John Carmack Gets Life

A Lifetime Achievement award, that is! Just my little joke there. Sorry. You hate me now, don’t you? It’s late and the punning part of my brain has been asleep for hours.

Yes, the idmeister general is be honored with said accolade at the upcoming Game Developers Choice Awards (I swear that should have an apostrophe somewhere), for his “his contributions to the art and science of games”. Which is a rather lovely way of putting it, to my mind. He follows in the gong-grabbing footprints of Will Wright, Sid Meier and that Mario bloke, and can bask in the warm glow of knowing a panel of his esteemed peers – from the likes of Bioware, DICE and Popcap – nominated him for it. Well done, big John. Now go and make sure Rage is brilliant, please.

Details of the award and a spot of Carmackian backstory below…

2010 Game Developers Choice Awards to Honor John Carmack of id Software With Lifetime Achievement Award; Event to be Hosted by Seminal Game Designer Warren Spector

Lead Programmer of Doom and Quake Series and Pioneer of First Person Shooter Genre to Receive Award Honoring Years of Technical and Creative Contributions to Game Development

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 22, 2010 — The 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in video game development, will bestow John Carmack, the technological patriarch and co-founder of id Software, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the art and science of games.

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the career and achievements of developers who have made an indelible impact on the craft of game development, as Carmack has done for his more than two decades of groundbreaking technical contributions, and his role establishing the first-person shooter genre with landmark titles like Doom and Quake.

The recipient is chosen by the elite Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which includes game industry notables such as Ben Cousins (EA DICE), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), John Vechey (PopCap), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), and many others.

Former Game Developers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include Sid Meier, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright – who will be presenting the award to Carmack at the ceremony on March 11, 2010 during Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco – and other legendary game creators.

John Carmack and his team at id Software, the company he co-founded in 1991, pioneered real-time 3D graphics in game, setting the pace and the standard for other developers to follow. Carmack and his colleagues at id are credited with essentially creating the modern-day first-person shooter (FPS) genre with the PC game Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, and helping to popularize networked multiplayer gaming on PCs with the release of Doom in 1993.

id has gone on to create other major FPS and action game franchises such as Quake, and Carmack and id Software are currently in development of a number of projects, including the free-to-play, web-based title Quake Live, the upcoming new franchise RAGE, and DOOM 4.

As a largely self-taught technology purist, Carmack has devoted himself to pushing the limits of hardware and software. He’s helped to set the technical and gameplay standard for modern 3D gaming – and in the process, created some of the most popular video game franchises in history, which is why he’s being honored by the Game Developers Choice Awards this year.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that John Carmack and id Software have had a monumental influence on all modern 3D games, but especially the first-person shooter genre,” says Meggan Scavio, Event Director of GDC. “John is one of the key figures in the history of video games, and we’re delighted to be giving him the Lifetime Achievement award this year.”

Alongside this announcement, Awards organizers are delighted to reveal that Warren Spector will be hosting the Game Developers Choice Awards this year. Spector follows in the footsteps of previous much-loved figures who hosted past Awards such as Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin.


  1. Novotny says:

    I’d pucker up for John Carmack.

  2. PixelCody says:

    Well deserved, props to the man!

  3. Bret says:

    Well good. Having excellent game developers able to stay out in the same streets as civilized folk, well…

    Oh. Right. Award. Well, I suppose it’s some good.

  4. Miker says:

    Carmack definitely deserves the award, even though the last great game he made was Quake 3. And even then he’s mainly known for his engines, and I understand that id Tech 4 wasn’t very well received. Hopefully Rage is good though.

    • PHeMoX says:

      The Doom 3 engine wasn’t that bad received, the initial hype about it was pretty big actually, but it was simply quite limited in what it could do early on. People interested in all kinds of game genres were better off using the Unreal Engine instead, which also is said to have been easier to work with.
      When Unreal Engine 3 came out, the Tech 4 quickly became obsolete.

      I think Carmack deserves this award, but only for his part in Wolfenstein and the very first Quake. I haven’t been a true fan of id Software since Quake 2. ( I liked Soldier of Fortune 1 best of all Quake engine-driven games though).
      I’ve always seen Quake 3 and Quake 3 Arena as bad Unreal Tournament clones, but engine-wise I can’t deny American McG’s Alice was a great game.

      Still doesn’t change the fact that id Software really needs to score with Tech 5 and their RAGE game, they’ve sort of lost it ever since Quake 3.

    • nukke says:

      What the frak are you talking about? id Tech 4 had, hands down, the greatest light-rendering engine seen in a video game at that time, and it was unsurpassed for a couple of years. While it may have not supported big, open areas initially (something that was fixed for Quake 4, albeit there were still problems), it supported a variety of different mapping techniques, including parallax and heavy use of normal mapping, whereas the Source engine, its main competitor at the time, was primarily bump map-based. It’s physics were also topnotch, though were not an essential part of gameplay like Half-Life 2’s.

      Unreal Engine 3.0 came out two years later, when Gears of War was released in late 2006. The problem resided on stubbornness on Carmack’s side: he only wanted to license his engine for products he considered worthy of it.

      Carmack was also a big proponent of open source software, which you can observe with the release of all of his engine’s source code being released to the public free of charge. (id Tech 4’s will be released sometime around this and next year, if all goes well.) That was an innovative part of it and we can all see that it did pay off with thousands of mods and stand-alone games being developed because of this. The impact he has made has been extremely big.

      And regarding Quake 3, it all seems to be a matter of opinion. The game is perhaps the most balanced FPS ever released and is widely popular despite being 10 years old. While it didn’t contain the insane variety of gameplay modes as Unreal Tournament, it certainly perfected the few (deathmatch, team deathmatch and CTF) it had.

      Yes, I am a huge Carmack fan. The man has inspired me to no end.

  5. Deuteronomy says:

    You should try Doom 3. Awesome game that the likes of Bioshock still try and fail to live up to.

    • jarvoll says:

      Though requiring a completely different mindset to the previous Dooms and Quakes, Doom 3 is definitely a good game in its own right. It is also, however, riddled with RETARDED boo! moments that make the playing experience very tiresome. It degrades the game to a cheap “horror” flick, and significantly degraded my enjoyment of the experience. Probably still worth playing though.

    • Nick says:

      I really enjoyed Doom 3.

    • neolith says:

      Each to their own, I guess. I must say that I really hate D3 for its engine, its art direction an its gameplay. Maybe it is just not my game.

    • oceanclub says:

      “You should try Doom 3. Awesome game that the likes of Bioshock still try and fail to live up to.”

      Erm, honestly, is that sarcasm?


    • drewski says:

      One would think so, but I guess YMMV.

      I got bored just after coming back from Hell in Doom 3. It’s so [i]samey[/i]. In contrast, I whipped through Bioshock and as soon as I get a new computer with shiny bells and whistles, I’m probably going to play it again.

    • PHeMoX says:

      No way! Bioshock is a million times more intense!! It has a much more frightening setting and atmosphere and you’ll feel vulnerable in a much more realistic way than in Doom 3 as well.

      Doom 3 easily can be described as the ‘lights out-scream howl-lights on-monster appears’ kind of very fake horror game.

      The first few seconds in that game when things start to go bad, you’ll be impressed by how intense the atmosphere is, I was too, but soon you’ll realize they are constantly relying on that same very very cheap scare-trick.

      An hour or two in the game, you won’t even be scared anymore. Bioshock on the other hand keeps you focused on things a lot longer through it’s story and settings, although admittedly less in a first person shooter fashion.

    • oceanclub says:

      Even if like Carmack, you consider story in a video game irrelelvant, and concentrate just on the combat, Bioshock is several orders of magnitude better. There’s only so many combinations of projectile-weapon vs. single or pair of baddies you can have. Bioshock gives you a whole bundle of weapons, traps and plasmids and enemy types and let’s you go wild. Setting cyclone traps on fire, and shotgunning flaming Brute Splicers as they flew clay-pigeon-style through the air, never got old (it may get old at some point, I’ll have to try it for another few hours to see).


  6. Zealot says:

    Achievement unlocked: Lifetime

  7. Phinor says:

    One of the key people in the whole industry; well deserved. I have mentioned this book called Masters of Doom quite a few times but once again, very much recommended reading if you are interested in id Software, Carmack, Romero, or perhaps all three of them.

  8. liquid says:

    About f****** time. The guy’s a genius if you ask me.

  9. liquid says:

    About f*****g time. The guy’s a genius.

  10. RedFred says:

    I just finished reading Masters of Doom (literally yesterday). The guy is a genius and this is well deserved. However, he sounds like a slight nutcase.

  11. Robsoie says:

    Deserved for his contributions in all those 3D engines that paved the way for many developers since the nineties.

  12. sigma83 says:

    I’d like John Carmack more (I like him a lot already) if I could actually understand what he was talking about even half the time.

  13. Biz says:


    at least this decision makes up for giving newell pioneer award for FPS and modding. that was a complete joke

    lifetime is better than pioneer

  14. pupsikaso says:

    Why is there a blurred penis in the background of that image?

  15. pimorte says:



  16. Seol says:

    I’ll give you a spot of Carmackian backstory:

    “when Carmack was 14, he broke into a school to steal Apple II computers, was arrested, and sent for psychiatric evaluation (the report mentions “no empathy for other human beings”). Carmack was then sentenced to a year in a juvenile home.”

    That alone is deserving the lifetime award :P

    • Heliocentric says:

      So… Video games don’t make sociopaths. Sociopaths make games?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Helio: Really, read Masters of Doom. As a portrait of these people, it’s incredible. The details of the stealing Apple II stuff (I paraphrase: “I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I’d get caught”) are amazing, but the stuff with the cat is what really sticks in your mind.


    • espy says:

      The… cat? Now I’m worried.

  17. Rosti says:

    GDC is good, I suppose, but wouldn’t it be great if we could *talk* to the developers?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Rosti wins the thread!

      Hooray for Carmack. Care little for ID’s games, but the man is made of graphics smarts, even if I’m more of an Epic/Tim Sweeney fanboy enginewise.

  18. Schaulustiger says:

    Well deserved.
    idtech3 is still an impressive achievement, looking good on max settings a whopping 10 years later! The only FPS that does not seem to age, which is pretty unique considering the rest of the genre.

  19. diebroken says:

    Congratulations John, now get back to work! ;)

    /plays DOOM

  20. DXN says:

    For the longest time I pretty much conflated John Carmack and John Romero, so I assumed Carmack was also a big ol’ Andrew-WK-lookin’ foolbag. Now I’ve seen a couple of videos of Carmack doing his thing and it turns out he’s geekily charming, far too clever for me to even begin to comprehend, and rather dashingly attractive. So yay for him! Gratz, in fact!

  21. Carra says:

    I remember seeing him talk about games in one of RPS articles. He’s quite a good teller which catches your attention.

    And of course the man deserves it, he’s a legend. Even though I’d argue that he creates better engines than games.

  22. Jakkar says:

    It all seems a little embarassing. In an industry in its infancy, peopled by less than a hundred ‘known’ developer names, and less than a quarter of them widely known, we have an award being given to Carmack by Spector. It’s like a family giving one another awards for Best Sibling of the Month.

  23. tmp says:

    Bloody well deserved for tech contributions alone.

  24. syllopsium says:

    Personally I’d say the last game he created that was any good was Quake 2. Quake 3? I don’t tend to do multiplayer FPS, so I had zero interest in it.

    Still, even if his output up to Quake 2 was included he’d still be deserving of the award, and regardless of my personal thoughts of Quake 3, id Tech 3 was used as the basis of the excellent Jedi Knight Outcast.

  25. ToXeye says:

    When you said life, i thought you meant the MMO “love”.