Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Josh Houslander who is displayed on card number 139, from the Twin Galaxies Superstars Collection of 2011. Josh was one of the creators of a podcast for Twin Galaxies website that discussed all things Twin Galaxies as well as world records established by the community. The new podcast which Josh is involved in can be heard primarily on themajors.net. Josh also was involved in an exclusive interview with Walter Day that can be purchased on DVD. Josh has also personally interviewed top talent in the video game industry through the years and was a key part of the Video Game Hall of Fame in Ottumwa, IA in 2010. Some of Josh’s Video Game Records include Bubble Bobble Plus on the Wii and Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES.
Did I ever think when I was younger that I would be on a video game trading card…..? Hmm, yes I probably did. My dream as a kid was to become an absolute video game master. I wanted to test my skills against all comers, I wanted to work in the video game field as a game tester, write up reports on the latest and greatest new games, and be the ultimate video game champion. At a young age I thought up ways to have potential tournaments, championships, and competitions to find out who the true “King of Nintendo” was (that is what I would have called it as a child). The only problem is, that if one were to go back in time and tell eleven year old Josh that one day he would be on a video game trading card; but that he would be remembered much more for covering events, podcasting, and his journalistic contributions to the subculture rather than his own world records or prowess as a master of all video games. That may just be one heartbroken little dork.
The first video game I remember playing was Q-Bert on the Arcade in a Laundromat with my Aunt Jean. Another early one for me was Mario Bros. for The Atari 2600. The system belonged to my Uncle Kurt and was left behind in my grandparent’s basement (I still have that very system). I was a huge fan instantly. I loved the goofy graphics and game play; and this is still the type of video game I enjoy to this day. I just remember thinking that I was doing so well at Q-bert because I kept jumping on to that little rescue platform. It wasn’t until a few years later that I came to realize that that was not actually the objective of the game.
When I look at today’s generation of video games, I of course can’t help but recognize that they are far superior in just about every way. Better control, better reliability, more thought out, more complex, and far better graphics. But with that being said, personally speaking I don’t care much for them. I am a retro gamer through and through. I prefer the simplicity and fun factor that seems to give an inherent desire to become an absolute master at the game in front of you. This is not to say that I have never enjoyed a newer game, nor do I feel qualified to give a definitive year or system that separates the retro from the new. As a member of the competitive gaming subculture and a father of four, with a nine year old son who loves video games, naturally I have played several newer ones; but they quite simply just do not do it for me. And even if I were to put together a short list of “newer” games that I enjoy, even those games are getting older by the minute. Furthermore, it has been a decade or more since I felt compelled to purchase a new game the week it came out; or even anticipate a game before its release. I guess another major part of this for me personally is that I have very little time to play video games these days; and with so many retro games that I love so much, and scores more that I never had the opportunity to master out there I just figure why chase after a game to spend my precious time on in which I am uncertain of the potential fun to be had; when I have a stack of games in the corner I am dying to play that I know I enjoy.
The first time I met Walter Day in person was at his home in Fairfield, Iowa. I was there to conduct his official “retirement from Twin Galaxies” Interview. Looking back at our relationship since then, I’m not sure it would be possible for a person to have done more for a subculture after they supposedly retire from it all. This day to me is still one that I look back at with an almost magical fondness. Walter is a great man, and truly one of my favorite people in the world. I have nothing but respect for not just his accomplishments; but for the man himself. Maybe someday the industry will actually let him retire; so he can finally get to work on that music career.
The one word I would use to describe Walter is magnanimous. He gives with no thought of reward (to throw in a random Jedi quote). This statement is true of what he has done for the industry and how he treats his friends both within and outside of the subculture. His kindness is only second to his generosity.
My favorite portable gaming device would probably be the original Game Boy. I am a huge Tetris fan, and although there are many who disagree with me I still believe that the Game Boy version of that game is still the best incarnation of it. I also loved Super Mario Land, Alleyway, and a host of others. I have owned and had some fun with my Atari Lynx for years; but I feel it does not come close to the playability of Game Boy. My kids have had the newer Nintendo handhelds: Advance, D.S., and others and they seemed to dig them; but I was never a huge fan. I also love the Sega Nomad because you could play the great Genesis classics, though I was never a huge Game Gear fan. The one portable that I have always wanted but have never owned was The Turbo Express. As a big fan of Turbo Grafx 16, the console system that plays the same catalog; I have a feeling if I were to be able to track one of those down that it would quickly reignite my lost love for portable gaming.
I definitely prefer console gaming over PC. There have been a handful of PC games that I have enjoyed over the years; but the list is small. I have also never been the type of person that has the latest and greatest computer on the market; so it has never really been a viable option for me. Although I do many things that require a computer I have always been a “hang out in the Tim Hortons parking lot with my hand-me-down laptop for the free Wi-Fi” kind of guy. I did love Warcraft II Battlenet Edition when it was out and I still plug that one in from time to time, along with a few others; but like I said: “the list is short”.
I love it when Hollywood makes a video game into a movie! Even though I acknowledge that the majority of them aren’t any good. My philosophy on this is simple: it is not like there is any shortage of movies being made, nor is the number that can be released set or finite; so the more the merrier. If a movie doesn’t interest you, than you should simply not watch it. I realize that many lovers of movies feel that Hollywood is acting like they have run out of ideas and that too many of the main stream movies are based on books, comic books, video games, or T.V. shows. But I for one, even as an avid movie lover feel that film, especially with the advent of great technology is often times simply not as complex of an art form at its core as some of the others. For that reason I believe that they should make as many movies off of comic books, print books, video games, and T.V. shows as they possibly can. And then if somebody in Hollywood actually comes up with an idea for an original movie, than they should make that too!
The games I play today are pretty much the same games I played yesterday and yesteryear. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a retro gamer through and through. I love the old arcade classics, platformers, adventure games, puzzle games, and like many others, I’m a sucker for anything that has the word Mario in it. But the games that I play most today are actually ones that I can play with my kids. I love Bubble Bobble, Sonic, Galaga, any of the Super Mario Bros. games (although I admit the first one for the Wii is the last Mario game that I have played for any decent amount of time at all). I also spent the entire summer remastering and inventing new ways to play the original Shining Force with my son. It was ridiculous how much fun we had doing it (it did kind of drive my wife and oldest daughter crazy though).If I could own one Arcade machine, it would be the 1981 Anniversary Machine with Ms. Pac Man and Galaga together on it. I’m a huge Ms. Pac Man fan, and would have a ton of fun with Galaga as that is one of the favorite games of my oldest son and many of my friends and family. Plus with Ms. Pac Man you can put in the code and play regular Pac Man as well; so it would be like having three classic games in one. If I were to get this machine, I would prefer the table top version; but either style would be cool.
Growing up I was definitely Team Nintendo over Team Sega. I never owned a Master System until I was much older, and although I never got rid of my classic Nintendo, I got a Super Nintendo right when it came out. With that being said I did save up my money and get myself a Genesis a little while later (once the core system came out making it more affordable). I, a little while later did the same thing to get myself a Turbo Grafx 16 on clearance. So I actually had several to choose from. I loved them all! But if I were to be forced to choose, my loyalties definitely lied with Nintendo.
What does it take to be a video game journalist……. Well for some reason I feel like this may be the only question on here that I am qualified to answer or that people may care about, yet it is the hardest one to think of an answer for…. I am not by any means a formally trained journalist. That is not what my degrees are in, and I have never worked for the associated press. Nor have I ever made a living solely off my video game ties. But I do love podcasting, writing, and interviewing others; and once or twice have been told them I’m pretty good at it (though that is subject to opinion of course). I guess all you really need is a decent amount of knowledge on the subject matter, a perhaps unhealthy love of hearing your own voice, and the ability to not be disliked by an often and understandingly so standoffish subculture (that one is a little harder than it sounds). A nice face and killer smile helps too, but I managed to make it happen without that one.
It seems to me that games used to be created and marketed towards kids. Those old games are the ones I prefer as stated prior. At one point video games were a toy, they then became a way of life. Nowadays the majority of games definitely seemed to be geared towards adolescents and adults. I personally think that this has in no way helped the gaming product and I also feel that it has caused some harm to our greater culture, especially to young men. But that is probably too off topic for this particular interview.
I’m not sure that I am prepared to say that modern day video games lead to actual violence; but I do think that many of them are overly violent. Not only in there visual effects; but also in their application and subject matter. Though indirectly, I do believe that overexposure to this has very negative effects on our youth and our culture as a whole. Now as a lover of liberty and freedom, I would never support any kind of ban on these things. I oppose both censorship and government control of industry; but I personally do not see the allure of such gore. The burden of fixing this problem, if it even is in fact a problem lies within the mind and hearts of those who would consume these goods. For me a good comparison would be people who obsessively read the magazine Penthouse and people who read sci-fi novels. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad person or a good if you read one or the other. Perhaps you read both? But most logically minded people would agree that a society brimming with the sci-fi readers may be a better one to live in than the one that devotes their time to something you wouldn’t want your five your old or your grandmother to see you doing.
Many of my personal video game milestones have been achieved when I was playing video games alone; but that is something that I now rarely do. When I was younger I preferred playing video games with friends, but I did quite a bit of both. Now as an adult the vast majority of gaming I do is with my kids and family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve never been much of an online gamer.
One could argue that anything can be a learning experience. But relatively speaking I would not say that one actually learns anything of use in the outside world from playing a video game. Video games often require a great deal of refined skill and that takes knowledge to acquire, said knowledge is then used within the game at hand; and potentially even in other games to be played later. But there is no wisdom in video games, at least not any that would be more easily attained, verifiable, and better utilized from other sources. Who would you be more prone to trust, a person who learned their information from a video game or one that learned it from a book?
Video games have never been a reliever of stress for me. They are intense and get my heart pumping. When I am overly tired, or too tired to let the adrenaline of the gaming work, than I tend to perform poorly in the game. But I realize that video games are fun, and to some people, sometimes video games could possibly relieve stress rather than cause it. It depends on the person of course; but I also think it depends greatly on the game
When I first read the question of who my favorite video game character was the one that leaped into my mind was Link. I love Link, he is in my opinion a great hero, with a cool story that has stood the test of time, plus he is now and always has been my guy on Super Smash Bros. But the strange thing about my love of the character Link is that I’m not even that big of a Legend of Zelda fan. It just isn’t really my kind of game, I guess. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve played, but I’ve probably only played about four or five of them total, and I think I have only beat two of them (if that, I can’t actually remember if I ever beat Ocarina of Time or not (though I did love it)). I also really love Toad, I just think he looks cool and I kind of like the look on people’s faces when I bring up how awesome Toad is (even if he is always in the wrong castle). I also always liked Luigi better than Mario: I view using Luigi as an exercise in patience. The Bubble Bobble creatures, Bonk/Zonk, and Lolo are some of my secondary favorites
I guess you could say I am in the middle of a bit of a hiatus from direct involvement in the gaming world at the moment. Mike and Nick have morphed our show into something a little different than the original Twin Galaxies Show, and mostly just due to scheduling differences I am unable to participate with what is now known as Settle it on the Screen. That is the podcasting end of it, as far as Twin Galaxies; I have not been a direct employee of theirs for several years now. I look forward to a potential return to a more active role if and when I am needed and if the situation is right. Until then I will continue to maintain my interest in the video game subculture, be active on my other non-video game podcasting ventures, and carry on the dozens of friendships I have forged through the years directly from my video game ties.
In the next twenty years, I see video games exploding exponentially. The video game industry, by some estimates is already bigger than movies and music combined; and it shows no signs of dying out. As computer technology continues to grow, video gaming will become more of a way of life than a break from it. I’m not sure whether or not that is a good thing, in fact I tend to think it is not; but I’m pretty sure that is where we are headed. So, for all you gamers out there, you have nothing to worry about; because even if I am wrong about the extent of it, video games are most certainly not going anywhere.
You can see Josh on his internet podcast at themajors.net
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.