In 2009, confessed workaholic, respected freelance pop culture journalist and journalism professor Patrick Hickey, Jr. decided he needed something more. He had amassed numerous accolades over the years, including penning articles for the New York Times, New York Daily News and Yahoo!, and interviewing a slew of famous rockers – including Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, John Waite, Rex Brown from Pantera, Eric Martin from Mr. Big, Creed’s Mark Tremonti and the Eagles’ Don Felder. But as a freelance writing career sometimes goes, he was limited at the time to covering minor league hockey and wanted to write for an entertainment website. So he started Review Fix.
Over the past eight years, the site has published over 500 people, including former students of his from Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community (where he is currently Assistant Director of the journalism program), fellow journalists looking for clips and other professors. Branding as “Your One Stop for Music, Game, Film, Comics and Pro Wrestling News and Reviews,” Review Fix gets several thousand unique viewers a day for its wide array of offerings, including exclusive interviews.
“It’s like my child,” Patrick says. “I think it contributes a lot to pop culture because some of the people interviewed for the site will never be interviewed anywhere else, or we were the first people to speak with them. I love indie everything and while we cover a lot of mainstream entertainment, I love finding talented people nobody knows about.”
This desire to wander a few enticing steps off the beaten pop culture path leads now to Patrick’s latest passion project, a book whose full title lays out its lofty intentions: The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers. The 300+ page book – described by the author as “my first real crack at long-form journalism” - features interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games--including Deus Ex, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam--this 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 the gaming industry's classic titles.
“The ‘a-ha’ moment that led me to write this book came when I was getting ready to have another kid and felt too content at my day job,” Patrick says. “I needed to check this off my bucket list. How could I help guide young students who wanted to write a book one day if I didn't? I also wanted to try and make a big splash before I focused more on my family than I ever have before. To say it was an exciting time would be a gross understatement. Every day for six months I was speaking with heroes of mine, men and women whose games personally affected me and millions of other people. The way I kept up the momentum is that I let it consume me. Whenever I had a free moment, I'd work on it. When my wife was sleeping, when I was on the bus on the way to and from work. When my students were out on assignment. This book made six months of my life fly by.”
Patrick pulled out all the stops in trying to reach the creators: social media (Facebook, LinkedIn), email, phone and snail mail. He describes some of his pitches as short and sweet, but with most of them, he let his heroes know specifically how their games impacted his life (he has over 2000 video games across 30 consoles at home). For Craig Broadbooks, the creator of the NHL Faceoff series, for example, Patrick et him know how much he loved the game and that it deserved to be in the book. “I know I annoyed many of these great minds,” he says, “ but I know at the same time they saw how passionate I was about telling their stories.”
Including 36 games and over 50 developers, Patrick taps into classics from four different decades that have helped shape the industry as we know it today. “As a result,” he says, “this is a project I’m very proud of and one I think is unique and will serve historians and readers for years to come. The most fun part was talking to people that personally affected my childhood. The most grueling moments were where I knew I had a goal to make sure I was able to tell their stories as accurately as possible. That was probably the most challenging thing too. My publisher McFarland And Company also helped me shape this book and make it even better than what I originally proposed. It's something I'll always be grateful for.”