Doom and Gaming History
Right now, I’m reading ‘Masters of Doom,’ about how John Carmack and John Romero created id software and essentially created the PC action gaming industry. It’s kind of surreal to be reading this narrative about their company, and be thinking, “Wait, I played Commander Keen. I played Wolfenstein 3D. I remember getting Doom shareware.” It’s like reading a book about the masters of painting, and being like “Oh yeah, I remember when Leonardo came out with the Mona Lisa, that was a pretty sweet summer.”
Video gaming is just such a young industry, and it’s incredible how much connection we have to our history. Most of the names that built the foundation of gaming are still making games today. Many of these early games are still fun to play, and still have active communities. Furthermore, it’s incredible how far and how fast we’ve come. In 1990, Carmack overcame a seemingly insurmountable technical hurdle – scrolling the screen left to right. 20 years later – one generation! – and we’ve got the near-photorealism of Crysis.
I hope the next 20 years bring an even greater leap in games – but I also hope we stay connected to our history.
Edit: I just finished the book, and I realize that there’s a disadvantage to studying history in such a young industry, too: it’s not done. Masters of Doom was published in 2003. It ends with id in the process of making Doom 3, and Romero just starting up Monkeystone Games. And their stories are continuing; Carmack is only 39, Romero 42. These guys have decades of games left in them. So while Masters of Doom is a great read, it feels a bit like id’s shareware model for Doom: it’s just the first episode of a much longer story.