Trading Card Spotlight Ben Sweeney

Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Ben Sweeney, who is displayed on card number 2638 from the Superstars of 2017 Collection.   When searching the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard, you will most likely find Ben’s name holding a world record.   Ben has over 150 world records with 50 of them being #1 scores.  Game such as Kung Fu and Kickle Cubicle for the NES.  Ben is also top spot on Final Fight for the Arcade.   He also enjoys music when he is not playing games and hopes to contribute as much as he can to eSports, the community, and break more scores while he's at it.  

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

Nintendo is my favorite, even today. It doesn't have to do with nostalgia. It has to do with their approach to bringing gaming experiences to the world. The NES may have single-handedly saved home console gaming, while the Wii not only revolutionized how games are designed and played but also challenged the market with its price point.

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

First video game play was on the NES and it was Duck Hunt. I stunk at it but really enjoyed it. The follow up was Legend of Zelda and that's what really got me hooked. At the time, it was such a unique experience to me and really convinced me that gaming could open up new worlds and push you to think about things in different ways. I wanted to be a detective when I grew up for a good part of my youth because of how exciting it was to discover new things in that game.

First arcade experience was similar. Ms. Pac-Man cocktail at the local pizza parlor. Very enjoyable but I stunk. The follow up was Final Fight and that was an eye opener. Still stunk at it, but it was addictive. Getting to a new stage and seeing the new scene was a thrill every time.

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

I have not formally met Walter Day in person but hope to at some time in the very near future. I'm an east coast dude with a family and it's hard for me to jet off to Banning for the arcade expo, but I could see myself making it to Ottumwa if another event is hosted there. Walter and I worked together this past year to drum up a pool of candidates for consideration for the Superstars of 2017 class. He is very professional and considerate and I'm happy to consider him a friend.

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

Walter Day in one word is Dedication. He's a passionate person who believes in what he does as a mission for what he thinks is important. Even after formally retiring from eSports and Twin Galaxies he continues to serve the community at all turns.

What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games?

Today's generation of video games all too often get dismissed as a whole as being commercially-driven and designed to sell copies. Although I think that's true for a lot of franchises and developers, there is still a real push to have a unique game that excites people and is instantly playable. We have pushed the realms of FPS and as much as I enjoy these modern shooting games I still end up going back and playing Wolfenstein 3-D or Doom just because they're more fun. I don't need the realism and the stellar graphics only go so far to entertain me and hold my attention. Classic games had more of a focus on enjoyability and play style and THIS is what makes them memorable. It's not just because they're some of the first games of their kind. They are more playable and instantly enjoyable. I can say that modern sports games are really an area that has consistently progressed in playability and sophistication, including innovative concept games like Rocket League. The most fun I have playing next gen consoles is when I'm playing sports games and this is an area that I think modern games unquestionably win over classic games.

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

I never thought I'd be on a trading card as a young person. The concept of a non-traditional sports trading card had yet to enter my brain. I was very traditionally raised on baseball card collecting. Only when I began gaming competitively could I imagine video game trading cards on the same level.

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

As for media coverage, I have a story in the works with my local newspaper. It hasn't been printed yet but I'm pretty excited for it to be ran. Otherwise, just self-driven social media coverage.

How does video game music influence games past and present?

Video game soundtracks have always been important even before systems had enough power to produce background music alongside sound effects. In the arcade, you could walk in and know what games were there just by hearing the attract mode music. When playing consoles at home the soundtrack was a key part of transporting you to the world of the game. It enriches the reality of the game and evokes more emotion than the visuals alone. That holds true today in modern games too. A good game is good but a good game with a good soundtrack is outstanding. It immediately increases the playability and enjoyability.

What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?

Favorite portable gaming device is my GameBoy Advance SP. It still plays all the classic GB games (which is mostly what I play) and it has a nice compact form with the added functions of backlighting and rechargeable battery. It's a home run. The original generation of GameBoy games is marvelous. I'm always finding new games to play and they're usually dirt cheap to acquire.

Do you learn anything from playing video games?

I can't say I learn things as in knowledge from playing video games, but I firmly believe that gaming develops and sharpens the mind in ways that are very important. Just like reading fiction, which may not teach you much beyond grammar and vocabulary, can develop your mind and make you a smarter and more mentally agile person. Gaming improves reaction time, strategy development, and memory just to name a few things.

Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?

Console gaming is my favorite, but it's by a pretty slim margin. I grew up around the NES and then around IBM PCs and Windows 3.1 so I experienced both classic platforms almost simultaneously. Both classic consoles and classic PCs had a lot to offer in the way of content. The interface was typically better on consoles and I had my share of trouble getting parallel port joysticks to work as well as an NES game pad. In the modern era, it's consoles all the way. I've never been able to keep up with modern PC capabilities and a lot of modern games are unplayable for me on my machines.

What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?

Journalism is a special thing and it takes a special type of person. You have to have the knowledge and experience in the relevant venue but more importantly you have to find the human element in every story. To be a good video game journalist you have to know the human elements of its history and how there has always been two sides to every story - the industry side and the player side. Neither is inherently good or bad.

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

I'm currently in the middle of NES Quest 2017 which is my endeavor to play, record, and submit runs to TG for every single NES game in my collection. The only problem with this is that I'm constantly acquiring new cartridges so the list keeps getting longer. It's a great adventure. As for types of games, platformers will always hold a special place in my heart. These types of games are the ones that I find myself playing the hardest and focusing on the most. Close behind these are scrolling shooters and live action adventure games. Just played Life Force for the first time and it's a ball. Also, revisited Illusion of Gaia for SNES and it may be my favorite live action adventure game of all time. Sorry Link.

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

Galaxian wins for the arcade game of choice. If I could just have one that's what it would be. There's a lot of headroom on that game even though the concept is pretty simple. I just love it and can't always articulate why. It's a shooter that's not like any other. Pinball table is an easy choice too - Lord of The Rings by Stern. As much as I love Black Hole and Haunted House I think LOTR is about the most fun I've ever had playing pinball. It's a well-designed table and I have yet to master it.

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

Game play is the big #1 to me. It has to feel right and play right to be fun. I just finally acquired an Atari 2600 and it's pretty primitive even compared to the NES. Its games lack a lot of atmosphere and are virtually devoid of music. The art is rudimentary and the story is usually not even known unless you read the back of the game box. All that being said there are games on this system that are very fun that I'll be playing for the rest of my life. Game play is easily the most important thing to me. That's why I have a Super Pong IV console. It's literally all game play.

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

Happiness. I know that sounds cheesy but video games to me represent excitement and wonder and I'm never happier than when I'm excited about something.

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

My favorite multi-player game is probably Jackal for the NES (which is an arcade port by Konami). The two-player mode on this is a blast. Also, Fusion Frenzy for Xbox was a ton of fun. It's the best party game. My favorite single player game, based on number of hours I've spent playing and playing, is the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. It's a great series and it's got great game play. It's what sold me on the Sony PlayStation.

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

I think the target age group for gaming is adolescents. Not because the game content or the marketing but because this is the age group that is most responsive to the critical elements of the games. Adults are too obsessed with details and kids are too distractible. This causes a natural draw toward adolescents as being the key demographic. They're old enough to dedicate time to gaming but young enough to not be jaded by the industry.

Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?

No. No I don't. Whether or not violent games expose inner violent tendencies latent in individuals already is probably a better question.   

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

I prefer playing alone but love to compete with others as they share their individual gaming achievements. That's why TG is such a good fit for me. That being said, I logged a million hours playing Mario Kart Wii online with people around the world. So fun, but there wasn't really a personal element to it, so I left it behind once I'd played the game out. Multi player live, like having LAN parties or even just playing two player, doesn't interest me like it used to and is probably my least favorite right now. If I had a larger number of more dedicated gamers near me it would probably be different.

Are video games good for relieving stress?

Gaming does help relieve stress for me but I have to make a specific effort to choose a game that will just be fun for me. Usually playing games for the first time or games I rarely play does the trick. I'm currently grinding on a challenging platformer for NES and it does NOT relieve stress for me to play it. It's a constant challenge and that sometimes gets me even more worked up.

Which company makes the best games and why?

I'm mostly educated in retro games so I'm gonna say Konami is the best. Best soundtracks, best game play, and they did the absolute best job porting arcade games to home consoles. As for modern games, it's hard to argue with the work that EA Sports has done with the FIFA series.

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

No not really. I can't get past the industry angle and the capitalization on popular culture. It seems superficial even if the movie ends up being decent.

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

Samus. Fight the patriarchy.

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

If I could design my own game, it would be a totally accurate representation of playing music live with other people. Like Rock Band but real. Maybe VR where you had to listen to yourself playing along with other computer musicians and find the right key and the right melody without sheet music. All by ear. Pick your instrument and adjust your amplifier to best suit the band you're playing with. Interactive crowd feature would be nice where you had to keep people dancing or keep them rocking. A live music simulator if you will. A lot of people have the skill and drive to be terrific live musicians but don't have the resources or the network of friends. The main character is you as the player, but you'd never see yourself unless you looked in the mirror. Unless you were a vampire. I think this would be a great idea for a video game. It'd be called Sorry 'Bout Your Face Bro and your success in the game would be indicated by how much you melted the faces of your audience.

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

I am very involved in gaming today, more so than ever. I am a collector and player of home consoles and actively live stream and submit my game play to Twin Galaxies. I also adjudicate score submissions as much as I can make time for at Twin Galaxies but will admit that it's secondary to my own gaming efforts, but it's a close second. Finally, I'm working with a couple local people to develop a charitable organization centered around providing gaming consoles and media to children who are at risk for substance abuse. Children are very susceptible to any kind of addictive behavior, not just drugs, and if you can give them something positive to get "addicted to" amidst other negative pressure then they will latch onto it. Just having a choice to go game instead of hanging out in a place where substance abuse is occurring in their home could save that young person's life someday.

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

In the next 20 years, I see virtual reality really being the norm. Every console will have a primary VR option and having an HDMI out will be a backwards compatibility measure. As for the content, VR will change what types of games are popular. Simpler games involving sports and adventure will excel if they can be executed beautifully and realistically.
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