It’s game on for a longtime Brooklynite as he has penned his first book, focusing on the history of video games and significant figures in the industry.
Assistant director of the journalism program and full time lecturer of English at Kingsborough Community College, Patrick Hickey Jr. is a man of many hats. He founded and runs an entertainment site called Review Fix, was a news editor at NBC, and has interviewed high profile athletes, actors and musicians for various publications just to name a few. His decades of passion for video games and journalism landed him a deal with a publisher to pen his first book, The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers (Studies in Gaming).
The 400-page book, which took a grueling six months to write, was a long time coming for the enthusiast.
“I got this book by Brett Weiss called The 100 Best Video Games 1977-1987 and wrote a review, and I ended up buying about 20 games that were in the book,” recalled Hickey, who said the book stirred the idea to pen his own take on games. “I’m not really interested in reading a book with someone else’s opinion. I want to read something truer and based in fact. There aren’t many video game books out there. There are a few good ones, but not one that tells the stories of games that we grew up playing.”
Hickey was fascinated by some of the more unsung heroes of retro and current gaming, which served as another inspiration for the book. “I was sitting in my man cave and everywhere I turned there were games and I looked at some and they were all great,” he explained. “I got six of them and I contacted all the developers. I did deep Google searches and I found their websites. I went on every single platform I could to find them. All six answered me. These people want to tell their stories. A lot of people haven’t even approached them. This is a book that could only be written in today’s social media. Twenty years ago, it would’ve been almost impossible to find these guys.”
Of course, like any passion project, there were obstacles to fully concentrating on the task. Hickey’s wife was pregnant and his mother was fighting stage four lung cancer. “I had a ton of stuff on my plate and I still pushed through and wrote a book I always wanted to write,” he said. “I would go with my mom to chemo and she would fall asleep and I would work on the book.”
He would also conduct interviews shortly after his wife went into labor.
There were also some cynics that questioned why the professor would write a book on gaming.
“There are people I know that are in their 50s and 60s who look at me and ask ‘You’re writing a book about video games? Why?’ They still think it’s still kid stuff,” he said. “I told them 30 years ago, you wanted to write a book about Bob Dylan and everyone was like who is going to care about Bob Dylan decades later or you wanted to write a book about ‘Casablanca’ and everyone thought you were crazy. Video games are one of the most important art forms in the world and 30-40 years from now, they’ll probably be the most important.”
Getting a publisher to get on board was also a tall order, but McFarland & Company took interest right away. “It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I sent pitches to three publishers with four of the six chapters,” he explained. “McFarland & Company answered me right away, saying they loved it and to give them a call. They’ve been great so far. It was a lot easier than I ever thought it would be but at the same time, since day one, it has been a huge labor of passion, love, hard work and elbow grease. I was trying to do something that has never been done before.”
His students have also taken an interest in their professor’s success. “They have the same dreams. I feel better equipped to answer the questions because I’ve walked down that path.”
Hickey has also had speaking engagements at video game conventions, including Geek Fest in Bay Ridge. He has several appearances coming up in the tri-state area in the coming weeks.
The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers (Studies in Gaming) will be released in January of next year. To pre-order, visit amazon.com. To get details of Hickey’s future speaking engagements, including the Coleco Retro Expo at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center on Saturday, August 5, follow him on Instagram at patrickhickeyjr and Twitter at reviewfix and visit www.colecoexpo.com.