Masters of Doom
Doom, the video game in which you navigate a dungeon in the first person and messily lay waste to everything that crosses your path, represented a milestone in many areas. It was a technical landmark, in that its graphics engine delivered brilliant performance on ordinary PC hardware. It was a social phenomenon, with individuals and companies hooking up networks specifically for Doom tournaments and staying up for days to blast away on them (well before the Internet went big-time). The game's publisher, id Software, used an unusual shareware marketing strategy (give away the first levels, charge for the more advanced ones) that worked very well. On top of it all, the gore-filled game raised serious questions about decency in products meant for use by school-age kids. Masters of Doom explores the Doom phenomenon, as well as the lives and personalities of the two men behind it: John Carmack and John Romero.
This book manages, for the most part, to keep clear of the breathless techno-hagiography style that characterizes many books with similar subjects. He tells the story of Carmack, Romero, and id--which includes far more than Doom and its successors--in novel style, and he's done a good job of keeping the action flowing and the characters' motivations clear. Some of the quoted passages of dialog sound like idealized reconstructions that probably never came from the lips of real people, but this is an entertaining and informative book, of interest to anyone who's let rip with a nail gun. --David Wall