John Carmack


Born on August 20, 1970, Atheist of the Week John Carmack is the co-founder/lead technical director of the controversial yet pioneering game development house, id Software. In his youth, Carmack took an active interest in computers. A rebellious testament to this developing passion: at the age of 14, he was sentenced to a year in a juvenile home – the crime? Breaking into a school to steal some old-school Apple II computers! This rebellious streak would continue into his entrepreneurship in 1990, when he and members of his programming team at Softdisk would “borrow” unused company computers over the weekends, using them to demonstrate an innovative new graphical rendering technique which he had developed.

Soon enough, Carmack and three fellow Softdisk employees/programmers would leave the company to create id Software. From it’s inception on February 1, 1991, John Carmack has been the core of id’s technological development, over the years writing software enabling his company (and licensees of their software) to continually raise the standard of graphical detail, gameplay mechanisms, and of course, ultraviolence seen in games.

Carmack’s/id’s creations have therefore seen their fair share of controversies. Starting with Wolfenstein 3D, which has been banned in Germany, along with it’s subsequent iterations, id’s popular franchises (think DOOM and Quake) have stirred the attention of those who cry, “Censorship!”, “Think of the CHILDREN!”, and other moronic platitudes. The controversy started when Wolfenstein 3D was banned in Germany for it’s use of the Nazi symbols, despite the fact that the player fights Nazi soldiers throughout the game (the final boss turns out to be Adolf Hitler himself, encased in a robotic suit). When DOOM was released back in ’93, it immediately set the bar for immersive environments and visceral depictions of pixilated gore, and became a landmark in the history of video games. Since then, the property has become notorious for it’s use of satanic imagery, and of course it’s violence, having been called a “mass-murder” simulator. Then it was found that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who carried out the Columbine High School Massacre, were avid players of DOOM, and the game became just one cultural scapegoat among others in an attempt by the media to paint a simplified picture of psychopathy for the masses to swallow.

(id’s games have nonetheless become far more realistic, and violent over the years, along with a slew of other developers’ first-person shooters. The genre has garnered millions of sane players, yet because of several psychopaths who played first-person shooters, the whole gaming community is under fire from angry family values groups and opportunistic politicians. You know that immersive virtual-reality simulators will the make simple-minded culture police go completely ape-shit!)

Perhaps Carmack’s counter cultural streak has always been in line with his nontheism, or perhaps his nontheism has played a hand in the direction that his games have taken. Judging by this quote, he seems to be right at home with the best of us, in that his nontheism is coupled with a skepticism towards all forms of mysticism in general:


“Having a reasonable grounding in statistics and probability and no belief in luck, fate, karma, or god(s), the only casino game that interests me is blackjack.”

Ah, such sentiments bring tears of concurrence to the eyes.


Until next week!

Comments (7 comments)

Rasputin / August 22nd, 2007, 7:58 pm / #1

See, blackjack is the wrong game. In blackjack you’re playing against an entity which does have a reasonable grounding in statistics and probability. In poker you’re playing against the kind of people who think sevens are running hot tonight.

Advantage: Poker

John B. / August 23rd, 2007, 9:12 am / #2

Rasputin is correct, but let me say this in defense of Blackjack: If you are someone who may have difficulty hiding emotions, poker becomes more problematic (I am guessing this would include me)! Also, while the odds are not quite as good in Blackjack as Poker (assuming you are a good Poker player and stick to playing inferior ones) at least with Blackjack you have the peace of mind of taking “house money” instead of another guy or gal like you. Altogether Blackjack is better for those of us with emotional issues! :)

Back to Carmack, Thanks for another good post Shady. I had to read it as soon as I saw we had the same birthday – just a “few” years apart!

John P / August 23rd, 2007, 11:49 am / #3

And he shares my wife’s Birthday, with a 16 year difference.

John B. / August 23rd, 2007, 9:58 pm / #4

And he shares MY wife’s anniversary with me (got married on my birthday) with a 13 year difference!

Sorry Shady! We’ll stop now. John P can’t top me on that one. BLACKJACK! Black Sun! John Carmack! OK, back on topic.

BlackSun / August 24th, 2007, 12:37 pm / #5

@ Rasputin, good point. But I also think with poker, as John B said, it’s so much about betting strategy, reading people, and psyching them out that it’s no longer a game of chance. Of course blackjack has elements of skill also, but since you’re playing against the house, it’s not such a level playing field. I enjoy both games, but I’m not good enough to consistently win.

@ John B, LOL, you’d think with a handle like BlackSun, I’d be a better blackjack player. I do usually have fun and it takes me quite a while to lose all the money. I try to find the lowest stakes table possible. The more people playing, the better. I’ll never forget the very worst blackjack wipeout I ever had is when I was playing with only one other person against the dealer. He wiped us out in about 10 minutes.

shady character / August 25th, 2007, 2:57 pm / #6

Hey! Thanks for the replies. I don’t play cards that often, but I do love to play when there’s a game going.

Chess is really my thing :)

John B. / August 27th, 2007, 1:14 pm / #7

Black Sun said: “I’ll never forget the very worst blackjack wipeout I ever had is when I was playing with only one other person against the dealer. He wiped us out in about 10 minutes. ”

I’ve had a few of those over the past 30 plus years of doing runs out to Vegas! I now play EXCLUSIVELY low stakes!

Shady said: “Chess is really my thing”

Oh that’s SUCH a game of CHANCE!! :)

Post a comment

Comments are closed for this post.