Legendary game developer John Carmack explained what Steve Jobs was really like: a hero/jerk ‘roller coaster’

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Legendary game developer John Carmack, the co-creator of classics like “Doom” and “Quake,” took to Facebook on Monday to recount stories of what it was like to grow up worshipping Steve Jobs and Apple — and then up getting to work so closely with him.

Those stories span the decades, from Carmack’s early career up to Jobs’ death from pancreatic cancer in 2011. Some of them are englightening, and some of them are harsh. But the biggest takeaway, says Carmack: Most of the nice things you heard about Jobs were true, but most of the mean things were, too.

“I corroborate many of the negative character traits that he was infamous for, but elements of the path that led to where I am today were contingent on the dents he left in the universe,” wrote Carmack.

Here’s the full post, for you to peruse directly:

Carmack was often called in to consult with Apple on the video game industry. He writes that he often struggled when he worked with Jobs, because the Apple cofounder didn’t really take video games seriously, but still felt comfortable trying to argue with him about the underlying technology.

“It was often frustrating, because he could talk, with complete confidence, about things he was just plain wrong about,” Carmack said.

Otherwise, the two crossed paths many times, Carmack says, especially since he was a frequent presenter at Apple keynotes. One time, Jobs even tried to get Carmack to reschedule his own wedding so he could present at an Apple event. His wife quickly put the kibosh on that, Carmack writes.

And the next day, you’re out

But the most revealing story he told was of their final blow-up. Right after a keynote, Carmack was lobbying Jobs into giving game developers a better way to program games directly for the iPhone’s operating system. The two got into a heated argument over it.

“People were backing away from us. If Steve was mad, Apple employees didn’t want him to associate the sight of them with the experience,” Carmack wrote. In 2009, he commented on his roller coaster relationship with Apple to Kotaku, and how Apple wasn’t keen that the iPhone was becoming a video game machine.

“The Steve Jobs ‘hero/sh*thread’ roller coaster was real and after riding high for a long time, I was now on the down side,” he wrote.

John Carmack, circa 2010

Wikimedia Commons/Official GDC

When Apple did release a software development kit for games to be programmed directly on the iPhone, Jobs didn’t allow Carmack to be sent an early copy, he writes.

Carmack went on to create another great game for the iPhone, which was well received within Apple, he said. Jobs tried to call him but he was busy and declined the call. After Jobs’ health declined, Carmack tried, but couldn’t find the words to reach out and he still regrets that to his day.

But except for his wedding and the one hang-up, Carmack says he pretty much dropped everything whenever Jobs called. And in the end, he describes their rollercoaster relationship in five simple words:

“I showed up for him.”

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