Alfonso John Romero, one of the Johns, was born in 1967 in Colorado to an American mother and a second-generation Mexican father. His precocious passion for amusement arcades and video games immensely worried his family who intended a more orthodox career path for him than the one he, as a child, dreamed of pursuing: becoming rich and successful by inventing video games. Romero’s childhood was spent in amusement arcades and playing Dungeons & Dragons, the mythical role-playing game, which to play required nothing more than the rule book, a pen, some paper, and your imagination. He decided that he wanted to possess the key to this imaginary world, which he often turned to as a refuge and escape from his disastrous love life.
In a very short time, Romero, who had essentially taught himself how to program on an Apple II, created his first video game. In 1986, he enrolled in courses at Sierra College, and began dating Kelly Mitchell, who the following year was to become his wife, and to whom he promised he would soon become rich, famous, and successful. His passion for games, fuelled by an intolerance for family rules, combined with his desire for social redemption, led him to secure his first job offer in the world of video games at a young age. Brimming with ambition, he arrived at Softdisk, Louisiana when he was just twenty-one.
John D. Carmack II - the second John - was born in 1970 in Missouri, the second child in a family of science and culture buffs. Carmack also grew up in the world of D&D, and was literally mesmerised by the first video games he saw. Just like Romero, he learned basic programming on the Apple II, and his family was also taken aback by his unusual and all-encompassing talent. At just 14 years old, during an attempt to steal some Apple IIs from a nearby school, Carmack was caught by the police and subjected to a psychiatric evaluation, which concluded: "boy behaves like a walking brain with legs ... no empathy for other human beings".
After serving his one-year sentence in a local juvenile facility, his parents finally bought him an Apple II, and Carmack made the effort to enrol at university. However, he quit after only a couple of semesters as a result of boredom and difficulty fitting in. He decided to support himself by working part time in a pizzeria in order to do the only thing he was truly passionate about: spending as much time as he could on creating outstanding video games. Looking for a job that would allow him to carry on living his life just as he wanted to live it, he programmed an RPG trilogy called Dark Designs for Softdisk - the same small Louisiana company where Romero had already started working, and who wanted him on its staff.