The Man Behind the Phenomenon
John Carmack is a man who almost needs no introduction - a founder of id software, the company that invented the first person shooter and single handedly revolutionized what PC action gaming means. From Commander Keen to Doom to Quake, Carmack/id's games have captivated millions of bleary eyed gamers into spending hours on end at the computer, blasting away at their on screen opponents.
Late last December, Firingsquad and Gamers.com had the unique opportunity to conduct a lengthy face to face interview with John Carmack. We took the opportunity to find out more about John the man as opposed to John the programmer. We also asked John about his and id's plans for the future as well as his take on the gaming industry and where it might be headed. Questions are in bold; John's responses are in plain text.
Firingsquad: So how old are you?
FS: Do you think that being married will detract from your programming?
John: No, I wouldn't be getting married if I thought that.
FS: So what's a typical date between you and Anna [Kang]?
John: Lately we've been building some model rockets. I did an interview one time and someone asked me about my teenage years, and I mentioned rockets and bombs and stuff like that. And I was thinking, you know, that was kind of fun, I liked that. Of course nowadays you can just go on the internet and say "I want one of these and one of these and one of these." They now have powerful rockets that we never had back when I was doing it - these high powered rockets with something like 2000 Newton/seconds of thrust!
FS: Do you and Anna ever 1on1 deathmatch?
John: Just yesterday we were out at Apple, and Anna was playing one of the Apple guys - she was kicking his ass. I was in a meeting with some other people, so they were playing for a while, and she was just waling on him. But then when I finished that meeting, they snuck me into that guy's room and they sat me down and I came back to a narrow victory. I expected to hear her cursing from the other side of the building. She still thought it was the other guy magically acquiring skills at the end of the game!
FS: I've read some earlier interviews where you said you were into bombs and stuff. You were a miscreant kid, right?
John: Yeah in a lot of ways…I looked back and I was an arrogant little
jerk when I was a teenager. I matured over the years and when I look back now, I
don't think THAT highly of myself as a teenager. I mean, I was really
smart, I was already programming computers in a lot of ways. But I was
amoral at many times.
FS: What would you say if you were giving advice to people who have kids like you in their school?
John: Well I already knew exactly what I wanted to be doing. I wanted
to be programming, and I knew this even when I was around 12. I knew that
that's what I wanted to be doing and I had these clear ideas of what I
wanted to get. You can't just say the world owes me whatever I want to
get. But there are times when some things are necessary to help a kid
along. My parents never really understood that about me, so I never got the
computers I wanted and needed. I held that against my mother for like a
decade, but we're all past that now
It was frustrating because I clearly knew what I wanted to be doing but
it wasn't available to me at the time. It was always: if you want to do
computers you need to go to MIT then you go work at a corporation as an
engineer and follow "the path." But I dropped out of college, and started
my own company. My brother followed a more conventional path. He got a
degree and became a stock broker and that's what my mother expected that
you're supposed to do. And he's doing OK for himself, but there's nothing
like a few Ferarris to rub your parents face in."
I can say that everything's fine with my mother at this point in my life. We can talk about these things, look back and she recognizes that she was kinda wrong, but what good does that do? She's not raising another child or anything.