Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Old School Gamer Magazine writer Mike Mertes who is displayed on card number 3482, from the Superstars of 2020 Collection. From the moment he touched an Intellivision controller in 1985, Mike knew that he had experienced something incredible in the world of video games that would shape him for the rest of his life. From that point forward, he would make it his mission to experience video games from every console generation going forward. Eventually, he would become obsessed with magazines that wrote about the games he loved, and it would inspire him to start writing about games himself in 1998 for various local media outlets. Always looking for an opportunity to branch out, Mike eventually coded the foundation of a website that would ultimately morph into Gamer Logic Dot Net, an independent video game site that continues to cover modern and classic video game today. Additional, Mike composes music for indie games under his other alias “Unleaded Logic”. Click here to visit Mike’s YouTube Page
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I have decent sized collection of arcade game cabinets and pinball machines, but one I hope to own one day would be Silent Scope from Konami. It’s a light gun game, but the light gun you use is a sniper rifle with a working scope. I spent so much money at our local movie theater during my high school days trying to beat it. I own the original Xbox port of the game that got released a few years later and even the light gun sniper rifle, but it’s just doesn’t work very well as the arcade version.
What does it take to be a video game journalist?
You have to passionate and be able to adapt to different situations and new technology. When I started writing articles on video games, the internet was still pretty new, and magazines or newspapers were still the sources to get the scoops on what games were coming out. These days, people can find out about the latest gaming news in seconds and do so via reading articles, podcasts, or videos. I’ve been fortunate to experience and produce content in all of those avenues.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I play a myriad of games. I’ve been playing Call of Duty: Warzone during the pandemic, which created a regular game night for me and three of my friends I have known for over 20 years. We get on every Thursday and Friday night and just have a blast and catch up with each other. Genre-wise, I love adventure games like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers or action platformers like Castlevania 3.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first arcade game I played was the original Rampage, and it was also my first experience in an arcade in 1986. I remember being wholly mesmerized when my parents brought me in there with all the fantastic sights and sounds of the arcade games. I’m sure I played other games while I was there, but Rampage was the first one I dropped a quarter in. Graphically, the game was vastly superior to anything I had seen before at home. I enjoyed smashing buildings into pieces. I think I only managed to beat a few screens before I lost, but I would be hooked on arcades from that point onward until late in 1999, when arcades became very sparse in the United States.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Never. As cool as I thought it would be to have my own baseball or basketball card, I absolutely stunk at sports, so that dream went right out the window. When Walter Day contacted me to inform me that I was going to include in his Video Game Superstars Trading card series, it meant a lot to me. I’ve been working to contribute to the video game industry for almost 20 years in various outlets and just recently uploaded my 1000th YouTube video. At the end of the day, I do everything I do in the video game industry because I love it. Being a part of the trading card series made me feel that my contributions to the game industry have been recognized as a positive thing.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
The first time I met Walter Day was at the 2019 Video Game Summit. This was also my first meeting with Ryan Burger, the owner of Old School Gamer Magazine. If I recall correctly, Walter had a long drive to the convention, and Ryan was standing outside the convention building waiting for him to arrive. When Walter arrived, Ryan introduced me to him, and Walter took a few minutes to talk to me before we walked inside. Walter had many bags with him, so I offered to take all his bags. That was an exciting moment for me because as I was walking behind him, I said to myself: “Who would have thought I’d be helping Walter Day carry his bags into a video game convention?” Certainly not me, but it was an incredibly cool moment.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Loved. I was working the Old School Gamer Magazine booth at the 2019 Video Game Summit and watching people’s faces light up when they got the opportunity to meet, talk and pose for a picture with Walter. I’ve had an opportunity to meet and, in some instances, work with some of my heroes in the music and pro wrestling industry, and sometimes it’s disappointing to see how some of them interact with their fans. Walter legitimately appreciates his fans, and that’s great to see.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
The original Game Boy is my portable of choice. I have so many memories playing Double Dragon, Operation C, and Mega Man on that system during trips or outside the house. One of my favorite games on the Game Boy is the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I had a Game Boy Light accessory, and I would play the game late at night in bed with my dad’s studio monitor headphones plugged into the Game Boy. I didn’t want my parents to know I was up late playing Game Boy so that I would play it under my blanket. I got away with that for quite some time until late one night, my mom discovered I was up, ripped the blanket off me, and told me to go to bed. Not being able to hear her with the headphones on meant that she scared the heck out of me when she pulled the blanket off me.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
I prefer gaming on a Console. I was a big fan of PC gaming from the 1990s to the early 2000s, but I find myself wanting to be comfortable when I play games these days. I’ve created a divide for myself where I see the PC as a device for work or for research and a console as my gateway to entertainment. With the pandemic, this divide has become even more prominent. I don’t want to be on my computer for 16 hours a day.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
I love them all. I used to sit squarely on the side of Nintendo instead of Sega during the 16-bit wars, and I quickly realized that the only thing I was doing was cheating myself out of playing great games on another platform. When a new console comes out, I grab it, regardless of who it’s by, and get excited to play some great games when they come out for them.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I think today’s generation of video games is incredible. It’s just unbelievable how far the technology has advanced since playing my first video game in the 1980s. I especially like that we see lots of indie developers pay their respects to classic games by putting their twist on a proven formula like action platformers. VR headsets also add a new layer of excitement to video games; they need to find a way to perfect the ability to move in VR Games. When comparing classic games to modern games, I think I still prefer classic games. I bet that has to do with nostalgia, but a big part of it is that so many classic games are timeless, like Castlevania or Mega Man.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
A great video game soundtrack will leave a sonic imprint in your mind forever. For example, if someone talks about Contra, I can instantly hear the stage 1 theme song playing in my head. While I find modern video game soundtracks to be great, I genuinely think the golden era of video game soundtrack was during the 8- and 16-bit Console generations. Because the technology limited the sonic possibilities at the time, game composers had to be very creative and work within those limitations. I collect video game soundtracks on vinyl and any time there is a release from games of that era, I have to pick it up.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I think video games are made for everyone. Just like movies, television shows, or music, if you look hard enough, there’s something anyone can enjoy.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I do not. My father was a movie buff, and by proxy, I probably saw more R-rated films at age ten than most people who work in the film industry. My parents made sure that I understood the difference between fantasy and reality, along with what’s right and what’s wrong. Having that solid foundation and mentoring was crucial, and I think that’s missing in many people’s lives today.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
I always a solid single-player experience but will typically shy away from the online portions of games unless I have personal friends to play it with. I wouldn’t say I like playing with strangers online, which is ironic considering I’d play with people I never met before in arcades. I love the local co-op or against a local adversary.
Which company makes the best games and why?
Konami or Capcom. I’m looking around my gaming room, and there are so many Konami or Capcom related items in here that it’s made me realize I’ve unconsciously picked some favorites. Street Fighter 2 was absolute magic when it came out and still one of my all-time favorite games. On the Konami side, the Castlevania series marks many years of perfecting all of the challenges the series had to offer.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
I think video games have helped sharpen my problem-solving skills in real-life situations. Besides that, I think I’ve developed the ability to see patterns in things and in people easier than someone who hasn’t played games before.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Absolutely. Games can ease the blow of a bad day at work or when the weather outside is grey and nasty out.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
It changes all the time, but my current favorite character is Jill Stingray from the game VA-11 Hall-A. She’s the main character of the game. She’s a bartender for a dingy bar in Glitch City, and the goal of the game is to serve customers drinks while they tell you about their lives. Jill essentially becomes a therapist that serves alcohol, even though she has her own problems. Her character is so well written that the game made me appreciate what bartenders have to go through on a daily basis with customers. I loved her character so much that I ended up writing a song based on her calling “Stingray Special.”
What springs to mind when you hear the term “video games”?
Many happy memories.
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
Gameplay. You can have flashy graphics, great music and whatever else, but if your game lacks good game play, it’s like knocking out the foundation of a house: The rest crumbles.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
It all depends on the design and finding the sweet spot of pattern changes with boss battles. I personally find that games like Contra have incredibly epic boss fight elements to them. They can be challenging even if you know the patterns.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Shadowrun on the SNES and the original Halo.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I would love to develop a new point-and-click adventure game and have laid out the groundwork for concepts using real actors. I can’t say much about the plot because you never know when the game may become a reality. No spoilers!
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
It’s great to see video games get the chance to shine on the silver screen, but many times they deviate too far from the source material. I prefer animated adaptions of video games. Castlevania, the animated series, comes to mind, and it does a great job of expanding on the source material without jumping the shark.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I wear multiple hats when it comes to the gaming industry. I independently cover video games with written reviews and videos with my Gamer Logic Dot Net brand. I also write articles for Old School Gamer Magazine. I am also a music composer and have produced music specifically for video games like Wasted: A Post-Apocalyptic Pub Crawler and The Neon Noir. One day, I’d love to do some voice acting or motion capture for a game.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
Video gaming will be around for the next 20 years as I don’t ever see the industry crashing. Specifically – I think VR will be perfected, but console gaming will still exist. That being said, I think the days of physical media will be long over by the time we hit 2041, and everything will be download only. That makes me sad, but that’s where the market trend is pointing to.
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.