“Video games are a young medium.” This is a common refrain among those who study them. I know I’ve said it on multiple occasions. Of course, this conventional wisdom ignores the fact that we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of Spacewar! and the 40th anniversary of the Magnavox Odyssey. Additionally, thanks to the realities of business and technology, video games age in dog years; the difference between a game made in 2001 and one made in 2011 is much more apparent than two films or novels of similar vintages. The time to start writing the history of the medium has long since passed.
Thankfully, David Kushner realized this. His 2003 book, Masters of Doom, chronicles the birth of id Software and the tumultuous rise of two industry legends: John Carmack and John Romero. It’s a comprehensive book, one that straddles multiple lines: academic writing vs. literary storytelling, a focus on the medium vs. video games’ broader cultural significance, biographical detail vs. a holistic view of the industry. It’s a difficult task, but Kushner rises to the challenge and creates a work that demonstrates both the many changes and recurring themes in the medium.