50 Years of Boss Fights: Insights from writing my Second Book

October 2020. That's when I knew what '50 Years of Boss Fights', my second book, would be about. But how did I approach it?

50 Years of Boss Fights: Insights from writing my Second Book

October 2020. That's when I knew what '50 Years of Boss Fights', my second book, would be about.

It was a rainy day, and I had just finished chatting to Programmer Gavin Rummery for 'The Making of Tomb Raider'. We were talking about 'Natla's Mines', a level in the first Tomb Raider game where Lara loses all her weapons, and she has to find them all again, whilst facing off against the henchmen of the antagonist, Natla.

Rummery had mentioned how the bosses were mainly an afterthought — the team were running out of time. As you face Natla in the final level of the game, you kill her after laying down a wave of bullets in her direction, you then slide down a slope, and that's it. This was a result of the team trying to get the game done.

I never minded how these bosses were — I was more impressed that I'd face off against Pierre and Larson, who would appear at random points throughout the game. But to Rummery's point, I never thought of Tomb Raider's bosses as memorable.

But it got me thinking as I was walking up Lincoln's High Street between Zoom calls — which bosses are?

And that's how Book 2 began. But it would take a couple of years before it eventually morphed into '50 Years of Boss Fights'. You can pre-order the hardback, but the ePub version can also be pre-ordered for your tablet of choice.

The Start

I always play games. It could be during a work break, when I'm on a train, or as I'm watching something on YouTube. Emulators like OpenEmu on Mac and Delta on iOS, both of which can emulate a bunch of consoles and handhelds from the past 40 years, make it as easy as possible for me to do that.

Whilst I was deep into finishing off the final draft of 'The Making of Tomb Raider', I was coming up with a list in the back of my mind of memorable bosses.

It. Constantly. Changed.

It was a huge challenge — not only in coming up with the bosses, but also the memorable ones from the past 50 years — especially if there are highly-regarded ones from games I had never played. So I made it a (hidden) mission to randomly play through games I never considered before. Undertale was one example — but it's now a game I regard as one of the best in the RPG genre — as good as Final Fantasy and Earthbound.

There was also the factor of how many bosses I'd feature. 100 seemed extreme, as I'd still be writing it now. I wanted the book to have some focus, but not to bore the reader either. I also didn't just want it to be a 'here's a boss, here's what it does, next one please, move along' read.

To take slight inspiration from how there would usually be a secret 51st Pokemon like Mew and Celebi, I thought 51 bosses would be a good number. So from then on, I just started playing as many games as I could to keep adding to this list, as well as removing others that I didn't deem as memorable as I had first thought.

Starting again

Looking back through my drafts, it looks like I began writing the first draft in July 2021. I listed all 51 bosses and just got to work. But as I had finished writing about three bosses, something happened:

I got bored.

If you're feeling like that in anything — you start to lose motivation, ideas, and the drive to get things done. It's game over (sorry), and it happened to me with the first couple of drafts.

This was also during my wife and I's wedding planning for the following year. Combined with a relatively new job, I decided to close everything down related to Book 2, with an aim to come back to it closer to Christmas.

Christmas became February. Which then became May. Which then became August. For most of 2022, I didn't write a thing. Instead I just played games while wondering about the entire structure of the book — and that's when it hit me.

Interviews would be a huge part of the book again. It's what I enjoyed most when researching 'The Making of Tomb Raider'. For the rest of the year, I got to work reaching out to those involved in the games I decided would be in the book.

After a short while, things started to snowball, creatively speaking. Eventually, a structure for each boss would come together, which culminated into the fifth draft. This is the version of Bosses that ended up being the one I submitted to a fantastic proofreader in early 2023. But that was just the start of getting the book ready for its release date.

I’ll stop there for now, but stay tuned over the next few weeks to discover even more about the making of the book.

Thanks for reading.