In Classic Gamer Magazine Vol. 3 #1, I was interviewed by Chris "Cav" Cavanaugh, my friend and former editor at the All Game Guide. Here is that that interview (conducted in 2010), reprinted for your perusal:
Pop culture expert Brett Weiss has written numerous articles that have
appeared in the Comics Buyer’s Guide, Fangoria, Allgame.com,
and past issues of Classic Gamer Magazine.
Brett recently authored two books: Classic
Home Video Games: 1972-1984 and Classic
Home Video Games: 1985-1988 and agreed to talk to us about the challenges of writing, getting
published, and how mowing lawns is good for the game collector’s soul.
CGM: Convincing a major book publisher to publish a book isn’t
easy. Can you tell us how the initial deal happened? Did you approach them or
was it the other way around?
WEISS: McFarland Publishers, which publishes a variety of scholarly
entertainment books, had a booth at Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2006,
and I introduced myself to one of their editors. I gave her a business card and
told her to contact me if I could contribute to any of their books. Three days after I returned home, I received an email from
that editor, asking me if I had any interesting book ideas. I quickly pounded
out a proposal and some sample entries, emphasizing that a book like mine had
never been done before: descriptions/reviews/data for every single game for
every U.S.-released classic programmable system. They approved the idea pretty
During the early-to mid-1990s, I worked up a proposal for a similar
book, but I couldn’t find a publisher.
CGM: How much influence does the publisher have on content? Did you
have to make
WEISS: The publisher was very receptive to my original proposal,
and both books are pretty much exactly like I conceived and wrote them. During
the editors’ meeting, my proposal was approved unanimously. They loved the nostalgic
content, the quality of the writing, and the comprehensive nature of the books.
The only sticking point was their insistence on spelling the word “videogame” as
CGM: What are the challenges associated with writing these books?
WEISS: Condensing a long RPG or point-and-click adventure down to a
clear and concise, yet detailed overview. Trudging through horrible games.
Getting far enough into really hard games to describe and review them accurately
and fairly. The sheer exhaustion of having to write about the games in addition
to playing them. Not having enough time to play new games because I’m so busy
with the old systems.
Luckily, I largely prefer older games, but I’d love to have enough
time and energy to pick up a PS3 and play through God of War III and Batman:
Arkham Asylum. On the other hand, I love discovering obscure gems that I had
never played before, such as the wildly inventive and hugely entertaining
Killer Bees! for the Odyssey2. That was the last game I wrote about for my
first book—I had to buy the game on eBay.
CGM: What was their reasoning for wanting to release the books in
hardcover? Did you try to convince them otherwise? Do you think the decision has helped or
WEISS: I had absolutely no say in the matter. I was flattered that
the books were published in hardcover, but I have met resistance by some potential buyers
because of the hardcover pricing. On the other hand, everyone I’ve talked to who
has bought either book is very happy with their purchase(s). People tell me
they refer to my books again and again, and that’s the best compliment I could
ever get. I’m also frequently told that the books are well written, which is always good to hear.
CGM: Is there talk about making these books available in paperback?
WEISS: Nothing yet, but hopefully some day. (NOTE: Classic Home
Video Games, 1972-1984 and Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 have since come
out in softcover).
CGM: What percentage of research goes into your books vs. how much
you just know off the top of your head?
WEISS: I wouldn’t quite say that the books wrote themselves, but I have
been playing these games nonstop since they came out. The first system I
actually owned was a ColecoVision when I was 15, but prior to the release of
the ColecoVision, I was constantly going over to friends’ and relatives’ houses
to play their systems. In fact, my two best friends each had a Fairchild
Channel F of all things.
After I got my ColecoVision for Christmas of 1982 (I actually had
to kick in $100 of my lawn mowing money to make it happen), I began collecting
games like crazy (my second system was an Atari 2600 with 10 games that I
bought off a classmate
for the incredibly low price of $10).
I would get new systems as they would come out, but I never got rid
of my older systems. I simply kept adding to them as I would find older games
on clearance and at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. Despite my familiarity
with old games, I still do tons of research to make sure I get everything as accurate
as possible, and to refresh my memory for games I haven’t played in a long time.
CGM: Do you use any magazines or websites for research? Which ones?
WEISS: Thanks to their
instruction manual scans, AtariAge and Nintendo Age were absolutely invaluable when I was writing my first two books. As everyone
knows, it’s much tougher to find manuals than game cartridges. I also used gamefaqs
walkthroughs a few times when I had trouble getting past a certain area or level
in a particularly hard or confusing game.
Digital Press has been helpful as well. When a game’s manual or
title screen doesn’t mention who the developer is, and when various websites
have conflicting information, I sometimes ask on the Digital Press message
boards, and I usually get a response. Of course, I will then do more research
to determine if the information they gave me is accurate.
CBG: Just to get inside your head a little bit, can you tell us
about what goes into your writing process?
WEISS: I play the games in
the evening and wake up early the next morning--oftentimes as early as 3 or 4 a.m.—to write about them. Prior to sitting down to
my desk, I’ll fire up a steaming hot cup of Earl Grey tea. I tried Earl Grey
back when Captain Picard would order it from the food replicator on Star Trek:
The Next Generation (yes, I’m a geek), and quickly became addicted to it.
I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 20 years, so I’ve got a
pretty good routine in place. Comfortable pants/shorts and a good, sturdy chair
that supports the back are absolutely essential. I write most every morning (and
most afternoons), but I sometimes take Saturday morning off if my kids get up when
CGM: How long did it take to write each of the books?
WEISS: The first book took about a year. Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 took over two years, partly
because most of the games from that era are longer and more complex.
CGM: How has the feedback been from those who've purchased the
books? Have there been any interesting suggestions?
WEISS: The feedback has largely been terrific. Both books have reviewed
extremely well. The most frequent comment I get is that people use the books when
they are looking to purchase some older games they may enjoy. This is followed
closely by people using the books because they can’t remember a specific fact about
a particular game, or just because they’re fun to flip through. Some readers comment
that they wish the photos were in color, but that is entirely up to the
CGM: Approximately how many copies have the books sold?
WEISS: I would tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. I can tell
you that the first book has almost sold through its first printing, which is
nice. With the new book, it’s too early to tell.
CGM: What era of gaming do you enjoy most and why?
WEISS: While I’ve had a truly great time with such titles as Halo, God of War, Wii Sports,
and Burnout, my favorite games are
from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Games like Dig Dug, Galaga, Super Pac-Man, Zoo Keeper and Phoenix
are simple, but challenging, intense, strategic, and endlessly replayable. Mr. Do! is my all-time favorite game. I still
keep records of my highest scores on many of my favorite old games (again, the geek
factor rears its ugly head).
CGM: In another interview, you said that your favorite platform was
the ColecoVision. Of all the platforms you've written about, what makes the ColecoVision so
special in your eyes?
WEISS: I love how Coleco took such second (and third) tier arcade games
as Frenzy, Carnival, Lady Bug, Pepper II, Space Panic, Slither, and
Mouse Trap, emulated them beautifully,
and made them available for home play. These were great games that were unfairly
overlooked until they made it into gamers’ living rooms. Since you could play the
games again and again without having to put in a quarter every time, you could take
the time to truly discover how great these games were. Plus, there are great
third-party titles like Jumpman Junior
and Miner 2049’er. Some complain
about the controllers, but I like them.
My favorite modern system is the PS2, partly because of its many arcade
classics collections, but also because of some great modern games like Lumines, REZ, and Maximo: Ghosts to
CGM: Can you tell us anything about the third book you are currently
WEISS: Absolutely! It will cover the Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16.
Hopefully, it will be out some time in mid-late 2011. (NOTE: Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990: A
Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16 Games was
published in Aug., 2011).
You can down the entire issue for free HERE.