Some call them video game strategy guides, others call them guidebooks or walkthroughs. I often referred to them as travel guides to fictitious places… places that will likely kill you. Just please don’t call them “cheat codes.” They’re not cheat codes; they’re officially licensed books that help gamers get the most out of their experience.
The video game industry is enormous, with annual revenue over 14 billion dollars. Some game franchises gross over a billion dollars in sales with each single game released—a select few hit that mark in their first week on the shelves. And for every major game released into the wild (and some not-so-major ones), there is a video game strategy guide available alongside it.
Strategy guides cover every aspect of the game, from the basic instructions that once-upon-a-time was covered in a user’s manual to detailed strategies, statistics, items lists, compendiums of enemy data, and maps. Oodles of maps. Strategy guides are typically between 300 and 500 pages in length, full-color, and nowadays come complete with developer interviews, chapters devoted to concept art, or packed-in game-related collectibles. They’re also released “day-and-date” with the game, making them essential for early adopters and devoted fans of the franchise.
I began authoring official video game strategy guides in 2000. I was asked to help out on the guidebook for Tenchu 2, to keep it from going late. A surprise third playable character, complete with his own campaign, was discovered just days before the book had to be in production. A second author was needed and I was available. I’ve written over a hundred guidebooks since: thank you Tetsumaru.
I wrote exclusively for Penguin imprint, BradyGames, from 2000 to 2014 before embarking on our bicycling journey. During that time I authored strategy guides for nearly every major franchise in the industry, with just a few key exceptions that ran counter to my tastes. It was a career that proved to be the perfect combination of my childhood dreams and my adult ambitions. It challenged my skills as a gamer, my efficiency as a writer (there was no time for second drafts), and was immensely frustrating at times, as anybody who has ever worked with beta software can attest. And I loved it.
Now that we’re back home, I look forward to returning to the keyboard and gamepad, if only to support my fiction pursuits.