Doom co-creator John Carmack is headlining a 'toxic and proud' sci-fi convention that rails against 'woke propaganda'

John Carmack at Oculus Connect 6
(Image credit: Bloomberg (Getty Images))

Update 05/18/23: John Carmack has posted a defence of his decision to attend the conference, which can be read in full here.

"It is unfortunate that Rob [Kroese] has made BasedCon so intentionally provocative," writes Carmack. "I told him as much after the event last year, I felt a little uncomfortable.  There is a demographic that welcomes the in-your-face posturing, but it drives away sympathetic people that would otherwise be happy to talk about craft, stories, and technology.

"Even when someone gives you a clear signal, it is a mistake to extrapolate it to an entire constellation of beliefs and behaviors, and then to assume they are contagious by association.  That shortchanges a lot of people.

"I’m not a culture warrior, and I don’t want to strike blows against anyone. I don’t follow activists on either side, including Rob, because I tend to think that all the negativity and resentment is detrimental to both the author and target."

Original story follows: Id Software co-founder and former Oculus VR CTO John Carmack is facing criticism for his recent announcement that he will be attending BasedCon, a sci-fi and fantasy convention for fans who are "tired of woke propaganda."

"I’m going to be at again this year," Carmack tweeted. "I had read books from and twitter-interacted with three of the authors (more since!), but I wasn’t sure what to expect last year. It turned out fun, in a grass-roots con way that reminded me of the old Space Access days.

"I was just going to show up as a normal attendee / fan of the authors last year, but Rob [presumably BasedCon fouder Robert Kroese] nudged me into doing a talk and some panels, and I enjoyed it."

Attending a convention is a pretty unremarkable thing most of the time, but BasedCon isn't like most. Its website claims the convention "isn't about pushing any particular ideology," while at the same time listing examples of "based beliefs" that the organizers subscribe to:

  • Men cannot give birth
  • Guns don’t kill people; people kill people
  • A fetus is a human being
  • Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried
  • Discriminating against white people is racism

The website complains that while "sci-fi cons used to be a lot of fun," in recent years they've been dominated by "a small clique of authoritarian jerks who made them into venues for pushing social justice dogma." The influx of people who "shut down any opinions that didn’t align with progressive orthodoxy," as the BasedCon site puts it, led to controversies like Sad Puppies, an effort to push right-wing authors to the top of Hugo Award voting, and outside the realm of sci-fi conventions also helped trigger the misogynistic harassment campaign Gamergate, got Gina Carano fired from The Mandalorian, and drove the push "to get Critical Race Theory and other social justice garbage into schools."

BasedCon also warns that if you happen not to embrace those beliefs, you should probably stay away: "If you think people with a certain skin color can’t be racist or you expect people to use made-up pronouns when talking about you, you may want to do a reality check before coming to BasedCon."

(Image credit: BasedCon)

Carmack is known for having something of a libertarian bent—he recently defended the idea of self-made billionaires, for instance—and has never seemed particularly concerned about his public image. And he gets a lot of slack, because he's a little weird and he made Doom and Quake. But headlining an event like this is a step too far for a lot of his followers on social media.

"I've been a fan of yours over half my life and it's disappointing you're going to an event run by people with such reprehensible views," one follower wrote. "Please reconsider. There's so many better tech events that would gladly have you."

"Dude, you gave me a glimmer of hope interacting with my tweets about forms of address and VR, and now you're going to a party of chuds where /this/ is their raison d'etre," another replied. "This sucks."

One Twitter user pointed out that BasedCon does not disclose its location. The event will be held in an unnamed hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but "for security reasons" does not share specifics with anyone who isn't registered to attend. I think that's a very revealing detail about the real nature of BasedCon: If you're not willing to tell people where your event is being held, maybe it's worth examining why.

The whole thing is kind of gross and sad, and there's really no arguing that Carmack isn't aware of the ugly side of the event. The website spells it all out quite clearly, and as he said on Twitter, he knows the organizer and this won't be his first trip to the show. As many people responding to the situation have pointed out, it all comes down to the old adage: Never meet your heroes. I've reached out to Carmack for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.