Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Aaron Laberge, who is displayed on card number 2642 from the Superstars of 2017 Collection. Aaron’s trading card will be presented and featured the weekend of March 18th, 2017 in Banning, CA. Living in Canada, Aaron has been a gamer since the Atari 2600 days. He plays on all platforms as well as PC and arcades. Aaron holds a few records on the Twin Galaxies scoreboard such as Death Race on the Arcade and Crossy Road on the Android tablet.
What is your favorite singe player game and favorite multiplayer game?
My favorite game in either genre is pretty much impossible to pick. The single player game I play most often is probably Heroes of Might & Magic 3 or Mount & Blade: Warband, both of which have an absurd amount of depth and replay ability, despite being quite a few years old now. For multiplayer, it’s equally impossible, I love the Quake series and always have, same with Unreal Tournament and Battlefield, but newer games like Overwatch are also fantastic and that doesn’t even account for MMOs like Diablo etc. It’s honestly impossible to choose for me, I love tons of multiplayer games and it largely depends on what everyone decides we want to play for the time given.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first arcade game I ever played was Sinistar. I remember going to the arcade with my uncle and hearing this crazy yelling machine that made a bunch of noise and had crazy colors. My uncle had told me that it was too hard for a kid, but I remember being fascinated by the sight and sound of it.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I’ve only met Walter informally online, we have never actually had the chance to meet in person, though I would love to. We’ve talked over email and social media and I’ve always enjoyed our discussions.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Iconic. He represents the dawn of the era for true record keeping in my eyes.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video Game Trading card?
I never would have imagined it no, back then cards were mainly relegated to sports or some pop culture stuff, all of which I was a big fan of when I was a kid. I will say though, that I have always taken pride in doing my best and being competitive at the things I enjoy, so it seems a natural progression that would lead me to pursuing records.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card? If so, where?
Not as of yet, though I’ve only just been announced to be featured on the card. I did let friends/family know via social media and have received a lot of congratulations, for which I am humbled. Generally, I tend not to oversell the accomplishment of it, I figure if people are interested they will ask and the accomplishments speak for themselves.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
Today’s games are great and extremely innovative, but they are also distinctly different from the classics. Most classic games focused on single session endurance based games that ramp up in difficulty and have a “score”, the idea was always to try and get better but rarely to finish the title itself (largely due in part to economics behind arcade games and how they make their profit). Today’s games function at a different level, often still having a lot of “grind” to them, but mainly for aesthetics or achievements that are secondary or even tertiary to the main plot of the game but serve the same purpose of keeping the player engaged. I think both are amazing and innovative in their own unique ways.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
This may date me a bit, but the original grey Gameboy has always been my favorite, though I’ve owned a few portable devices over the years including its various future incarnations as well as the PSP. A close second would probably be the IPad or my android phone, which I sometimes play casual games on.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
In terms of frequency, I am much more of a PC gamer than console these days, that is primarily because of where I’m able to play with friends online easily on PC, not all my friends share the same consoles, though I do own the current gen so I do still play exclusives like Bloodborne or Destiny on PS4. That said, I still love console and arcade gaming and always will.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
There are probably too many to list on what I play today, but basically if it’s a big-name AAA release, an FPS or an MMO on PC, chances are I play it or have played it. As for what I’m playing now, it’s a lot of the typically popular PC games like the various Blizzard franchises, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft and Diablo 3. I’ve also been playing the recently release For Honor and have even gone back to play some Battlefield 4 lately. On Console, I’ve been playing Bloodborn, UFC and NHL 17. My favorite genres are probably split between FPS on PC and Platformer on console, though I honestly tend to love all genres of games if they are made well. In the average week, I play a lot of PC games, likely log a few hours on console and play some arcade on my bartop arcade machine, so it’s a relatively even split.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
Nintendo will always be my favorite. They are the true classic console company and they have so many iconic IPs that I love. Nintendo is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about the hobby and they have created so much that they will always be my favorite. As for the newer generation, I am a big fan of Sony and the risks they take on some games, I tend to really enjoy the fresh franchises they are bringing forward.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
Passion. I think anyone who wants to cover this genre has to love it, because there is so much to cover and so much going on at any point that if you don’t love it, you could never hope to keep up. I think that is most obvious in the writing of those who do it out of love and passion for it and those who don’t. In recent years, there has been some blowback against journos in gaming, some of which I think is justified and I believe the people who want to stay because they love it will prevail and those who were only doing it to turn a buck will move on. This genre tends to do that to people, it has a built-in litmus test for if you enjoy the hobby or not (not if you are good at it or not), because the community is so ravenous that if you don’t write with passion and conviction, they’re going to see it and they will call you on it.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
Funny you mention that because I am listening to the Super Metroid sound track as I answer your questions! I think there is a lot of gaming music that gives us a great hook into the nostalgia of gaming’s rich history. Hearing some classic NES themes like MegaMan 2 instantly makes you think of the game and the hours spent playing it. I think music really sets the tone and immersion of a game and it as I said earlier, gives us the perfect anchor to associate a game with who we are and what was going on when we were playing it.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
Gaming is for everyone. Games have surpassed the days of labels on carts for displays I think. There is such an eclectic mix of titles and themes and platforms to game on, anyone of any cast, creed or demographic can find something that appeals to them if they are interested. More and more I believe the social stigma of games being relegated to kids or nerdy guys in a basement are dying off as research is showing gamers are found across all spectrums and demographics.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I believe some games are as violent as they were intended to be for their intended audience. Are there games where the violence hits a level I am uncomfortable with? Not really, but I also don’t really actively seek games out based on violence or anything like that. As a long-time fan of the horror genre in movies, violence in games tends to be very campy to me and not something I find particularly offensive. That said, there are certainly some that take it to a level that is inappropriate for some audiences and I am a believer that parents (as they have in the past) should always exercise some discretion in what they let their kids engage in, at least until they are mature enough and capable to handle the content they are exposed to. As for leading to violence, I’ve never been a subscriber in that theory and I think it was one born out of a time when there was much less understanding of gaming and it’s impacts on culture and society. Could people be influenced or inspired by games? Absolutely, and I think they are every day, but it’s mostly in positive ways like creativity and motivation. I think if you were inclined to violence before playing a violent video games, chances are the games have very little to do with it.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
It depends on the genre, but for the most part I enjoy playing online with friends. Having played games since I was a child, I find most single player games don’t offer up the same level of challenge as you can find in other players. While there are exceptions and some games I do love to play single player for their immersion and theme, for the most part a game is almost always made better by playing with friends or having some good competition.
Which company makes the best games and why?
This is incredibly hard to judge and I’d say pretty much impossible to have a concrete answer on. If I had to pick the company I think most consistently knocks it out of the park and attempts to “perfect” a genre, I’d have to say Blizzard. Their approach tends to be to analyze genres, take what they think (I want to stress this point) are the best aspects of that genre and then they put it together in a way that is distinctly their own with the trademark Blizzard polish. While no game or company is truly “perfect”, I think their track record of success, especially with new IPs like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm shows that they have some people who really understand what makes games fun.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Tons. I’ve learned so many things from games I couldn’t even name them all. From old school MMOs teaching me the name of precious stones like amethyst and malachite to my early days of FPS games like Duke Nukem that taught me how to type DNKROZ (god mode) really, really fast to improve my typing (though I don’t use cheats now, I swear). There is so much reference to literature and so much influence from foreign cultures found in gaming that has influenced in a great number of ways. That is all aside from the obvious things like improving hand-eye coordination and problem solving. I think gaming for a large part helped form me into being a natural problem solver which helps in all aspects of life, but mostly I can pack a suitcase really well thanks to Tetris!
Are video games good for relieving stress?
SOME games are! SOME games cause me stress! Hahaha, I joke about that but the really intense FPS games like Overwatch or CS:GO will stress my nerves at times for sure, though very little in gaming is as satisfying as getting a really clutch play. I think there are many games, however, that are great stress relievers. A lot of casual games, especially on the IPad or mobile phones are good for stress relief, there is a lot simple games to be found there. Or indie games on the PC/console like Minecraft / Terraria / Starbound / Stardew Valley can be great and relaxing. That said, a creeper blowing you up when you’re carrying a bunch of diamonds in Minecraft is pretty high up there for stress induction too… so I guess in the end it depends on what game you play and how.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
It depends. If the movie feels like it does justice to a series and respects the canon and the characters and is trying to tell the story, then I will typically enjoy it. If it feels like it’s just someone trying to cash in and make a quick buck off the backs of gamers, not so much. I think I enjoy the documentaries about gaming most of all and there are many of them beyond the bigger named ones. In the end, it’s about respecting the art form and as long as it’s made with honest intent, I will usually enjoy it.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
That’s a tough choice. I think it’s mostly a tie between Mario for the sheer iconic status of the character and Samus Aran because she is a great, strong and subtle character.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
Fun and competition
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
Always gameplay. I am willing to mute music and turn down graphics if it affects my gameplay. In fact, in most games, I will turn down settings to get the best gameplay possible (though I rarely have to on PC as I spend enough money to make sure my machine can handle anything). While I think story, atmosphere, music and art are all important to bolstering the overall experience, it’s the gameplay itself that defines how truly good a game is. I think that is the primary reason why classic / retro gaming is still so popular to this day as well, because in the days when all those other aspects were incidental or luxuries, all these titles had to rely on was their gameplay and because of that, it became the most critical element.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
They can be for sure. The best part of the game is overcoming the toughest challenge, which is often boss battles in single player games. In multiplayer, it’s typically rising to the next tier or level of skill, either way, it’s meeting a challenge and surpassing it that is the “best” part in my mind.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I’d love to see a game that crosses genres better, mixing FPS and MMO and strategy elements seamlessly. Something super immersive that basically feels like all the best parts of every genre combined. I suppose it’d be a lot like real life without limits, or maybe more like The Matrix. While I love iconic heroes and characters of the older generation, I think a generic you (as in, whomever is playing) works best for most people to really immerse themselves into a game. I’m sure there will come a day where somethings comes out that manages to blend the genres as there has already been attempts here or there to varying degrees of success. We’ll get there some day, I have no doubt the future is going to be awesome.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
In terms of rarity for arcade it would probably be a nice mint Death Race machine, though I will surprise some people and say I would also love to own a Robotron as well. Death Race because I love that game and it’s such a fast and fun machine you can toss a few games up on. Robotron because I feel there is a ton of depth to it and it’s just flat out fun while exuding all the aspects that make it feel like a great showpiece to me, it has great sound, great colors and it’s a classic Williams game, plus it would look great beside my Sinistar! As for pinball, it would be another tossup between Black Knight 2000, Twilight Zone or Creature from the Black Lagoon. I love the themes and gameplay of all three machines and think they are look amazing.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
Absolutely. I enjoy gaming as a hobby and play some form of gaming nearly daily. I like to consider myself a competitor and enthusiast in all things related to gaming.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
Have you ever read Ready Player One? A lot like that haha. I’m kidding, but honestly it does seem like gaming has gone much more mainstream and I could see competitive gaming especially touching a lot larger of an audience. It seems people are a lot more inclined to watch gaming at a high level now and I think it’s more prevalent in society as a whole. I can see high level gamers reaching some measure of acclaim, similar to athletes in more niche sports. In the far future, I could see gaming getting to the point where people tune in like the matrix and it’s an entirely different life, total immersion!
This is one of an ongoing series of articles based on the Walter Day Collection of e-sports/video gaming trading cards – check out more information at thewalterdaycollection.com.