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Gaming Gods: John Carmack

In this slightly belated Gaming Gods, I bring you the God that is John D. Carmack, Co-founder of id Software.

Born on August 20th 1970 in Roeland Park, Kansas, USA. Carmac was the son of a local television news reporter (Stan Carmack), and he grew up in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. From an early age he showed an interest in computers, and – as reported in ‘Masters of Doom’ by David Kushner, – when Carmack was 14, he broke into a school to help a group of kids steal Apple II computers. During this break in one of the kids set off the silent alarm and John was arrested.  He was then sent for a psychiatric evaluation where it was reported that he had “no empathy for other human beings.” When asked “if you had not been caught, would you consider doing it again” Carmack replied “yes, probably,” however, the therapist didn’t include that in his report. Carmack was sentenced to a year in a juvenile home for committing the crime.

John Carmack

Carmack then went on to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City for 2 years before dropping out to become a freelance programmer.

Softdisk, a computer company in Shreveport, Louisiana, hired Carmack to work on the Softdisk G-S (an Apple IIGS publication), which united him with John Romero and Adrian Carmack (no relation). This team would later be put in charge of a new, but short-lived, bi-monthly game subscription product called Gamer’s Edge. In 1990, while still at Softdisk, Carmack, Romero and others created the first of the Commander Keen games, a series which was published by Apogee Software. Afterwards, Carmack left Softdisk to co-found id Software, where he still remains.

Over the years Carmack pioneered, and popularised, the use of many techniques in gaming, including adaptive tile refresh, Carmack Reverse and many more. Adaptive Tile Refresh is a clever piece of programming which meant that only pieces of the game which have moved get refreshed, which means that transitions would be quicker and more efficient, since the program isn’t refreshing everything at once. Carmack Reverse is named after a variation of Shadow Volume, which is how a program determines the use of shadows in a game.

Carmack’s engines have been licensed for use in other influential first person shooter games such as Half-life, Call of Duty and Medal of Honour.

Doom Logo

Carmack is a leading role behind many of the most popular first person shooters of all time. Doom, Rage, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D are just a few of the titles he can put his name to. As stated in a previous article, Wolfenstein 3D is considered to be the birth of the first person shooter, with Doom being the game that made it popular. Having either of those landmarks to your name would be an achievement, but Carmack can claim both.

Carmack has achieved numerous awards in his life, including the lifetime achievement award at the Game Developers Conference in 2010, an induction into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame (the 4th person to be inducted), and being named as the most influential person in computer gaming of the year in 1996, to name but a few.

So there you go, a brief glimpse into the amazing life of the father of the First Person Shooter. His games have cemented themselves into the bedrock of history and culture, and his imaginative programming ideas have been used in many of the current games within the FPS genre. This is why I have named him as one of our Gaming Gods, and he has secured himself a seat on our throne.

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