October 7, 2012


Doug McCoy, author of “Arcadian”

Interview by Hereward L.M. Proops

Booksquawk: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your books.

Doug McCoy: I am a guy who fully loved the 80s and only recently realized it has passed me by. Now I miss them terribly and do everything I can to try and recapture some sense of them. My books are a means to that end. They center on the things from the 80s that I loved and that loved me back. They also serve as a little bit of what I call “portable nostalgia”, a way to encapsulate a whole lot of things I loved in a form that I can easily carry around with me and pull out any time I need five minutes of the good old days.

B: "Arcadian" is a bit of a love-letter to arcade games. What made you decide to write the book?

DM: A love-letter to arcade games is exactly what Arcadian is. I decided to write it in order to both honor the games I loved as well as preserve my memories of them. I also decided to write it when I was struggling with my other manuscripts. It came so easy and was a joy to write.

B: One aspect of "Arcadian" that I loved was the inclusion of your personal experiences regarding the games. It was great learning what they meant to you as a child. Out of the nineteen games examined in the book, which is your all-time favourite and why?

DM: That is almost impossible to answer. Just when I think it is one, I am reminded of the great things of another. I’d say it is a tie between Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Yie Ar Kung Fu. While not the classic that the others are, I have almost more emotional connect to Yie Ar Kung Fu than any other. Yes, I’m sadly rating the games on my experiences with them rather than their own merit, but those experiences really are a part of any ranking.

B: The retro-gamer scene is growing at an impressive rate these days. Why do you think this is?

DM: Because games were better back then!!! No, that’s not why. Games are great today. I’m a huge fan of Left 4 Dead and have logged hundreds of hours on it (my handle is Scotsman if anybody wants to play a round). A couple of things these games have going for them, though, are the nostalgia factor as well as simplicity. I recently got a Game Cube just to play Metroid Prime, but while it is a great game, I’ll never finish it because it is too complex and takes up too much time. It fits my life a lot better to just do five minutes of Pac-Man. I not only get a good gaming experience in a simpler and shorter time, but I also go back in time. Modern games just don’t have that, and won’t for another twenty years.

B: How do you feel about the state of the modern games industry? Do you play modern video games or do you prefer to keep it old-school?

DM: I really love the modern games, except for the complexity. You can’t beat the graphics, and you can’t beat the experience of the good ones. Again, with Left 4 Dead and Metroid Prime, you really get the sense of being in an explorable world in a way you don’t with Galaga. Still, they are so time-consuming and intricate that I mostly just pass them up. I don’t have the time or skills to get into them, so I don’t even think about it. I do, though, like the modernization of the classic games, like Frogger on the Playstation and Centipede Origins.

B: How do you go about writing a book like "Arcadian"? Did you put in a lot of research?

DM: I didn’t do any research for the simple reason that I knew anything I discovered would be something anybody could discover. Since I’m not an insider, I don’t have any unique information to share other than my memories and thoughts. So besides looking up the year of release, I didn’t research anything. Some folks have been disappointed, thinking that Arcadian would tell them things about the games they didn’t know, and I understand that. But that is not a book I could write, at least not without some funding and time behind me. A memoir/memorial was, so that’s what I wrote.

B: Do you have a particular routine for writing?

DM: Sit down and do it. Really, that is the only way to get it done. I usually sit in the same place and give it an hour a night. I start with a chapter list, then begin filling the chapters out. Once I have a first draft, I do a polish, then another, then another. I call my style “percolating”. The book brews like a pot of coffee until it becomes what it is. Eventually, I abandon it. I say, “This isn’t as good as I wish it was, but it is as good as I can make it,” so I put it up for sale.

B: I was kind of gutted not to see "Double Dragon" in "Arcadian". Was it difficult to choose which games went into the book?

DM: I fully understand. There were tons of great games that didn’t get in, as I was reminded when I went to the California Extreme Pinball and Video Game Expo. But those games didn’t make it for the sole reason that I never played them or never played them enough to be able to write about them. Strangely, I never knew Double Dragon was an arcade game. I only knew the NES version.
This is a weird phenomenon that deserves a little more thought. I recently saw a movie called American Scary. It was about late night local horror movie hosts. I watched it specifically to see my local guy, Fritz the Nite Owl, and was disappointed when he wasn’t in there. When I mentioned this in a write up on retroist.com, the director saw and was displeased. I didn’t mean any disrespect in what I said. I just felt the need to say that my guy wasn’t there. So I understand readers being disappointed when their game isn’t in the book, but I hope they in turn understand that I couldn’t put them in the book. It would be fake if I did, since I didn’t have experience with these games. And I didn’t want to fake anything.

B: What's next? Have you any more books in the pipeline? Personally, I'd love to see a follow-up to "Arcadian" that looks at arcade games in the late 80s / early 90s.

DM: I don’t know if I could do one about those arcade games. Maybe a short one about the fighting/beat ‘em ups?? But I do have ANESthetized out there, a similar book about my experiences with the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m almost done with one about toys called Playthings of the Past, I’m halfway done with one about TV called TV In My Time, and I’ve got an outline for the great things of the 80s that I call Object D’80s. Hopefully they’ll be out soon.

Read the book review here.


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