty much consigns Masters of Doom to the remainder piles in about six months or so. Gamers who keep up with the industry gossip on fan websites might feel like they already know everything in the book, and non-gamers aren't really given a reason to care by Kushner, someone too close to the culture to be an effective tour guide. And Kushner's book is sloppily edited, as well. People and companies such as DWANGO are introduced a couple of pages after having been casually referenced, and at least one paragraph is cut off at page's end.

All that said, Masters of Doom is an interesting historical look at the state of the PC gaming industry from the late '80s to today. You get to see a lot of technology being born, young programmers coping with success with dysfunctional hacker personalities, and a decent philosophical conflict between Art and Work Ethic. The political fallout from the Columbine and Paducah tragedies aren't explored as much as they might have -- as a gamer Kushner's biases are on the table -- but the business conflicts are engrossingly detailed, as are the psychology and sociology of game programmers, hackers, and twentysomethings hunched in computer labs shouting "Suck it down!" to their networked opponents.

Plus, a real-life battle axe is used to great effect.

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in today's gamer culture, and especially to anyone already familiar enough to get the inside references.


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I think the last book you finished that quickly was one of the Harry Potters.

My husband the geek :-)