Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Stephen Wagner who currently is displayed on card number 158, from the Superstars of 2011 Collection.  Stephen has been playing arcade games since he was 7 years old.  All the years of experience has put Stephen in the record books on such games as Berzerk and Elevator Action.  As an avid guitar player and sports fan, Stephen still finds time to playing arcade machines and beating any high score that comes his way.

What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?

Front Page Sports Baseball ’98 as well as classic arcade games that I haven’t yet been satisfied with scores on, like Rally-X, Galaxian and others.   My favorite genres are probably platformers, sports and janky early 80’s space shooters.

Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?

Venture at the Aladdin’s Castle arcade in the mall around age 6 or 7.  I remember being terrified of the side art on the cabinet and when my mom would shop in Sears I would hide under the circular clothing racks pretending I was in one of the rooms from the game.  It had quite an impression.

What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games?  How do you compare them to older, classic games?

I don’t play too many except for when I visit my nephew and he’s playing.  The graphics are quite impressive today.  I can’t comment too much on the depth of gameplay.  The most recent game I’ve played through was probably Zelda, Twilight Princess on the Wii, which I greatly enjoyed.

Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card? 

I reckon I didn’t figure such a thing would exist.

Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card?  If so, where?

Yes, I attended the Allentown, PA non-sport trading card show with Walter and many great players like Ben Falls and George Leutz.  I had a grand time.

When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?

I believe it was at Funspot/ACAM, NH after I had gotten a score on Elevator Action.  I didn’t know he was behind me watching but he congratulated me and took a photo, he was quite nice, and I hadn’t really met many people within the community at that point.

If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?

Wise.  To have the foresight to track scores and lay the foundation for what you see today is very impressive.

What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?

Believe it or not, I’ve never owned one.  I always listened to music on long car rides with the family or while commuting to school.

Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?

Console.  I don’t think my potato PC would be able to handle modern games, though as mentioned I play old baseball sims on a Win 98 laptop still.

If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why? 

Environmental Discs of Tron.  I’m a huge fan of the movies and that cabinet is as close to being on the grid as you’ll get.

Which console company is your favorite and why?  Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?

My favorite console is/was the TurboGrafx 16.  I still play Y’s and other titles on it.  Overall though probably Nintendo.  However, my favorite console games of all time are probably spread over a few different companies.

What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?

A keen understanding of the history and current state of the industry I would imagine.

How does video game music influence games past and present?

My wife got me tickets to Video Games Live one year and I was blown away.  I’ve gotten much better at appreciating the music within my favorite games and how they are able to set the mood or intensify an experience while playing.  Hearing a full orchestra play Magical Sound Shower from Outrun was mind-blowing.

Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?

All ages.  I think there’s something there for everyone.  When I played through Zack and Wiki on the Wii, my immediate thought was that it should be used in schools to teach kids problem solving.  Brilliant game.

Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?

I prefer to play at the arcade with friends, joking around.  I think that brings me back the most in terms of my best memories of growing up in the arcades in the early to mid-80’s and that is when I’m most happy playing.

Which company makes the best games and why?

Probably Nintendo, they seem to always be ahead of the curve and of course have the rights to some of the most high-profile video game characters.

Do you learn anything from playing video games?

With classic games, there is definitely pattern recognition, problem solving, thinking outside the box at times (ie: breaking the game), etc.

Are video games good for relieving stress?

They are for me I think, unless the game itself is very intense and stressful or if I’m playing in a tournament and have to play a game I hate (laughs)

Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?

It doesn’t bother me, I go to movies fairly rarely unless it’s something I really want to see on the big screen like a Star Wars movie, etc.

Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?

Otto (Agent 17) from Elevator Action.  When my brother was in a bowling league I used to have to tag along after school and the alley he played in had Elevator Action, so I have fond memories of spending many a quarter with a root beer parked in front of that machine.  I think he’s an underrated classic game character.

What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?

Good times with friends, laughing, busting chops over getting bodied on a classic game, that type of thing.  I equate it with the social aspect I think.

Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why?  Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style

Gameplay.  I think without gameplay; the player puts the game away after a few minutes and does not get to the rest.

Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?

I think it depends on the game.  Some are tedious, some are great.  I don’t think it is all encompassing.

What is your favorite singe player game and favorite multiplayer game?

Favorite single player game is probably Elevator Action.  Multiplayer game is probably SF2 or MK2.

If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?

Probably a modern baseball sim that combines the graphical capability of the modern games with the depth of the previous games.

Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?

I used to compete in every classic gaming tournament possible, live and online but I’ve scaled that back now, whether because those tournaments have faded away or just becoming less interested In that aspect of playing, I’m not sure.  Mostly I work on creating older seasons/rosters within a PC baseball sim called Front Page Sports Baseball ’98.

Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?

No idea, probably more VR oriented, maybe something similar to the Ready Player One archetype.

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.

Todd Friedman Todd Friedman (394 Posts)

Todd Friedman is heavily involved in the retro gaming community and has co-promoted the Video Game Summit in Chicago, IL for the past 16 years. He also has published 2 books and written for various different gaming magazines including Old School Gamer.