Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Jarrod Kailef, who currently is displayed on card number 3143, from the Superstars of 2019 Collection. Jarrod is an all-around retro gamer. He has been involved in and around gaming since a young child. He is very technical when it comes to fixing and working on games and other technology. You can see Jarrod in multiple gaming forums and groups. His knowledge of the genre is second to none. Jarrod is the recipient of the Order of the New Britannia Empire Award presented by Richard, “Lord British” Garriott, the creator of the Ultima Series and Class of 2019 International Video Game Hall of Fame member.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first video game I remember playing was Space Invaders. I was probably four years old, maybe five? I thought I was clever for hiding under one of the bases and shooting a hole in the middle so I could attack the invaders from relative safety. The thing that I remember most vividly is having to climb up onto a stool in order to be able to see the screen and touch the buttons.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
There are some truly outstanding modern video games! That said, a lot of what I see is low-effort junk, relying on fancy graphics to replace innovative and interesting gameplay mechanics. That is only half the story however! A lot of us who grew up in the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s in what is now known as the classic era of video games, look back fondly on the games of our youth. We point out how great older games were and how we didn’t need impressive graphics for our games to be fun. But, when we do that, we are thinking about the games that we loved, the popular ones that fared well in the arcades and home consoles. We conveniently forget just how many terrible, low-effort, low-innovation games were produced back then! For every masterpiece like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter II, or Smash TV, there were at least ten awful cash-grab zero-innovation games, the names of which nobody remembers. The short answer then, is that there are some truly great games to be had in every era of gaming, but those great games, regardless of era, are always outnumbered by the bad games!
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Not even slightly. Honestly, I am still blown away and very humbled that Walter Day would choose to honor my meager contributions in this way.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I’ve known about Walter Day for decades, but the first time I met him in person was at one of the first Arcade Expo events in Banning California, at the sadly now defunct Museum of Pinball.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Centered. Maybe, balanced? I say this because he seems, at least to me, to be entirely at peace with himself. It’s rare to meet someone who is as calm and accepting as Walter.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
I’m not much of a portable gaming kind of guy. I think the Nintendo Switch is the best portable console available as of the time of this writing, but I don’t own one. As far as my personal favorite, I have a lot of nostalgia for the Donkey Kong Jr Game and Watch and the Entex Space Invader game that I used to have when I was a kid… although I don’t think I’d want to spend too much time playing either of them these days!
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
While there are definitely some real standout games I enjoyed on earlier consoles, overall, I prefer PC gaming. There’s just a lot more flexibility on a PC when contrasted to the “walled garden” environment of a modern console. I think, however, that with time the line between PC and console is going to continue to blur. Consoles are getting more and more powerful all the time. That point hasn’t arrived yet, though – On a PC, I still have a lot more options, and more powerful hardware, than even the latest generation of consoles.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
At this moment on my PC I’m playing through Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Cyberpunk 2077, Diablo II Resurrected, Horizon Zero Dawn, and occasionally playing some of my old favorites, like MechCommander Gold. On my home arcade I’m mostly playing Street Fighter II and Gravitar. On my retro consoles I’m (slowly) making my way through Chrono Trigger again.
As far as my favorite genres of games, my favorites in the past pretty much remain my favorites today! I started out loving arcade games of basically any type. When I started gaming on home computers and consoles in the 80s, I formed a deep and persistent love of good RPGs, especially the Ultima series on my Apple II computer. As the 90s arrived, I formed a similar persistent love of fighting games such as Street Fighter 2, and really enjoyed the Final Fantasy series on my Super Nintendo. In the mid to late 90s I spent a ludicrous amount of time playing RTS games such as Command and Conquer, and more RPG games like Fallout 1 and 2. I also came to enjoy three-quarter perspective dungeon crawler games like Diablo. I was never a big first-person shooter fan until the graphics really got super smooth in the mid-2000s, and even today an FPS is not my first choice.
I think that overall, I like RPGs, ARPGs, and fighting games the best, but that’s not a really fair assessment because I love so many other genres too.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I own a variety of arcade cabinets, so clearly, I can’t pick just one! Actually, if I only could pick one, it would probably be Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition, simply because that was the game that I was the most successful with in tournaments and so forth.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
Probably Nintendo, because I really liked their Super Nintendo platform. Obviously, Sony beats everyone because of the immense success of the PlayStation line, but Nintendo was the tip of the spear. It’s not a stretch to say that Nintendo singlehandedly rescued the console market with the NES.
What does it take to be a video game journalist?
Really, the same thing it takes to be any other sort of journalist. Besides the ability to write, you need to have a deep understanding and strong perspective on the past, present, and future of video games. That perspective gives you insight that someone who’s just regurgitating data about the latest releases won’t be able to match.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
For me, video game music is a really big deal. When done right, music can take a game that would otherwise be mediocre and elevate it to a great game. It can take a great game and elevate it to a masterpiece! There are many examples, but I’ll point out a few: On home computers, the music in the Ultima series did this. On console, the music in Final Fantasy did this. In the arcade, the music in Spy Hunter and Space Harrier did this. There are lots of video games that don’t have compelling music (or often no music at all) which are great but would be made so much better with music. Video games are like anything else, music makes them better. Imagine Star Wars, Back to the Future or Indiana Jones with no music!
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
All three, obviously. Some games are specifically targeted to children or adolescents, some to adults, and these days even some to old fogies such as me, to capitalize on our nostalgia.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
No, I don’t. While I have heard of a handful of games that were made to be deliberately over the line, I believe that’s the exception, not the rule.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
I usually prefer playing games alone. However, that’s not a hard and fast rule as I as I’ve certainly spent a great deal of time playing online MMORPGs. I also really enjoy fighting game tournaments which by nature are competitive against other people. You know, as I really think about this question, I’m going to have to say that I like them all, depending on what mood I’m in at the time. I love playing with other people in a video arcade, and playing cooperative games with my friends and family, but I also love the challenge of “me versus the machine” when playing solo games, and the challenge of competing against others.
Which company makes the best games and why?
I really don’t think I can answer this question! There are so many games I love by so many different companies in so many genres that it’s not even feasible for me to answer it. If I was literally forced to pick a single favorite game company it would probably be Origin Systems or BioWare, but that just isn’t fair because there are so many other incredible companies that made incredible games that I play.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Absolutely. Besides the classic hand-eye coordination gains you get, RTS games teach strategic thinking and planning, group FPS games teach teamwork, RPG games teach moral lessons, et cetera. There’s a lot to be gained from playing video games.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Video games can be good at relieving stress, but sometimes not. Depends on the situation. They can also cause stress. For example, fighting game tournaments are very stressful, high-energy events. On the other hand, I know some people that play Stardew Valley before bed to help relax them.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from a video game?
Most of the time, no. There have been a few that were OK, though. For example, some of the Resident Evil movies were good, as was the first Hitman movie with Timothy Olyphant. World of Warcraft, Dungeon Siege and Rampage were decent, if uninspired. While the movie was pure cheese, the music from the first Mortal Kombat is classic. But there’s so many awful ones. Super Mario Bros, Wing Commander, Postal, and of course Sonic the Hedgehog. There are so many bad ones that I would waste a page and a half mentioning them all!
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
The Avatar from the Ultima series of games. That character is special because it is literally intended to be you, your personal avatar, in the Ultima game world. When you allow yourself to play the game and make decisions just exactly as you would make them if you were really there, it really changes the dynamic of the game.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
That’s easy, it was locked into my psyche as a young child. When I hear that, I immediately think of arcade cabinets. I think of a video arcade with rows of machines, or a pizza place with faux brick paneling and a game room in the back. I hear the attract mode of the different games all urging me to drop a coin in the slot and see if I’m good enough to beat it. In short, the term “video games” brings up some of my best childhood memories of playing in an arcade with my dad and brother as a kid.
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
I think overall that gameplay is the most important factor. Certain late 70s and early 80s games proved this because they had no music or story, and their art style was horribly limited by the technology of the time. But, lacking in all these other attributes, the good gameplay made the game fun, and therefore successful.
Now then, I don’t want to undercut the importance of those other items. I already mentioned how music can elevate a game to greatness. So can story, especially in an RPG. Excellent art can make a good game great, too. However, without well-designed and engaging gameplay, a game simply isn’t fun, which is why gameplay is the most important to me.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
Depends on the game, I guess. I enjoy boss battles some of the time, and other times not. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes exhilarating.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Wow, that’s really difficult. When the first game you played was released in 1978, and the latest game you’ve played was released in 2021, there’s a lot of games to choose from. I think I’ll have to break it down by overall platform, and even then it’s really difficult for me to pick a single one for each.
Favorite Arcade Multiplayer: Marvel Vs. Capcom (90s Arcade)
Favorite Arcade Single player: Space Ace (80s Arcade)
Favorite Console Multiplayer: Warlords (Atari 2600)
Favorite Console Single player: Final Fantasy 6(3) (Super NES)
Favorite PC Multiplayer: World of Warcraft (PC)
Favorite PC Single player: Ultima V (Apple II)
I picked all these under duress! This leaves out some massive favorites of mine like Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, CyberBall 2072, Robot Odyssey, Below the Root, Wasteland, Fallout, MechCommander Gold, Sundog: Frozen Legacy, Deus Ex, and a host of others, any of which could easily have taken the “favorite” slot if I had woken up on the other side of the bed this morning.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I can’t answer this question as presented, because I am a game developer, albeit not a particularly well known one. I’m a member of the development team at 6502 Workshop, the company that designed and released Nox Archaist, the first boxed, AAA class computer game for the Apple II platform in about thirty years! It’s heavily influenced by genre classics such as Ultima and The Bard’s Tale, and was released, as of the time I write this, just a hair over a year ago in December of 2020. If you’d like to learn about it (or get your own copy!) you can visit us at https://www.6502workshop.com/
I’m always working on various new game projects, so by the time you read this I might be working on something new. I keep my current projects listed over at https://www.kailef.com if you want to check up on what I’m doing.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I am a game developer with 6502 Workshop, and the community manager for the Sundog: Resurrected Legacy project. I do voice over and video work for a variety of classic and modern gaming projects including Andrea Contato’s Through the Moongate series, Ken William’s Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings book, Ready Go Gaming Show: Generations, and Elvis Morelli’s Game Over Carrera, to name a few. I also compose music for video games, the most recent being Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar. I donate monthly to the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM) located on the top floor of Funspot in Laconia, New Hampshire. Beyond that, I intermittently provide technical support and moderation for Billy Mitchell’s Twitch stream and provide volunteer tech assistance at various video arcades and gaming conventions. I also can frequently be found at my favorite local arcade, Retrovolt, located in Calimesa, California.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
It seems clear to me that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are going to be a big deal in the coming decades. There’s only so much you can do with a controller or keyboard/mouse and a flat screen. Attempts have been made to change gaming like Nintendo did with the Wii, but the technology just wasn’t ready to support the objective at the time. However, technology is advancing at an alarming rate now, and with it, the face of gaming will change and allow VR (or something like it) to become more dominant.
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.