Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Joe Jackmovich, who is displayed on card number 2101, from the Superstars of 2015. Joe is an experienced journalist with his M.A. from Indiana University. Being a video game reporter, Joe has talked to many figures in the video game industry including Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. Joe also holds gaming records on such games as Geometry Wars and Computer Space and recently broke the world record on Super Double Dragon for the SNES. Joe’s goal is to break the 10 million point score on Gradius for the NES. He is starting medical school at Marian University in the fall of 2016.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
It’s completely impossible to pick a single favorite character. Magus from Chrono Trigger probably takes a high place though. It was unbelievable to have a villain join your party in an RPG. He had a convoluted story but a clear objective. And the way the party ruins his plans unintentionally is such a great mark of storytelling.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
At ICON 2015. I walked into the gallery and saw him setting up the wall of awards. One of those awards had my name and face on it and it was surreal to see a legend of gaming history personally honor me for my achievements
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
Can’t remember what it was but I do remember it was an Intellivision. I was pretty young and I can barely remember but the story goes that I was messing with the game and hit the power and reset buttons at the same time and killed the console. I must have blown a capacitor in it or something. The first game I have a more distinct memory playing would probably be Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania III. The twin mummy boss in Castlevania III was probably the first time I got mad at a game.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
They do different things and appeal to audiences with different tastes. AAA games promise spectacle and polish while indie games deliver nuance and the mystery of playing something from a little known developer. But there’s good and bad, just as there always was. We may have a wall of trash in Steam Greenlight but there’s also Undertale. People rail about AAA games but Doom has surprised scores of people with its single player campaign.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
I’d never even imagine that things like that would ever exist. I remember at the end of Earthbound you can see your name in the credits from an earlier encounter with an NPC that asks your name. It really stuck with me to see my name on a television for the first time.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card? If so, where?
I have not. I do mention it from time to time and it was a subject of some interest at a location I interviewed for medical school, so that was fun.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Glowing. It must, at least at times, tiresome to always be the center of attention or at least be the draw of a room’s eye when he goes places. But if he is bothered by it you’d never notice. He is gracious and approachable – he even let me stay at his home and I was for all intents and purposes a stranger. It’s hard to get a picture of Walter in a group when he isn’t smiling.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I am. From time to time I cover gaming events that come by my area, like interviewing Nobuo Uematsu at Distant Worlds in Chicago. Until I begin medical school I help manage a local game store and we’re getting ready to head to E3 in a few weeks. As far as competitive gaming I still do what I can when and where I can. When we go to conventions to sell merchandise I always make time to compete on whatever’s offered. At Twin Galaxies I’ve recently been trying to get more Super Nintendo games in my portfolio.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
If I had a more reliable machine I would. Consoles just can’t keep up with the hardware and the mod scene can keep a game alive for years past its expected shelf life.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I play lots of things. I currently have Okami HD, Rogue Galaxy, and Dark Souls III out in my “currently playing” area. Favorite genres have tended towards RPGs or indie games with well executed concepts, like Journey or Bastion.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
Robotron 2084. I’ve always been pretty good at twin stick shooters and playing it on MAME just isn’t the same. My first real go at a machine I landed over 400k. On MAME I have trouble breaking 250k.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
I was fortunate enough to have both though I tended towards Nintendo. I heavily favored RPGs then and SNES just beat up on Sega that generation. Phantasy Star IV was good but it couldn’t hold up to Earthbound or Chrono Trigger. Even the lesser known titles like Terranigma and E.V.O. were incredible.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
Not much, apparently. I don’t even like using the term honestly as I feel it’s disrespectful to actual journalists who analyze and do whatever it takes to get a story out. When I started edited for the first game blog I worked for a kid was shocked when I asked him to call a PR agent because he thought it was inappropriate to write something that wasn’t on a press release. Most “game journalists” are enthusiast press that thrives on cliques and ego. It didn’t take me long to distance myself from it, sadly.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
Music is the soul of a game. Nobuo Uematsu, Yasonori Mitsuda, David Wise – those people made the gameplay become far more then it could have been without their incredible talents. Once you’ve seen a room full of people erupt in cheers from hearing the first three notes from the Final Fantasy VII’s opening theme you can really see how music influences the entire culture of gaming.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
It depends on the title of course. I think most AAA titles aim for adolescents and early adults and do so with safe action, cheeky humor and sometimes eye-rolling stereotypes. Then you have social media gaming which is geared towards people who may not think of themselves as “gamers” but still put the time in farming their crops or building their empires.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I do not. In what may seem a hypocritical stance I think that games can lead to dissatisfaction with one’s body, especially for young people. Not everyone can look like Marcus Fenix or Lara Croft and those images can certainly cause issues for developing minds.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
Depends on the title. There’s a place for competition and there’s a place for relaxation. I generally like to compete on scores in a solo setting unless it’s at a tournament. Being consistently competitive in a high energy game can be draining. That said, I’ll probably keep some time for Overwatch in the coming weeks.
Which company makes the best games and why?
I’d really have to say Naughty Dog here. They know their audience and how to delivery exactly what their audience wants. They create characters that have depth without relying on stereotypes too often and implement loads of accessibility options for gamers with disability. I always say a good game sets out to do a thing and then does that thing competently. It’s hard to find a Naughty Dog game that finds itself off track.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
One of my favorite bits of philosophy came from a video game. In the game Planescape: Torment the player can run across a storyteller that tells them about a man who meets a genie. The genie tells the man to ask for his third wish. After some discussion the genie tells the man that his second wish was to return things back to the way they were after his first wish. The man proceeds to then ask his first wish a second time before the genie grins and vanishes. It was such a short but striking story about the nature of free will and the quest for knowledge. And that’s just one of the favorite ones I remember.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
It depends on the game. If it’s beating a difficult high score then the tension usually gets turned up a bit. Generally though they do help my mood. I certainly hope they would after all the time I’ve spent with them.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
I’m always optimistic but often disappointed. I like to see gaming narratives come alive in a different medium but unfortunately it’s difficult to do well. I’m waiting for a Last of Us movie because Naughty Dog is excellent at making games with a cinematic feel.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
Things like Geometry Wars or similar really arcade-y type games. The type of thing you’d hear from the background of a movie that’s trying to badly emulate people playing a game while action happens elsewhere.
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
I find myself agreeing with John Carmack more and more about gameplay being important. He has a famous quote about a story in a game being like a story in a porn movie unless there is good gameplay. And he is right to a certain extent. An excellent story still needs to have competent gameplay elements for the player to interact and advance the story. On the other hand gameplay can completely succeed without a story at all – see Destiny and their interesting experiment to keep most lore out of the game entirely.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
Sometimes. It depends on the boss and the game. Metal Gear Solid is known for its incredible boss battles but other titles like Deus Ex suffered from their implementation since it trapped players that adopted non-combat builds.
What is your favorite singe player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Journey is probably up there for favorite single player game. It’s short, accessible and shows both gamers and non-gamers the world of gaming outside the Madden and Call of Duty boxes. It is really a masterpiece of a game. I understand it’s designed to have a partner but the way its implemented is similar to a single player experience in some ways. I had a love affair with League of Legends for a while but that ended when the community finally eroded any enjoyment I had with the game. Overwatch has a lot of promise for me since I enjoyed the beta and that may make the top of my list if they make some small balance changes.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I couldn’t pick a main character but I like stories where two forces create moral quandaries for the other in order for progress to occur. Similar to some of the later Soul Reaver games and the Dark Hour game for Super Famicom. Video games are all about interactivity so why not create interesting moral decisions for people to navigate with meaningful results?
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
More and more digital. Destiny has already paved the way for games that are essentially obsolete when they’re traded in to game stores. The convenience of having a title at launch will keep chipping away at the physicality of real-world copies. VR is going to be more of a thing and I think that it will bring the technology of interactive spaces to both business and entertainment in very big ways.
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.