Even though technology has changed the way we get information, writing your first book is still a huge accomplishment, especially for a 30-something who was the first in his family to graduate from college.
My book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers” tells the behind the scenes stories of 36 cult, classic, infamous, mobile and indie video games, thanks to interviews with over 50 amazing developers. It’s earned rave reviews from the New York Daily News, Forbes and MSG and praise from industry insiders and video game developers. Next to getting married and the birth of my daughter (and the first time I caught Mewtwo), writing this book was the coolest thing to happen in my life.
From day one, co-workers and even friends said I shouldn’t write a book about video games. One even said, “No one reads books anymore.”
So why did I dedicate almost two years of my life to this project? Why am I still running on this train?
I’ll tell you:
Writing a Book is the Only Way to Be Immortal Without Succumbing to the Occult:
I’ve written thousands of articles for my website, ReviewFix.com and have served as an editor at NBC and have had work published and shared by the The New York Times, New York Daily News, Complex and Yahoo, among many other publications, including Old School Gamer Magazine. But do you know that you can’t find some of that work online anymore? It’s just the nature of the business. I once had a journalism professor tell me you can tell how long you’ve worked in the industry by how many magazines and papers you’ve seen close their doors. In the age of the internet, it is websites, too, that count in that formula.
Today’s internet is basically a graveyard of sites that for one reason or another, are no longer with us. It makes trying to cement a legacy in the field tougher than ever. Writing this book, for good or bad, I knew I wasn’t going under the radar anymore. It was my coming out party. I was ready to do more than tell stories people retweeted. No more obsessing over likes and shares. I wanted my book dog-eared and written in and left in the bathroom or taken on the train or bus. I wanted to be more than a link.
Writing the old fashioned way is such a different story than for the web. Even if a book goes out of print, you can find it if you are willing to spend the cash or the time search Strands and eBay. A few weeks after publication, an old friend told me they found the book in the Library of Congress.
That type of presence you can’t have in digital journalism. If someone buys your book, you’ve got a reader basically for life.
I’m Young and the Video Game Industry is at the Perfect Age to Get the Historical Treatment:
I was 33 when I wrote the book and with a daughter on the way as well, it was perfect. All of the reporting took about six months and was writing simultaneously. I was exhausted when it was all over, but I was proud of myself and knew that it was an experience that would keep me fueled passionately for years to come.
At 55 or 60, I may not have had the energy or the professional drive to write a book for the first time, but now I know what I’m in for. At an older age as well, perhaps some of my sources from this book are no longer with us. Journalism is all about capturing a moment in time, but a book represents something similar as well. At the same time, I feel like the picture I’ve painted in this book is a timeless one- kind of like your favorite Rolling Stone features you’ll read every few years because they take you back to a specific time and place.
While the video game industry’s history is a rich one, it’s still pretty young as well. Pong was created in 1972 and we’ve seen a plethora of consoles released since then, but not enough that most casual gamers couldn’t trace if they tried. In 20 years, there could be at least four new console generations and thousands of more games. Writing this book at that time would have been even more difficult.
Being a Digital Journalist Ironically Prepared Me to Promote My Book:
If you write for a website today, you’re a walking promotion machine. You’re on every social media platform, every day, sharing your work. When you’re promoting a book, it’s no different. At the same time, it’s even more difficult because you have to line up podcast appearances, written interviews, the works.
I often joke and tell people I’ve spent more time promoting my book than writing it. I’m not too far off, though. Unless you’re writing for a monster publisher, you’re on your own. It’s a scary world and you’ll have to cash in every favor owed to you to see the type of rewards needed to induce sales.
I Needed to Grow as a Writer
Luckily for me, I’ve found out I’m a fun interview and people like having me around. Because of this and a growing voiceacting and editing career and I’ve been able to surround myself with people that can help me. I’ve helped thousands of people over the last decade as a journalist and contrary to what you may think, those shares, reposts and retweets mean everything to the right people.
So, in a weird way, writing a book made me a better journalist, editor and social media content creator. As a result of all this, I’ve helped people with their own press releases and pitches to sites and podcasts. Two years ago, I didn’t know I had these skills.
It Validated a Life of Appreciation of an Art Form:
Video games are art and writing is a way to share your love of an art form. Gaming is a huge part of my life. I can basically tie every important moment in my life to a game. Super Mario, Bros, RBI Baseball and Contra got me through elementary school. Final Fantasy VII and Pokémon got me through High School. I played NHL 14 the day I got married.
Interviewing some of the best developers in the history of the industry still feels like a dream. But, it happened. It matters. Before the book got published, an academic editor from my publisher, McFarland and Company said that the book would be an excellent primary source for historians one day. That, to me, was a great way to tell off anyone who told me that I shouldn’t write a book about video games.
So there you have it. A look into the soul of a first-time author. Proof that books are not dead. More people read than you’d ever think. And most importantly, Video games matter more than ever.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.