Video Games' Most Interesting Man: John Carmack

Even before he left high school, John Carmack was an unusual kind of badass.
Video Games' Most Interesting Man: John Carmack

When you hear that John Carmack is the guy who coded DOOM, you probably picture him as a geeky dude bent over an Apple II in the early '90s with big glasses and no deodorant. And most of that is actually pretty true- he is geeky, he does have big glasses, and why wouldn't he work on an Apple II? But unlike other geeky game development icons, John Carmack didn't lead a milquetoast life of solitary pursuits indoors; he seems to have a charisma that makes the usual rules of the world not apply to him and gets him into truly odd situations.

Even before he left high school, John Carmack was an unusual kind of badass. At 14, he and a group of friends decided that they would break into a nearby school and steal all of its computers. Why? The only explanation Carmack gives is that back then he was, "an amoral little jerk." The real question is "How?" Surely you can just break in through a window, grab some computers and get out, right? Wrong. The school had a silent alarm that would go off if any of the windows were opened, an alarm that Carmack was wise to. 

And this is where he proves himself as the wildest of this group of rowdy teen burglars: Carmack designs a mixture of Vaseline and thermite to use to melt away the windows and get in without setting off the silent alarms. So imagine at 14 being smart enough to make homemade thermite and dumb enough to use it to rob computers with your friends. Your dumb friends, it turns out, since one of them couldn't fit through the thermite hole and just popped open a window next to it … setting off the silent alarm and getting them all caught.

Med Chaos/Wiki Commons

Thermite and Vaseline is the original recipe for Icy Hot.

Carmack calmed down a little bit when he became a professional programmer and a true corporate drone at his gaming company, id Software. But Carmack settling down didn't mean the same thing as it does for you or me. For instance, every day from 1995 until 2010, Carmack would order a medium pepperoni pizza for delivery to the id office. And every single day for 15 years, it was delivered by the exact same person. This person seems to have continued working at that Domino's to deliver John his pizzas. Obviously, the price of a pizza changed a lot over 15 years, but you wouldn't know it at id because, for some weird reason, this random-ass Domino's franchise was so charmed by Carmack that they continued to charge him the 1995 price the whole time. This man is literally more alluring than the profit motive, and his whims more powerful than inflation. We must elect him President.

Nothing Carmack does is the regular way of doing things. Did he meet his wife through a friend? At a bar? No, he met his wife because she challenged him to run an all-women Quake tournament; he doubted that it would get traction, she called his bluff, and after the huge tournament was over, they started dating. When Quake had its first nationwide tournament, an absolute landmark gaming achievement, did Carmack's company put up a huge prize pool of money? Absolutely not, that's the only reasonable thing to do, so instead, Carmack gave the winners his own car. The dude didn't tell anyone he knew Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu until Joe Rogan asked about it.

Carmack may not have the star power of modern game designers, but he is absolutely one of the most unexpected people alive.

Top Image: id Software

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