The Basics

Howdy, I'm Hugues Johnson. I live in the Chicago area with my wife and daughters.


For lack of a better description I work as a computer programmer. OK, my job title is something like "Software Architect" which means I do very little programming. My LinkedIn page is probably current right now.

I often joke that I've been programming since I was eight when I first learned LOGO and BASIC. It's been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. It was my favorite pastime until it became a career. The only recreational programming I do now are projects that are mostly game related. These projects regularly violate all best practices, design patterns, and everything else I have to deal with 40-50 hours a week. Consider it a nerdy rebellion against those that are good at talking about software but rarely have to make anything actually work.

That leads to my current favorite hobby: collecting video games. In recent years I've developed something of a passion for amassing games from 1984-1996. I spend many Saturdays in the summer hitting garage sales in search of treasure. I've found it to be very enjoyable, something that appeals to the nostalgic nature of my personality. Plus, unlike other collections I can actually do something with the items being collected. It's not like a stamp collector actually mails anything with their stamps.

Besides collecting video games I also enjoy writing articles about them. Of course if you've spent more than 30 seconds on this site you figured that out already. My personal favorite piece is something I called Closing Time; but if web statistics mean anything then The Complete Guide to Phantasy Star III and my Sears Catalog scans are the most popular items I've posted.

I co-hosted a retro gaming podcast from 2009-2018. Some people liked it I guess. I started another one in 2019 and have done a few guest episodes on other podcasts along the way.

Getting There

I was born in Belgium sometime during the Ford administration. My father was in the military so it was only a temporary location. We bounced around a bit before ending up in Illinois. The years of moving, and having a father who was frequently away from home, led to my commitment to not move my family or accept a job requiring travel.

Me a long time ago

Of the places I lived as a child, Lock Haven Pennsylvania evokes the fondest memories. It was one of those quiet little "main street towns" in the middle of nowhere. I passed the days roaming through the forests, seeing what I could stumble across. I suppose my future interest in RPGs stemmed from wanting to experience this sense of exploration again. It was a different time and world; nowadays I won't let my daughter play in the backyard without having a monitoring chip installed. OK, it's not really that bad but you get the point.

I attended junior high and high school in the Chicago area. Junior high was probably the two worst years I can recall but high school was alright. I still have several close friends I met back then and generally enjoyed the experience. I never really worked too hard in school which led me to incorrectly believe that I could coast through college as well.

I went on to flunk out of junior college and do nothing for a few years. An epiphany later and I enrolled in Elmhurst College which I attended from fall 1996 to fall 1999 and received a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. From fall 2001 to spring 2004 I attended the University of Illinois: Chicago (UIC) where I completed a Master's degree in Computer Science. I went in the evenings after work and never developed a strong connection with the school. My graduate coursework focused heavily on artificial intelligence. Although I still find the topic fascinating, I haven't recovered from the burnout I experienced towards the end of my studies.

While at Elmhurst, I began working as a programmer at Mercator Software. It was the 90s so there were jobs aplenty, even for the not-yet-qualified. Although that company eventually went out of business, it was a great learning opportunity and ultimately contributed to becoming a better software developer.

I proposed to my wife on New Years Eve 1999, we married in 2001, had our first child a few years later, and our second a few more after that.