A Q&A With Andrew Dickinson

Sometimes here a Dreamcast Today, we like to pester folk in the scene with random questions and form it up as some sort of interview. To tie in with the upcoming Kickstarter of Dreamcast : Year One, Forbes has caught up with the man behind the book – Andrew Dickinson, take a look at the somewhat random (but relevant ) questions we throw his way.

DCT : Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today and answer some questions, first of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers and what it is you’re working on briefly ?

Andrew  – My Twitter bio sums me up pretty well I think! I’m a cat-loving, vegetarian games enthusiast who lives in Brighton, UK. I’m also a slight Kickstarter addict, having backed and been a part of various campaigns over the years! I finally decided to take the plunge and put something out there of my own, which is ‘Dreamcast: Year One’, a book about the conception, launch and first year on the market of this classic console.

DCT- What sort of background have you got in creating this sort of product? We think we spotted that you’ve already working on other books like this? 

Andrew – In terms of writing background, I don’t have any formal qualifications or a career in writing, but as a teenager I wrote for a Dreamcast fan site (dreamcastsource.co.uk) and have written other articles and such throughout the years. This particular opportunity came up when I backed a Kickstarter project last year, ‘PlayStation Vita: Year One’ by Sandeep Rai. The Vita is another underrated console in my eyes, and reading its story brought back so many memories of my time with the Dreamcast while it was still on the market. I realised this format that Sandeep had created would be a perfect way to tell the story of the DC as well. I’m now working with Sandeep as my editor, and I’m even writing a retrospective for his follow-up book, ‘PlayStation Vita: Years Two & Three’, about Power Stone Collection.

DCT- What’s your history with the Dreamcast? Have you had one since launch or did you discover it late on, were first hand experiences the fuel to create the book?

Andrew – I’ve had a Dreamcast since I was 16 – it was my birthday present from my mum that year. I’d been a gamer since the NES, but seriously started to get into it with the dawn of the PlayStation. That’s when I discovered the Resident Evil franchise, and I fell in love instantly. So when we started to hear that the next chapter in the franchise was going to be exclusive to the newly released Dreamcast, I started to pay attention! So I got my Dreamcast in August 2000 with a copy of RECV, as well as  Crazy Taxi and Power Stone. From that moment on I basically just fell in love with the system, to the extent that I found like-minded teens on chat rooms so I could gush about how great the Dreamcast was. That’s where I met Faz Asif, who set up Dreamcast Source, and I was a part of that site from when it launched until things wound down in 2002. So in terms of the period of time Year One covers, my first hand experience is fairly limited as I got involved after launch, however my experience with the games of that time will come out in the retrospectives I’ll be writing, and I also have interviews with people who were there for the launch, including Caspar Field who is the former editor of British Dreamcast magazine DC-UK.

DCT- Would you have rather had Sega continue making the Dreamcast and it came to it’s natural end, much like the GameCube and Xbox etc, or would you keep things the same, where support continues freely without risk of repercussions?

Andrew – That’s a hard question! At the time I would have wanted the Dreamcast to continue because it was my dream console (pun very much intended). It was so far ahead of the curve with online gaming and innovations like the VMU, and Sega were still churning out amazing first party titles. In my eyes, the Dreamcast could have gone on for years longer. However, looking back now with hindsight, it was obviously the right decision for Sega to take. Had they continued to soldier on with the Dreamcast we may not have Sega at all today, and that would be a very sad thing for the gaming landscape. More importantly though, the Dreamcast itself may have become forgotten and not revered as it is right now.

DCT – A difficult one for you here but, what has been your favourite Dreamcast game and why? 

Andrew – I’m sat doing this interview in my office next to my stack of Dreamcast games. I look over and just reading the titles of some of them bring back amazing memories for me, so trying to find just one is difficult, not least because my favourite can change depending on what mood I’m in! The answer that I think most Dreamcast fans will give is Shenmue, and for me it’d be both 1 and 2 together, as I had never experienced a story told in that way before. It was truly a magical journey (through mundanity at times, sure) that I will never forget. However, to single out the Shenmue games is to drown out a whole cacophony of amazing games that were just as awe-inspiring in their own way. To list just a few, some of my other favourites would be Skies Of Arcadia, Rez, Power Stone, Jet Set Radio and Space Channel 5.

DCT – Some solid answers there! Rez is up there for us too, what about this – you are on a secluded in a bunker, by yourself for a year – what games machine would you take with you, and why? 

Andrew – These questions! Jeez! My brain is in overdrive trying to make that decision. I would certainly not get bored playing Dreamcast games for a whole year, because there are so many gems! Being realistic though, I’d probably take something modern. I bought a Switch recently and love it (I was one of the few people who bought and loved the Wii U, so I held off a while for the Switch), however I have a feeling I might run out of games I’d want to play in a year on that. The PlayStation 4 has some of my favourite contemporary game experiences in titles like ‘The Last Of Us’ and ‘Uncharted 4’, however to me it would make sense to take an Xbox One X. Not the most popular console of today, but the only one that allows you to play games from previous generations without having to buy them all over again! The Xbox 360 had some good Dreamcast ports that are playable on Xbox One too, so I’d have a year with a wide range of games spanning decades, plus a 4K blu ray player! What could be better than that?

DCT -Good call, Xbox does seem to have the all-in-one media approach done well, it’s such a tough call, can we expect to see more work from you in the future? A Dreamcast sequel book, maybe a Saturn one? 

Andrew – If ‘Dreamcast: Year One’ goes well, then I do have plans for more books to complete the story of the little white box! I end Year One on the 31st March 2000, a year before the Dreamcast is officially discontinued, so Year Two would look at the highs and crushing lows that occurred during that year. Year Three would therefore look at those last titles being officially released as things came to a close, but I’d then ideally like to write a final fourth book detailing everything that happened after that. The home brew scene, the resurgence in popularity, the cult status… There is a lot to say about all of that!

In terms of other projects, I’d certainly love to read a book about the Saturn, but I don’t think I have enough experience with that console to do it any justice. Personally I’d be more interested in looking into the Wii U, why it failed to set the world on fire while simultaneously generating some phenomenal games!

DCT – Ah the Wii U! Now that was a shame, but thankfully it led to Nintendo heading to the top again with the Switch, we would love to see a follow on book covering the later part of the consoles life too, so fingers crossed all goes well. How did you go about creating your product? Is it a hard process? 

Andrew – Luckily for me, I had a template to follow in ‘PlayStation Vita: Year One’! I love the format of that book, so the general layout will remain the same – story, interviews and retrospectives. However, I wanted to bring a little something extra to really make the book pop, and so I have commissioned a bunch of illustrations from artist Eric Pavik to fill the book. The designer of my book, Steve Novaković-Thone, had found an illustration that Eric had done of the Dreamcast and used it as a placeholder for the cover while he was going through the design process. I took one look at it and realised he’d hit on something great, and that it had to be our actual cover! So I got in touch with Eric, and we started putting together images for the book. He amended his original console image to show the blue swirl used in PAL territories (I’ll be taking a very British slant with the book), and created artwork for key retrospectives and our interviews. They feel like the missing piece that truly ties together the writing and the design to form a cohesive whole.

DCT – Where does your information come from? Extensive research? Personal knowledge? 

Andrew – For Year One it was a lot of research, backed up by what I already knew. As I say, I didn’t actually get a Dreamcast until August 2000, nearly a year after it had launched in the UK, so my own knowledge of that time was fairly limited. Being a lover of the console though, I have done a lot of reading over the years, so I supplemented that with further research, and I also got a lot of great information from people like Caspar. I can’t wait for people to read his interview in full, because there are some fantastic insights in there!

DCT – Some would say that you got the console bang at the right time, we got ours in June 2001! Lastly, how long did it take to compile all the information together, did you look back and think ‘I forgot I need to add….’ 

Andrew – The book is actually still a work in progress. I’ve been working on it for about 6 months now, and I have a lot planned out already (and 20% is completed writing wise), however I also work and study alongside this which means it takes a little longer to get everything done, as you can imagine!

Another reason I haven’t yet completed the book is because I wanted to know that there was the support out there for a book like this to be released. I didn’t want to write a whole book, pay for all the design work, illustrations and printing only to find that no-one was really that interested, you know? As I mentioned right at the start, I’m a big user of Kickstarter, and while it certainly has its flaws in some regards, when it comes to things like board games and the video game community, it has allowed some amazing creators to get their vision out there.

It helps people who have these great ideas to connect with their audience and produce things that ordinarily just wouldn’t get made. So I figured what better way to find out if there is enough interest than to use Kickstarter. I’m really looking forward to connecting more with other Dreamcast fans through my project, getting feedback and suggestions, having conversations. The simple fact is that without Kickstarter this book won’t exist. ’Dreamcast: Year One’ is meant to provide a written, unofficial history of a true cult classic aimed at old and new fans alike, so having the Dreamcast community come on this journey with me is something I’m really excited about!

 

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Many thanks to Andrew for taking the time out to chat to us, make sure you keep an eye out on Kickstarter for Dreamcast : Year One and give the Facebook page a like here :

 

https://www.facebook.com/dreamcastyearone/

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