John Carmack has left his position as Meta’s chief technology officer, stating that the company “constantly self-sabotages” its virtual reality efforts and that he’s “never been able to kill stupid things before they do any harm.” . Carmack made the comments in an internal memo leaked to Business Insider (subscription required). Carmack says he’s now focused on his artificial intelligence startup.
After the leak happened, Carmack posted the full text of the memo on Facebook, with some additional context.
“This is the end of my decade in VR. I have mixed feelings,” Carmack begins. After writing that Quest 2 “is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start,” he explains that his issue is related to the company’s “efficiency.”
“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and waste our efforts. There is no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization operates at half the efficiency that would make me happy.
“It was a struggle for me. I have a top-level voice here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m obviously not convincing enough. A good chunk of things I end up complaining about I turn around after a year or two and the evidence is piling up, but I’ve never been able to kill stupid things before they do any harm, or any direction to pretend and actually have a team stick to it. I think my influence on the fringes has been positive, but it’s never been a driving force.”
While some of those words are harsh, Carmack says the pain is partly caused by his years dedicated to writing efficient code. “When you work hard at optimization most of your life, it hurts your soul to see something that is grossly inefficient.” He also adds that he might have been more persuasive if he had moved to Meta’s HQ in Menlo Park and been more into leadership rather than programming, but that “I thought I’d hate it, bad be in it and probably lose anyway.”
Carmack’s departure from Meta has long been hinted at. A few years ago, the co-founder of Id Software wrote that he expects the final act of his career to focus on creating artificial general intelligence. Earlier this year, his AGI startup Keen Technologies Raised $20 million in funding (around £16.4 million). Carmack had only devoted “about 20%” of his time to meta lately.
Carmack’s departure may have more symbolic than actual significance. Even before his move to Meta from ZeniMax – itself a source of controversy – Carmack was one of the most prominent faces of the modern virtual reality revival. When the original Oculus Rift technology was shown to the press, it was by Carmack in a back room at E3 with a prototype jerry-rigged headset and a copy of Doom 3. That he’s now left the industry and gaming in general behind , feels like the end of an era.