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How John Carmack Achieved a Net Worth of $50 Million

John Carmack

Game design has developed exponentially within the last couple of decades, and it’s all because of the vision, talent, and hard work of people like John Carmack. Carmack is a computer game designer best known for his work with id Software and for programming the Doom engine. He has pioneered genres in computer games and influenced much of how gaming is today. Carmack has found tremendous success in his passion, and he has inspired another generation of game designers to pursue the path he did. Throughout his career, Carmack has achieved a substantial net worth of $50 million. Here’s a closer look into his life and his achievement.

Early life

Born on August 20, 1970 in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, John D. Carmack II was always destined for computers. His father, Stan Carmack, was a local TV news reporter. Carmack discovered his interest and curiosity about computers at a young age. His first introduction to video games happened in 1978 when he was only 8 years old. It was during a family summer vacation when he first played Space Invadersat the arcades. He was hooked at that point. Then a couple of years later, he discovered Pac-Manand was forever changed. At an age when young kids mostly look up to athletes or musicians, Carmack was instead inspired and motivated by the work of Super Mario’screator, Shigeru Miyamoto.

In fact, he was moved by his passion at such a young age that it sometimes drove him into trouble. There’s a story from Carmack’s youth that demonstrates the almost careless and sometimes reckless ingenuity he possessed. When he was 14 years old, Carmack was arrested for trying to break into his school along with his peers. The goal was to steal Apple II computers, and Carmack created a substance using Vaseline and thermite in order to open the windows. Someone in his group tripped a silent alarm, and the rest was history. Carmack was arrested and sent to a juvenile home for an entire year. What was interesting about these events was the fact that Carmack was sent for a psychiatric evaluation. He was evaluated to have no empathy and was even described as “brain on legs”.


After high school, Carmack attended the University of Missouri—Kansas City. However after only two semesters, Carmack decided to withdraw in order to pursue real work as a freelance programmer. His first job was for a Louisiana-based computer company called Softdisk. Carmack was hired to work on a computer publication called Softdisk G-S. This time of his life was important because this was where Carmack met some of his future collaborators in id Software, John Romero and Adrian Carmack. John Carmack’s team would eventually be assigned to another publication, Gamer’s Edge, before they started exploring other pursuits.

id Software

Carmack was still working for Softdisk when he started work on the first Commander Keen games along with his team. This was in 1990 and Carmack was only 20 years old. Soon after, Carmack left Softdisk in order to start his own company. In 1991, Carmack, Romero, Adrian Carmack, and Tom Hall founded id Software. Throughout his time with id Software, Carmack pioneered various techniques in computer graphics. He pioneered the use of adaptive tile refresh on Commander Keen. This technique is used widely on side-scrolling video games and was developed by Carmack to compensate for the poor PC graphics at the time. Carmack also popularized the use of ray casting in 3D games. iD Software’s game, Doom, was the first game to ever use binary space partitioning.

Carmack invented other programming and graphics technologies for other iD Software games. Some of these include surface caching, Carmack’s Reverse, and MegaTexture technology. All of these programming developments have helped Carmack and his company create some of the most profitable video games in the last few decades including Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Rage, and a few others. In addition to the profits he made through the games, his programs have also been licensed by other game developers to create some of the most influential games in gaming culture including Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Half-Life.


After 22 years of working for id Software, Carmack left in 2013 to work for Oculus VR full time as the company CTO. During this time in Carmack’s career, he experienced some difficulty dealing with ZeniMax, id Software’s parent company. Carmack sued ZeniMax in 2017 for the $22.5 million that was owed to him for the purchase of id Software. The suit was resolved in 2018, and soon after Carmack left Oculus VR to step down into a Consulting CTO role. At this point in his life, he wanted to shift his creative focus once more towards a new endeavor, AGI—artificial general intelligence.

Personal life

Throughout his career, Carmack has made millions through his programming designs and software. He has done numerous speaking engagements, interviews, and even publications. Carmack is a recognized and award-winning programmer that has touched the lives of millions through his work. Among many of his awards, Carmack is a recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Developers Conference, an Honorary Doctorate from the college he dropped out from, and even 2 Emmy Awards for Broadcast Television technology that he developed. He’s an active philanthropist and an advocate for open-source software. He’s a known pizza fan, and he’s ordered so much pizza from Dominos while at id Software that the pizza company continued to charge him pizza prices from 1995 for over 15 years. Carmack spends his fortune on his Ferrari hobby and his aerospace pursuit. He is a husband and a father, and he spends much of his time now enjoying the fruits of his labor. With $50 million to spare, Carmack can essentially do what he wants, including order as much pizza as possible.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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