A Conversation with Patrick Hickey, Jr. – Part 2: From Game Journalism to Voice Acting and Beyond

Patrick Hickey, Jr.

I recently spent about 45 minutes chatting with Patrick Hickey, Jr., author of The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers. In the first part of the interview, we talked about Hickey’s motivation behind writing the book. (Click here to read that.)

In the second part of the interview, Hickey explains how The Minds Behind the Games has propelled his career into some unexpected places.

Parts of this interview were edited for clarity and flow.

Josh: So now that your book is out, what’s next for you?

Patrick: Brett Weiss has a Super Nintendo encyclopedia coming out in August, and I wrote something like 25 entries in that. It’s a two-volume collection that contains every single Super Nintendo game that ever came out. It has like a page on the impact and legacy of each game, and then a game journalist will tell a story about how the game affected them.

I’m also working on a follow-up to The Minds Behind the Games. I already have like 20 developers lined up for that. I was just speaking with John Vignocchi, the creator of Disney Infinity. I think it’s really important to get the toys-to-life genre covered.

I’m going to talk to the creator of the original Madden, as well as the creator of the original FIFA.

Oh, and Loaded for PlayStation One, which was one of the bloodiest games in video game history. That game made my grandmother throw up. I remember showing it to her. I was like, “You’ve got to see this game! It’s a lot of fun!” And I started running around shooting people, and blood was flying everywhere, and she started throwing up through her hands.

Josh: [Laughs]

Patrick: I had Berzerk for Atari 2600 lined up for the first book, but Alan McNeil didn’t get back to me in time, so I’m going to try to get that in the second book.

I have a bunch of really good indie games lined up as well. There will be a couple indie games in the second book that people might not expect, but these games have really interesting stories. I’m talking to a developer now who did a game for PS3 called 5 Star Wrestling, and he ended up becoming a wrestling promoter because of that game. He’s booked matches with A.J. Styles, John Morrison, Jack Swagger, and more. So that’s going to be a wild-ass story.

Josh: For sure. I can’t wait to read the next one. So on top of doing video game journalism, you do voice acting as well. How did that come about?

Patrick: I finished The Minds Behind the Games in April of 2017, and after that was over, I was like, “What’s the next thing?” There’s this big high, then there’s this low. Because publishing is slow. It’s not like journalism.

So I started a pro wrestling book, which I’m still writing.

But in the meantime, I was working on my site, Review Fix, and I came across this really cool-looking voxel point-and-click game called The Padre. It’s this voxelized priest – he looks like he’d be a priest in Minecraft or something.

Josh: I’ve seen the trailer for that!

Patrick: I thought it was really cool, so I reached out to the developers – the same way you probably have plenty of times – and I was the first person to ever interview them. Then they sent me the beta, which was really rough around the edges. The grammar and the dialogue were really off. The game played well and it looked really cool – it’s like this spiritual successor to Alone in the Dark – it’s really freaking cool. But it needed to be edited thoroughly. So I reached out and offered to edit the game. And then, holy shit, I’m a story editor on a video game! So I was super happy. I always wanted to work on the development side of the video game industry.

So we were working on the game’s Kickstarter, and this was like a week before we launched the Kickstarter campaign. And Vince, one of the developers, came to me and said, “Pat, we’ve got a problem. Our voice actor just left. He’s got some problems with his family. His mom’s really sick and he can’t finish his lines. We need to find someone fast.”

I was like, “I can do it.”

So I went into my man cave. I’m sitting there like, “Come on. Come on. Come up with something. You can do this.” And I’ve done voices my entire life. I was always that kid who impersonated people. But I didn’t want this to be a rip-off of anything else I did, so I came up with this Jeremy Irons kind of voice. The developers ate it up.

Josh: I saw the trailer. I was very surprised at how great the narrator sounds. That’s awesome.

Patrick: That’s me! It took me like three hours to record all the lines. So now, holy shit, I’m a voice actor in video games!

So I came across another game, Relentless Rex. Kevin Wynns, the creator, is an absolute genius. He’s making this Rayman-looking runner all by himself. Because I had done all these interviews for my book, I realized how much pressure this guy was under. I saw that he was looking for people like Kevin Michael Richardson and Tony Todd — these deep, bassy guys — for the voice. So I busted his balls for like three weeks. I was like, “Come on. Let me do the voice. Let me do the voice. Let me do the voice.” It got to the point where he was like, “Okay, I’m going to send you a manuscript, and let’s see what you can do.” And he fell in love with the voice, and now I’m the voice of Relentless Rex.

During the promotion for The Minds Behind the Games, I got a Facebook message out of nowhere from this guy named Pete Paquette. I was like, “I know that name from somewhere.” I was slapping myself in the back of the head, going, “Come on, where have I heard that name? Oh shit, he’s one of the animators for BioShock Infinite!” This happened in like 20 seconds. I was like, “Is this Pete Paquette from BioShock Infinite?” And he was like, “Yes I am. How do you know who I am?” And I was like, “How do you know who I am?”

So we start having a conversation, and I was on his podcast. After the podcast, he was like, “My brother and I have this idea for a video game, and we need somebody to write the story. We can give you the premise and the idea, but we need you do everything, like name the characters, name the world, and flesh out this wild idea we have. We also want you to voice a character.” They had the premise for the game and they had the idea for one character. So they were like, “When we heard the Padre, we had the idea that you would do this voice.”

So now I went from video game journalist to video game author to video game voice actor to video game writer, all because of this book in the span of a year. It’s been fucking insane.

Josh: Yeah, that’s amazing.

Patrick: Again, it’s all because of the book. I spoke with these developers for hours, and I feel like, in some wild and crazy way, I’ve made a few games myself when I actually haven’t. And I understand all the shit that they’ve been through.

Josh: Yeah, you can totally relate to that. It’s wild to hear the stories, especially from the early-90s stuff, where it’s these two- and three-man teams, and they’re working crunchtime. I think a lot of people struggle to understand wat that really means for these developers.

Patrick: I’m sure you get this, but all these indie games, like Super Meat Boy and Celeste, they’re made the same way the classic Atari 2600 games and Super Nintendo games were made – with that small team with a wonderful idea. These guys give up everything to make these games. It’s insane.

So here’s something. Every person who did an interview for the book had to sign a waiver from my publisher, just for everything to be on the up-and-up legally, you know. So I interviewed Matt Thorson for TowerFall when he was making Celeste. I had the chapter written for months, and he loved it, but he didn’t sign the waiver. So we’re getting to like three or four days before I had to get my manuscript in, and I messaged him on email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, Steam — every single platform he was on. He finally answered. He apologized, but the thing is, he was making Celeste at the time.

These guys lock themselves away from society to make these games. It’s not like actors, where they play the role and then they go out and the paparazzi follows them around. These guys have zero paparazzi following them, and they give up everything, they’re so selfless, to make these games, and no one even knows who the hell they are. It’s such a thankless profession.

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And that wraps up our conversation. If you’re interested in learning more about Hickey, you can check out his site Review Fix or purchase The Minds Behind the Games on Amazon.

About The Author

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