Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Ed Fries, who is displayed on card number 365, from the Superstars of 2012 Collection. Ed has been in the gaming scene since the early 1980’s. He ahs been part of some historic gaming revolutions and games. After working on games for the Atari 800, he joined Microsoft to work with their office software. Ed then moved to the gaming department and was influential in the creation of the Xbox and the flagship game Halo. With his time at Microsoft, Ed published over 100 games for Microsoft Game Studios. After leaving Microsoft Ed has stayed in the gaming industry and created his own company and still makes games today.
What does it take to be a video game designer, and what advice would you give a person today who would like to get into the industry?
My main advice would be to do whatever it is you want to do. If you are a programmer, write as many games as you can. Don’t worry about how good they are. They will get better. The same advice applies to artist, writers, designers, etc.
Do you remember when you created your first video game and what do you remember about the experience?
I started by typing in games from magazines and then writing me own, first in Basic and then Assembly Language on my Atari 800. I honestly don’t remember what my first game was, but I must have had fun because I kept doing it all these years!
While at Microsoft, what was your feeling of the console wars between you, Sony, and Nintendo?
I had friends at both companies and like to think we had a friendly competition. Gamers tend to be the winners when big companies compete. It’s never good for customers when there is a monopoly.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Countless studies have shown there is no connection between violence in media (movies, games, books, etc) and in real life. Violence in America has dropped dramatically over the last 50 years since video games were first introduced. There’s just no evidence to support the idea that games cause real world violence.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I love both. Right now, I’m really enjoying Genshin Impact and Animal Crossing New Horizons, but I also am having fun developing on a 1968 PDP-8/L and a 1981 PDP-11/23+.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Ha! Who even thought there would be such a thing? I did collect baseball cards when I was a kid (man that gum was awful…) but no, I never connected that to video games.
What is your favorite game you have worked on in your career?
I really enjoyed publishing the Age of Empires series and the Halo series, but it would be a stretch to say I “worked on them”.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
I play on my phone, my iPad and on my Switch. I probably use my iPad the most just because I like the big screen.
What was the best decade for gaming in your opinion and why?
Honestly, I think we are living in the best decade right now. There are more games on more platforms than ever before, and more people are gamers than ever before. We are finally seeing video games take their rightful place as most popular form of entertainment in the world.
What was your first impression when you started at Microsoft?
Microsoft was always the underdog on projects I worked on in the company and I liked that. Lotus 123 was much larger than Microsoft when I worked on Excel. WordPerfect was larger than Word, and we were definitely underdogs when we took on Sony and Nintendo with Xbox.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I mentioned a few games above, but I play all genres from fast action shooters like Destiny to strategy and RPG games. Lately I’ve been enjoying games I can play a little bit every day and have a long relationship with like Animal Crossing.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
He’s the spiritual leader of competitive gaming.
Are video games today aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I think games are for everyone.
Which company today, in your opinion, makes the best games and why?
I really don’t think I can pick just one. There are great indie developers like Supergiant and Klei, and there are giant companies with long track records like (just to pick a few that are in my hometown) Bungie and Valve. As gamers we have so much great content to choose from these days.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Honestly, I think Hollywood movies are starting to look more and more like video games rather than the other way around. As we become the dominant form of entertainment you will see more “transmedia” efforts so that fans of a game have many other ways to connect with the characters and story.
Who is your favorite video game character of all time and what makes that character special?
I guess for me my favorite character is the Master Chief in Halo. He faces an impossible situation but continues to fight on, against all odds, to make the universe a better place.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I run a small venture firm called “1Up Ventures”. We invest in video game developers.
Where do you see the video game industry in the next 20 years?
Games will continue to grow in importance around the world. We will conquer India and South America and from there on to Africa I suppose. Games will be made by everyone for everyone and that will be a great thing.
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.