Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Dan Yamnitz who currently is displayed on card number 3319, from the Superstars of 2020 Collection. Dan is a multi-world record holder on the arcade version of Pole Position II. He holds the record on all four tracks of the game. When he is not playing arcade machines, he is restoring them. He has restored over 100 machines and even has a bunch in his home. He can be seen on his twitch channel and most arcade forums on the internet.
What does it take to be a world record holder?
For me, it was finally getting good at a game I loved anyways. I owned my Pole Position II cockpit for almost 5 years before I even thought about going for a record. I played it a few times a month just for fun, then realized I was getting pretty good. But being good isn’t enough, you have to adapt and overcome. You might be doing the same thing over and over and it might seem to work fine, then you accidentally do something else and it works so much better! A game like Pole Position 1 or 2 is over so quick (like 3 minutes) that you have the chance to immediately know what you did wrong or didn’t work and correct it. And you have to be able to play again and again until it feels like you’re banging your head against the wall, until you get that breakthrough. Then it’s all worth it!
When did you first play Pole Position?
I first played Pole Position at the 8-Wheeler Roller Rink in Jacksonville IL. Skate nights were all the rage and you never missed one. The skating rink had half a dozen games in a corner and they were always busy, including Pole Position. First time I ever played it, it was the Upright version of Pole Position and I did not qualify. Spent my next/last 3 quarters not qualifying. Kept coming back to it and my god it was a brutal game! So difficult to control. I think I qualified for the main race a few times, but around then it got changed to Pole Position II. Now were talking! Big Oval Test Track, I could qualify and almost even finish. I tried a few of the ‘impossible’ tracks like seaside and suzuka, but that was just a waste of a quarter. Played it every skate night after that. Then we went to Showbiz Pizza for my brother’s birthday party and I saw it. A Pole Position cockpit. It was like take one of your favorite games, now you get to actually be inside it. It was glorious. Of course, it was original Pole Position and I sucked, but omg it was amazing to actually feel like you were driving a car at 10 years old! Worth every token.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
A Galaga cocktail arcade game was the first video game I remember playing in the early 1980’s at Paisan’s Pizza in Jacksonville, IL. The bright ships, the dark black background under shiny glass, I remember picking it up immediately. Move, shoot, don’t get hit. I was instantly hooked on video games. A few years later they got a Nintendo Red Tent with Vs. Super Mario Bros. and then that became my go to game every single time we ate there. I was usually given 2 or 3 quarters to play while we waited for the food, and the main goal at any arcade games back then was how to make a quarter last as long as you could. I didn’t play a Pole Position game at all until I started going to Skate Nights for my elementary school at the 8-Wheeler Roller Rink. That was the first time I heard the beep, beep, beep, BEEP of the attract mode. With the qualifying and then extended laps, Pole Position was the game that got me to realize, it wasn’t about how long you can play on a quarter, but how good you can do with the time you get to play was what’s important!
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
It would be a game like the original Resident Evil, takes place in a house, lots of puzzles, stuff to add to inventory, dialogue with other people… but it would take place in a Fraternity house in the early 1990’s maybe trying to find the last beer after a crazy party. The main character would be Chris. He’s not only looking for the last beer in the house but also all the empty kegs to return so he can get his deposit back and the house doesn’t get written up with campus. Dangerous random hookups or members of other fraternity houses might be encountered at every turn and avoided or dealt with. Getting past the many obstacles of beer can pyramids or distracting the hungry mob in the kitchen making eggs at 3am would be just the beginning of Chris’s journey that night. The drunk soccer player that likes to fight would be a mini boss, idk could be a fun game.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
Today’s games are amazing. A paradigm shifts from the classic games. Old school games are you against the programming. Can you beat the puzzle in front of you without losing X amount of times, and how well can you do it. That’s it. Then they evolved. I’ve never stopped playing, from Legend of Zelda and Metroid, some of the first games that would save your progress, to N64 Super Mario World and Goldeneye, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy on PS1, then GTA Vice City, to Fortnite and MLB the Show 2020 where you are literally playing against an entire planet of other players. Classic and current games both have and will hold their place in gaming. And no matter what comes next, the allure of being better at someone at an individual game, where the rules are all the same, and it’s only one player vs. the game to see who the best can be will always stand the test of time. The classic game model seems purer to me and more likely to stand the test of time, but these new games are crazy fun!
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No. Never. My highest hopes were to get in to the Nintendo Fun Club magazine as a High Score. But then you had to take a picture of your score, and film was expensive, and I couldn’t use my parent’s camera etc. I did collect baseball cards in the 80’s and wanted to be on one of them. But there were literally Thousands of sports cards made each year for decades, and only a select few get to be on a Walter Day Arcade Trading Card. I feel deserving yet very lucky. I did do something no one has done before in classic gaming, but lucky to have someone like Walter recognize it and then to recognize it by putting me in his trading card collection is amazing.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card? If so, where?
Not yet. Really waiting to actually have the card (hopefully I can order a bunch of them) before I spread the word. I have an article about me in a local area magazine from Jan. 2019 when I got my first World Record. I also have a photo and mention in the UK based Retro Gamer Magazine issue #208 as getting all 4 Pole Position 2 World Records.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Walter in person. I had planned to go to several gaming expo’s and conventions this year but they were cancelled. My wife and I have talked with Walter on the phone and he seemed so genuine and real. Can’t wait to meet him in person!
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Dedicated. Going on almost 40 years since the founding of Twin Galaxies, Walter still has the passion and the fire! Arcade, Pop Culture, History. if it’s important, Walter is involved. It’s beyond impressive that Walter has kept up his love for Arcade and E-Sports among everything else after all this time, and I hope he keeps it up for years to come!
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
The only portable gaming devices I own are the consoles I’ve kept over the years. On the nice summer nights we take the NES, N64, PS2, SEGA Genesis, etc. outside with a classic crt TV and play for hours with friends on the deck or next to the pool. Some of the best memories of playing games ever!
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I play everything, 80’s 90’s arcade from Frogger, Neo Geo and AfterBurner, to Golden Tee, NBA Jam, and Pole Position. I also play old school and current consoles, from VR Superhot and Fortnite, to Call of Duty and Star Wars games. My personal favorite genre is any game where you compete live against other players. I love Pole Position, but right now I’m the best player in the world at it, and no one is even close to challenging me head to head. So, I’m chasing 30-year-old scores on that game, but I really love head to head live competition!
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I’ve restored and owned almost every old answer I would have had to this question. Tron, Mappy, Tapper, Red Tent (with every known game), Mad Planets, Dragon’s Lair, Playchoice 10, Donkey Kong, Super Off Road, Rampage, Tempest, etc. I do have a South Park pinball and a Bally Transporter the Rescue (which is crazy fun) so my pinball experience is low, but these new pins look amazing! Good news is I have several local places that I can play the latest brand-new pins. Bad news it costs as much as a car to own one. So I’d have to say a pin, probably a 1992 Star Wars Pinball, or a brand-new Wonka Pin. But pins get old too, so maybe a mint dedicated Irish Pole Position 2 cabinet. Never get tired of that game!
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
Nintendo. It wasn’t the first (we got an Atari 2600 for Christmas in ’83) but it had the biggest impression on me. So many amazing games! I’ve bought new from the store, every single Nintendo console since the NES, yes even the WiiU. And they all still work! Love Nintendo, always. Sega is 2nd. Sonic blew me away!
How does video game music influence games past and present?
My kid literally learned to play The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario theme songs on his melodica. If a game has good music, I am much more inclined to play it again and for longer period of times. Funny because Pole Position has no background music at all. I’ve even tried listening to music while I play but couldn’t concentrate.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
Judging by the height of some of the older cabinets like Donkey Kong, it has to be kids! It is so short! I think over time the age has risen. In the 80’s it was probably 10-14-year old, but the gaming industry discovered that young adults and even 40-year olds love playing games and actually have the money to buy them. I’d say they are aimed at the 16-18-year-old now with knowledge that the game has to be deep enough and hard enough for 25-45-year-old.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
No, not at all. I think a lot of violence in America might be avoided if the people committing the acts had access to consoles and games. I personally believe the internet along with all the technological advances of the last 20 years has had a lot to do with the crime rate being so much lower than in the 90’s. Not every game has to be like GTA and COD, and they aren’t. But those games deserve a place for sure.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
I love playing online against the world. It’s just a fun feeling knowing that you get to see how you can do against complete strangers in real time. Playing with friends is second, but when you own the arcade games and play them so much. It’s tough to have a fair match. The classic games are mostly 1 player so the only option is to play alone. I still love Frogger, Pengo, Donkey Kong, etc., but only for a few games. The only game I can play alone for any length of time is Pole Position because it’s different every time. From the first qualifying lap the cars start appearing in different spots and it continues all the way through the main race. It’s like a different puzzle every time. They did a good job with that!
Which company makes the best games and why?
Going to show my bias. Nintendo by far. They created the 2 of the 3 most iconic Arcade gaming characters of all time. Mario and Donkey Kong. Then in the console era they crushed with all the Zelda’s, Mario Karts, Super Smash Bros. and the best of them all, Super Mario games, Bros. World. Galaxy. Odyssey… And Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still one of the most amazing games I’ve ever played. And the way they changed their controllers for the Wii was a game changer. Of all the classic arcade manufactures, Bally/Midway, Williams, Sega, Taito, NeoGeo, etc., only Nintendo is still a household name.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Absolutely. They are the 21st century version of a crossword puzzle. Only you can do it against other live people all over the world. Or by yourself on your phone from your couch.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
Mario barely beats out Link. Just all the memories of playing the Arcade version of Super Mario Bros. when the family would go out to dinner. Then sneaking awake at 4am to use the ‘family’ tv to play NES, and all the amazing games since. And also, my son LOVED Mario when he was younger. Had stickers on the wall in his room to make it look like a level in the game. But Link in all the Zelda games is a great character as well. Tough call but it’s Mario by a mustache.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘Pole Position II’?
Brian Roemer. He’s a huge reason I have the World Record on all the tracks. I played for fun for years, then eventually looked up on Twin Galaxies site the WR for Test Track. I found out about the double lap qualify (where you can actually go around the qualify lap twice and get an extra 10,000 points) That record is on factory settings. So, I was intrigued and play for a few weeks. I start recording my scores and finally beat Brian Roemer for Number 1! My first World Record! only to have him beat me back in less than a week. I was shaking, I had no idea that 1. He was still playing, and 2. It was that easy for him. For the next 6 months we go back and forth on that record at least a dozen times or more. Every time he beat me, I beat him back. Then he put up a crazy fast score. I saw it on my phone, literally walked downstairs and beat it back on the third try. That’s the Test Track factory settings record that still stands today. He sent me a message later that said he tried but couldn’t beat it, congrats. Due to all the playing I had done, I started on the Fuji Track on PP2. Mike Klug had the record and it was over 30 years old. This is where all the playing against Brian helped. I was able to beat it, not by a little but by 2000 points. Which is a lot. It’s still my favorite WR race to watch, it gets pretty out of control! So, without Brian I probably would have been happy getting one WR and just kept on restoring arcade games and playing them occasionally. But that lit a fire to get all the rest and maybe the holy grail. The OG Pole Position WR.
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
Gameplay. If everything else is top shelf and it sucks to play, I’m not playing it. All of it is very important, but what are we doing here. Playing a game. So, Gameplay is the most important.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
Actually, not at all. Take Breath of the Wild. Getting to the final bosses means you’re one step closer to the game being over. And in that particular game, the overall game was so much fun to play for me and my kids that the boss battles were a huge let down and a sign it was getting closer to the end. And you almost never get a legit boss battle, usually it’s remembered a pattern and repeat, then change pattern and repeat.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Favorite Single Player game Arcade: Pole Position. Then VS. Super Mario Bros.
Favorite Single Player console: Final Fantasy 8. Then Zelda: Breath of the wild
Favorite Multiplayer game Arcade: NBA Jam. Then NFL Blitz
Favorite Multiplayer console: Call of Duty Black Ops. Then Fortnite
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I don’t think I’ll ever not be involved with gaming. I’ve restored over 100 arcade games and currently own over 20 in my personal bar and arcade. I stream on Twitch and actively follow many top classic gaming players on twitch, and I’m active on many classic arcade forums and groups offering advice and help to those new to the arcade world.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
All VR, and I’m really excited for it! The days of people complaining about console vs. keyboard will all go away. VR is the future, and it just might take 20 years from now, but it will be worth the wait!
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.