Interview: Author Derek Slaton and The Sega Master System Encyclopedia

Gamer turned author, Derek Slaton has just released volume one of The Sega Master System Encyclopedia.  He took time out to tell us about his career leading up to it, as well as a little something about the book itself.

Fanboy Confidential: Give us some background about yourself and how you fell into gaming.

Derek Slaton: I have been gaming pretty much since the time I could walk.  I remember getting an Atari 2600 when I was 4 and it’s been in my life ever since.  Video games have played a very important role in my life, from allowing me to have something in common with the neighborhood kids who were all older than me, to helping me overcome my shyness when I changed schools by giving me something to talk about with the people who would eventually become my friends.  It even taught me how to spell at a 6th Grade level since my reward for getting an A in the subject was the Phantasy Star II hint guide (which in the pre-internet days was the only way the game was playable).

My reintroduction to classic gaming came in college after I was unceremoniously dumped by my girlfriend.  To get my mind off things I went to a local independent game store where they had an Atari 2600 and a handful of games for $20.  The following weekend I went searching for games at a local Flea Market and I was hooked.  Over the years my collection has come and gone, but my love of classic gaming has only grown stronger.

FC: What prompted the creation of this book?

Derek: I lost my job (and my career) in late 2008 and went through a bit of a mid-life crisis and determined that I needed to reinvent myself.  It took several months of soul searching but finally I decided I was going to devote my life to something I love, classic video games.  Of course at that time I had no idea what that would entail exactly, but shortly after making that decision I came across a magazine at the local bookstore that was “the 200 greatest video games of all time”.  I read through the list and it made me incredibly sad because out of the 200 games there were a grand total of 3 from the Genesis and 1 from the Master System.  The fact that there were more Mario games in the top 20 than there were Sega games in the entire list made me realize that the newest generation of gamers had completely forgotten about the games that were important to me.  It was then I decided to embark on the Encyclopedia project, as an effort to preserve the memory of those games in the hope that somebody in the newer generation of gamers would pick up a controller and try some of these classics.

FC: How long did it take you to put this first volume together?

Derek: I began work on Volume 1 in December of last year and had it completed towards the end of April.  This volume took much longer than anticipated thanks to having to learn new software and to build the infrastructure and templates to allow me to release the interactive iPad version.  Also, due to different platforms I had to rebuild the entire book for print as well as Kindle.  Now that I know what I’m doing the process should be more streamlined (knock on wood).

FC: How much and what kind of research was involved?

Derek: Thankfully a lot of the research for this book was done with my shorter book on the SMS, so it helped out a great deal since I already had the technical specs on the games (release date, publisher, etc).  As far as the research for the article/review I would spend a couple hours with the game, play it multiple times, and really just do my best to get a good feel of the game (and play it enough to find the one redeeming quality, good or bad, that the game had).

FC: Give us a breakdown of what readers can expect from the book (any unique sells to the book’s content, etc)

Derek: Each game gets a 4-5 page layout, complete with an entertaining yet informative writeup (more on that in a moment).  There are also a dozen or so screenshots for every game, box cover scans of all entries, as well as all the technical specs.

The thing that I feel really sets this book apart from others is the writeup.  I wanted to make sure that the article was fun to read as well as being full of all the relevant information.  I also put the spotlight on some of the absurdities found in the classics.  For example, in Afterburner I question why Sega has its own Aircraft carrier and how they have the resources to wage war against their enemies.  Or pointing out the fact that the designers of Alf knew the game was so bad that the default continue option is “No”.

As I state in the opening of the book, I believe that gaming is meant to be entertaining, and I wanted to make sure that reading about them was entertaining as well.

FC: You’re doing something special for the iOS version of the book. Tell us about that. (if not already covered in previous question).

Derek: There are multiple versions of the book available.  The print version is pretty self explanatory, the Kindle version is more or less a direct port of the print version (with some modifications to fit the kindle format).  The iPad version however is the ideal version of the book since it has streamlined photo galleries as well as 60-90 seconds of gameplay footage.  I would have loved to include that in the Kindle version, however the platform just doesn’t support it at this time.

FC: When can readers expect the next volume, what can you tell about which games make it in that one?

Derek: I am working on the next volume as we speak, and it’s shaping up to go from Fantasy Zone through The Ninja.  It will also include one of my favorites on the system, Michael Jacksons Moonwalker, which highlights perfectly the absurdity and innocence of the time (because who in their right mind would make a game where the goal was to have Michael Jackson searching through closets for children?).

More or less I’m writing it in order, so the official cutoff is going to be dependent on how wordy I get on the reviews.  I’m hoping to have the second volume finished and on the various marketplaces by the end of the Summer.

FC: Where can readers get their hands on your book?

Derek: The Sega Master System Encyclopedia is available on Amazon (USA, and by the end of May in Europe as well), the Kindle store (USA, Europe, Australia), as well as the iPad iBookstore (USA, Europe, Australia).  I also have US links on my website  www.TheVgaTV.com, and if anybody would like to keep up with the new volume progress and new platforms it becomes available on I’m also on Twitter @thevgatv

Maurice
Original surviving founder of Fanboy Confidential, the podcast, and this supporting website. This is the fruit of his labor, created while on his off days from saving orphaned children from forest fires.

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