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Brett Weiss Talks SNES Omnibus, Writing About Retrogaming, And Nintendo's Golden Age

We talk about the latest effort to document video game history with the author of the SNES Omnibus. This book is jam packed with Super Nintendo nostalgia and is a collaborative effort from the gaming community.

While there are entire shelves dedicated to the history of music and mountains of books written on the art of writing or literary criticism, the amount of literature out there for video games is relatively small. However, in the past five years or so there has been an increased effort for creating that literature, either telling the stories of the people involved in video games or a chronicling of a system’s library. Coming soon is an example of the latter, a complete collection of every Super Nintendo (SNES) title that represents not only making every aspect of that system more permanent, but a collaborative effort by the retro community. It is filled with photos and personal stories for each game and additional insight into what made the Super Nintendo so special. 

We reached out to the author Brett Weiss to get a better idea of how the SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M) came to be and what it was like to work on such a massive undertaking.

Full disclosure, I am one of the contributing writers to this project, doing about ten or so game insights and an essay.

There are a lot components in trying to catalog every single game in a system’s library. Accuracy is certainly a huge part of that, especially as more and more games are discovered and shared online. We asked Weiss on what it was like to attempt something like this.

“It's an enormous undertaking. Carefully studying the manuals and gameplay to get every detail right. There's a ton of inaccurate information online, so going to the games and documentation is the only way to go. Plus, it's a lot of work to boil each game down to its essential elements so you get a good, concise, informative, and hopefully entertaining write-up about each game.”

Of course trying to write about all of these games would be extremely time consuming alone, so Weiss enlisted the help of many other writers, influencers, and fans. We asked on what it was like to coordinate with those writers.

“It was wonderful.”

“There are so many talented people involved--probably around 100--including such fine folks as Intellivision programmer David Warhol, Atari and Sega Genesis veteran Steve Woita, YouTubers Kelsey Lewin, John Lester, and Shawn Long, and authors Blake Harris, Van Burnham, Michael Thomasson, and Tim Lapetino. The nostalgic stories they submitted range from working on the games to renting them at Blockbuster to buying them on closeout at Toys "R" Us to finding them at flea markets, thrift stores, and pawn shops.”

“Best of all are the stories where the contributors write about growing up bonding with their siblings, parents and grandparents over video games. The stories range from sad to funny to heartwarming to everything in between. Video games mean much more to these people than simply pushing buttons and staring at a screen. They're about forming relationships with people, enjoying a bit of entertainment during the midst of a terrible time in life, and much more.”

“Also, during the process of accepting submissions, I got to know some of the contributors better and are looking forward to seeing them at conventions around the country as I set up as a guest author.”

These words are the collective efforts of a group with vast knowledge about the console
These words are the collective efforts of a group with vast knowledge about the console. 

The SNES Omnibus is not an undertaking decided overnight. We asked Weiss on how long he had planned to put this book together.

“I originally intended the Super Nintendo to be a part of the fourth and final book in the Classic Home Video Games series, so I've been working on it on and off for several years. However, with the popularity of the SNES, and with production values soaring on retro gaming books (full color, hardcover, tons of photos, etc.), I decided to go with a different publisher--Schiffer Publishing--and write a book focusing exclusively on the Super Nintendo.”

It was this change in publisher that pushed for a second volume.

“The president of Schiffer suggested dividing it into two volumes so each game could get more coverage, and I quickly agreed that would be a great idea. About a year ago, I cranked up the volume and started working on the book almost every day. I'm almost finished with Vol. 2, which will be out in 2019. As to whether there will ever be a fourth Classic Home Video Games book, that's a big maybe.”

Video games continue making strides in being an accepted and respected medium in the mainstream. We asked Weiss on why gaming history is becoming more widespread, especially considering the increase in publications on games as a subject.

“When I began writing my first book, Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984, back in 2006, retro gaming was just starting to take off. Sure, it had been a thing since the early 1990s, as evidenced by such fanzines as Joe Santulli's Digital Press and Russ Perry's Slap Dash, but it really started picking up and going mainstream a little over a decade ago.”

“This widespread acceptance has caught the attention of book publishers, who are more willing than ever to give video game history books consideration. Plus, those of use who grew up playing the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision are at the age where we love to sit down with a good book, especially about such a fun topic. Also, as video games get more sophisticated, and as dollars continue to pour in by the billions, they are taken as a serious subject for writing about.”

The SNES Omnibus is not just a wealth of information, but it is stylish as well.
The SNES Omnibus is not just a wealth of information, but it is stylish as well.

We were curious on whether or not Weiss thinks that games will ever reach that level of acceptance.

“Yes, we are definitely headed in that direction. Over the next decade, as Millennials age and reach positions of power at their jobs and in their communities, video games will take their rightful place alongside other entertainment media. They will be a respected medium for storytelling, entertainment, stress relief, communal events, etc.”

“They already are in many circles as geek culture is by far more mainstream than it's ever been.”

The SNES Omnibus Vol. 1 is up for pre-order and more can be learned about on the official website.

For more Super Nintendo action, check out this interview with ShinyZeni on his Reverse Boss Order Super Metroid speedrun

Discussion
Megaretroman -
I contributed to the upcoming SNES Omnibus Vol. 2 book. Some of the games I wrote about weren't my first choice, but I think it came out well in the end.
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