HC.Gamer: You started your career as a level designer at id Software. How did the decision come to leave them and found your own company, to make your own games?
American Mcgee: I did not leave id, I was fired.
Yeah, I just go straight for the jugular there. It always strikes me as odd how people dance around the subject of my “departure” from id. You would think by now that everyone out there who has followed any of the goings-on at id would realize that very few people have ever left that company voluntarily. I’m not embarassed of the fact that I was fired. Hell, when it happened, after an initial period of reasonable shock, I was quite *happy*.
I recently read an article which made mention of the “retirement” of Adrian Carmack from id. To be honest, I had no idea that he’d left in the first place. The article stated that the public version was that he’d taken a voluntary retirement. Makes sense. I mean, how many demon skulls can a guy draw? As it turns out the truth behind his exit was a lot messier. Seems that the vicious internal politics at id finally caught up with him and the other owners “squeezed him out.” Part of their effort to remove him apparently included tracking the hours he worked and eliminating profit dividends (quarterly employee bonuses based on internal review).
Sounds familiar. Same thing happened to Romero. Same thing happened to just about everyone who was let go from id. I wonder if any of the remaining owners see a pattern emerging. I wonder if they care.
The truth is that every firing has had some merit. Everyone that was let go was suffering some form of burnout. I imagine Adrian’s case is no different (although I could be wrong). My problem was that, even though I knew I was burned out, I couldn’t fathom the idea of walking away from such a secure position. So I stayed on, limping along, suffering various abuses, until the owners mercifully ended it.
Funny thing about all this… Adrian *really* hated me. The entire time I worked at id he projected this grudge towards me that to this day is still a mystery. When I was fired I waited until after receiving my final check to ask him, “What did you have against me?” He responded that there wasn’t enough time in the world to explain it. Oh well.
Hey Adrian, the good news is that there is life after id. You might have to learn how to draw something other than demon skulls though.
Read the full Bad Day LA interview here.