Interview! Patrick Hickey Jr. author of the upcoming The Mind Behind the Games

RetroGaming Books: Why did you decide to write a book and not publish those interviews on a blog or YouTube?

Patrick Hickey Jr.: Contrary to what many of us believe, nothing on the internet is permanent. I’ve been a journalist for over 12 years now and many of the online sites, magazines and newspapers I’ve written for are out of business. While books go out of print, as do publishers, I felt like this would be the best way for me to get my work into a sphere that was an unmovable force as possible. I wanted it to be something that lasted, that stuck around. Plus, I’m a writer. If it’s not your dream to write a book one day, you’re in the wrong business.

I have nothing against YouTube, as I have hundreds of gameplay videos n such on the web, but I do it more to reach people. It’s not where my heart is. This was something I’ve always wanted to do, so I figured it would be best to do it in a medium I was the most comfortable in.

RGB: What triggered the decision to make a book on video game entrepreneurs and developers?

PHJ: Too many gamers lack real knowledge. They love publishers, but they don’t understand the struggles of the people that made the games they play. If a game is “bad” to them, they don’t see the whole political side and emotional roller coaster that goes into the creation of the game. In this book, there are 36 stories with over 50 developers that discuss everything that went into the creation of their games. It’s never easy. I feel that if gamers got a better idea of what goes into a game, they’d troll a little less and understand how special the minds behind their favorite- and even not so favorite games- really are.


RGB: Compared to Gamers At Work by Morgan Ramsay, what makes Minds Behind the Games different?

PHJ: I love Ramsay’s book. But it’s all pioneers in the industry. There are no “bad” games featured. Or cult games. And zero indie titles. My book takes pieces of every single genre, has developers from all over the world and several femaleĀ developers (I don’t think there is one featured in GAW), all lend their voice to the discussion. If you’re like me and in your 30s, this book touches on nearly every stage of your life, your childhood with the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System, to today with the PlayStation 4. Several of the games featured in my book have large communities of gamers that love and hate them but don’t know why. Some of the games featured in my book you may not know, but you’ll run to after reading. So ultimately, my book is different from Gamers At Work because it doesn’t just give you interviews with people you already know and respect- it introduces you to developers you should know and tells you why you should respect what they did for this industry.

RGB: How many developers did you manage to interview?

PHJ: About 50 on the record and then another dozen or so off the record, used for background, scene-setting, and color.

RGB: Was it hard to get in touch with them?

PHJ: Yes and no. But I’m a classicially-trained journalist, so I’m a pain in the rear. I’ve called, sent e-mails, had letter correspondence. Anything I had to do to get the stories needed. Some people disappeared on me and I kept on them. In the end, only Allan McNeil, who created the arcade classic “Berzerk” failed to answer my questions. Meat Loaf once sang a song, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” so I’ll take 36 out of 37.

RGB: Were some of them reluctant to talk about their career?

PHJ: Not at all. I think it was two things. To some, I had to show them that I knew my stuff. Developers like Howard Scott Warshaw (E.T., Yars Revenge) and Ken St. Andre (Wasteland) come to mind on that one. Others like Dave Wishnowski (Pro Wrestling X), Sarah Jane Avory (Fighting Force) and Jamie Fristrom (Spider-Man 2) were super excited and gave me so much information. In the end, though, everyone that participated was wonderful to work with.

RGB: If you had to pick one, which would be your favorite?

PHJ: Oh my god, you’re putting me on the spot! That’s so difficult because I appreciate all of these guys and I’ve played all of these games and love them for so many different reasons. In the end, however, I’d say Rob Fulop (Night Trap) or Michael Brook (NHLPA 93/NHL 94). The stories they gave me were awesome and I can’t wait for people to read them.

RGB: Why the traditional path with the publisher instead of the more trendy crowdfunding path?

PHJ: I’ve been a journalist for over 12 years and a lecturer of English and Journalism for over a decade at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn NY. If I was just a writer, then indie publishing would have been fine. And as a matter of fact, it was something I thought about because I have the ability and skill to design the look of the book by myself. But in the academic world, video games are considered child’s play. It really annoys me. So for me to get a great publisher like McFarland on board for this lends a level of legitimacy to the project that I think helps not only the industry, but my reputation in education as well. At the end of the day, this is a love letter to the industry and I’m happy that no one in academia can label it as an “indie book” or a self-published one. This work is just as important as any research work done by any academic or researcher. A few months ago someone labeled me as a Video Game Scholar. I like the sound of that. It’s not only possible, but I proved it was true.

RGB: Was it hard to convince the publisher with such a project?

PHJ: Actually, I pitched McFarland and they answered me three days later. However, my original pitch was to feature only 15-20 games. Now it’s 36. So they definitely wanted me to pen something with substance and I’m proud that they did. Whenever you start a project, the end goal is to always make something better than your original vision (thank you Howard Scott Warshaw for drilling the point home to me in our interview) and I can happily say this book is so much better than it could have been, thanks to McFarland and so much better than I thought it could be when I started. Lots of sleepless night, email chasing and bouts of craziness, but it’s done and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.

RGB: When will we be able to read this great book?

PHJ: The book is scheduled for release in late 2017/early 2018. My hope is that McFarland has it ready for Christmas time. It’s something every gamer will want under the tree.

RGB: Do you know if translations are planned?

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PHJ: That’s a good question, you’d have to ask my publisher. Or maybe I’ll learn Spanish.

Thanks to Patrick Hickey Jr. for having taken the time to answer my questions! Don’t forget that he will be alongside some others including myself at Coleco Expo this upcoming week end in Edison, NJ! Come over if you want to know more about The Minds Behind the Games!

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