This week we look back at an interview I did with author and Retro Gamer Jeffrey Wittenhagen. Jeffrey has written a handful of retro gaming books with stunning illustration. You can access these books for purchase as well as other items from Jeffrey at hagensalley.com. Along with Todd Friedman, Jeffrey is currently working on the Walter Day Trading Card Book, a detailed look at the first 200 cards in the collection. This interview was done on April 16th, 2016. I hope you enjoy.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Jeffrey Wittenhagen, who is displayed on card number 781, from the Superstars of 2014 Collection. Jeffrey can also be seen on card numbers 1285 and 2288. Jeffrey is a published author of many gaming books such as Hidden Treasures: Rare & Unappreciated Gems and a NES collector’s guide called “The Complete NES”. He is currently working on a project to deliver the Super Nintendo Collector’s guide as well as publishing his own NES game called “Jeffrey Wittenhagen’s Black Box Challenge”. It is a Homebrew NES RPG, developed by Sly Dog Studios, where you collect video games, namely the first release black box NES games.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
I like the Game Boy Advance SP the most. It is essentially a portable SNES, with both 16-bit ports as well as new stylized games, which is one of my favorite eras of gaming. It was also one of the first backlit systems that also were rechargeable. With all the previous systems, the battery drain was insane and the main reason why they aren’t my favorite.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first game that I played was Pitfall on the original Atari 2600; it is why I am still obsessed with 2D platformers to this day! In the Arcades, I played all the classics, however the first one I really remember playing was Centipede. I always liked the control that you have with the trackball.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
My idea for a NES game is becoming a reality by Sly Dog Studios. It’s called Jeffrey Wittenhagen’s Black Box Challenge and it is a RPG where the goal is to collect the original NES black box games that unlock special abilities as you play them, as mini games, within the game!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
Today’s video games are more about adding content to prolong the experience. Whereas classic games tried to maximize the amount of fun you could have with a quarter. That’s why I still play classic games to this day, as I find that skill based games that are shorter in nature and work better with the limited time I have available to play games.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
Nope, definitely is surreal.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card?
I don’t think so, although I’ve included pictures from the ceremony in one of my books.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I first met Walter Day at a, now-defunct, gaming convention in Miami, Florida. At the convention I was promoting my old gaming website; however, knowing that Twin Galaxies was going to be there I also I brought my own Super Nintendo and copy of Super Punch-Out. That’s where I did my first live world record run.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Genuine. Walter makes every single person he meets feel like they are special and the center of the universe. It’s the true definition of an amazing person.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
Yes. I am a published author with multiple books written and on the way. In 2015 I published a NES collector’s guide called The Complete NES and this year I’m writing a SNES collector’s guide along with a quarterly Video Game Culture book series. My books are available for sale at www.tinyurl.com/completenes and you can find out more about the video game culture series at www.tinyurl.com/completequarterly.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
Console. I grew up with consoles and the only computer that I had was the Commodore 64. For me, even to this day, consoles offer consistency in gameplay, whereas PC gaming depends on the gaming rig that you have and is typically more expensive if you want to maximize your experience.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I am an avid gamer and even cohost a podcast called VGBS (Video Game BS) where we BS about video games, which is available all over. There is even an episode where we interviewed Walter Day! So I basically play games as much as I have time for, between work, family and writing.
My favorite genre is the 2D Platformer; however I also love playing Action RPGs, like The Legend of Zelda. I’m not as involved with newer Action RPGs as almost all games contain RPG elements nowadays; however I still enjoy those as well.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I already own a couple of arcade games, one being my personal “holy grail” for gaming. That is the Nintendo VS Red Tent arcade. The version I have also has an official Nintendo Playchoice 10 installed on one side. Having played this arcade as a kid, without the extremely rare PC10 of course, so it has the ultimate nostalgia to me. What is great is that there are different versions of NES classics on the VS side, such as 2-player Excitebike and a more difficult Super Mario Bros. On the PlayChoice 10 side, there is a really awesome community that supports and collects these games, keeping things fun and nostalgic.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
Nintendo all the way. I never had any Sega systems until the Dreamcast was released, so it was always Nintendo for me. Friends did have the Genesis, so I did get to play Sonic 2 and other classics, but I never had one. Getting the other systems as I began seriously collecting, I’ve now begun to appreciate those systems as well.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Generally, no; as they take too many liberties with the established stories and norms.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
You need to be knowledgeable on what you write/talk about. That way you can be impartial when you talk about things, which is the main difference between a Journalist and someone like me who is an author. Anytime I do a journalist review, it has to be from the perspective of impartiality.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
That depends on the era that you are talking about. Arcades were initially aimed at adolescents/adults due to where they were available at. The 8-bit era had the NES marketed as a toy initially, getting a stigma that it was aimed at children? As those children grew up, the focus evolved. Nowadays, they tend to target all ages.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Not at all. If anything Video Games becoming popular have made younger generations more likely to stay inside and not even go out to be violent.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
I’m more of an alone player, however I have begun to start playing online with friends and find it extremely fun. Really it all depends on the game.
Which company makes the best games and why?
Honestly, Nintendo first party games are still a day one buy for me, so I’d have to go with them. It has to do with the nostalgia that I feel for the characters as I’ve grown up with them.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Aside from real-time problem solving skills, hand eye coordination was the earliest thing that I learned. Duck Hunt, for example, prepared me for when I needed to fire weapons within the military!
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Video Games are an escape from reality, so they can definitely be used to relieve stress in certain situations. Of course there are those games that cause more anger than not, but the street definitely goes both ways.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
My favorite video game character is Link from Legend of Zelda and it’s the overall progress and adventure that you go through with each story. Becoming more and more powerful until you can take on the main enemy of the game, typically Gannon.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
I think of the NES!
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art Style?
Gameplay. It has to be fun to play for it to connect with me.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
No, I more so enjoy the adventure that gets you there.
What is your favorite singe player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Single Player is A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES. Multiplayer is Double Dragon II on the NES. Hyper knee madness!
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
I think video games will continue to evolve with other media. So it will go into 4K, wider screens, etc. I’m hoping the current focus on independent developers, who typically give gamers new experiences, continues and all these bigger companies lessen their grip on the industry.
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