Trading Card Spotlight "REWIND" Mark Robichek
This week we look back at Frogger Champion and one of the original Time Life Magazine gamers from 1982, Mark Robichek. Published on January 3rd, 2016, I hope you enoy this in depth interview with Mark.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Mark Robichek who is displayed on card number 40, from the Superstars of 2011 Collection. Mark is another original Twin Galaxies alumnus from 1982. He can be seen alongside the greats in the Time Life Magazine photograph taken on November 7, 1982. Mark early on set the bar for world records on such arcade games as Frogger, Tutankham and Berzerk. Today Mark can be seen playing Pengo on MAME or smart phone games such as Words with Friends and What’s That Phrase. Currently Mark is a Casino Party Dealer and resides in Sunnyvale, California.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I would create a puzzle game in which the main character, none other than Walter Day, tries to figure out a way to save the video arcade industry!
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I first met Walter when I visited Ottumwa for the Life Magazine photo shoot in November, 1982. Amazingly, someone even snapped a photo of me chatting with Walter on that historic day.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Dedicated! When video games started becoming popular, Walter single-handedly took control of the international effort to capture high scores.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
Not a clue! Even as an adult, I never thought that I’d be on a Video Game Trading card!
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world?
I always saw video games as a way to socialize with friends. For many years, I would meet up with my video gaming buddies (including Eric Ginner and Franz Lanzinger), go out for pizza and play video games for a few hours. We would play against each other, and we would play alone but nearby. Because so many of the games that came out were single-player games, my preferences shifted a bit from a social one to a “perfect my skills” one.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember aboutit?
The first video game I played was Asteroids. I remember watching other people playing it who used the “blast everything as fast as possible” technique. As was my style, I tried to come up with a slower, calmer technique, so what I tried to do was to blast one asteroid and then try to blast all of its offspring, leaving the other larger asteroids alone until then. Effective? Not really, but I had fun!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I’m not a big fan of today’s video game scene. I think that the newer stuff has become way too derivative, such that one success breeds too many knockoffs (like Dance Dance Revolution or dinosaurs fighting). Nearly every new game that came out in the 80s was original; even sequels of the older games were more original than brand-new games today.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I am pretty much out of the video game scene, although I do occasionally sit down at my computer, open MAME, and play some Pengo. When California Extreme comes to town (I live only a couple miles away!), I’m happy to be one of the guest speakers, offering either tips & tricks or simply playing the role of celebrity from my movie appearances.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
In my younger days, I got into both the Atari 2600 and the original NES system, but after that, my attention turned to the PC. Although I preferred the competitiveness of the consoles, I preferred the games themselves on the PC.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I enjoy playing a variety of games, including Words with Friends, Word Streak (Boggle), What’s the Phrase? Hanging With Friends and Flow Free, but most of all, I like playing BridgeBase (live bridge against players from around the world). From this list, I guess you could say that my favorite genres would be word games, puzzle games and card games.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I would definitely choose a Crazy Climber machine! It’s one of my all-time favorite arcade games, and the controls are unique enough that the game doesn’t translate well to playing on a PC.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
Nintendo, for sure. Why? Because of one game…Dr. Mario. My good friend Franz Lanzinger (creator of Crystal Castles and other titles) and I wasted hundreds of hours playing Dr. Mario against each other.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
Talent and enthusiasm. You have to be a fan of the subject matter; otherwise, the writing won’t seem genuine. It also helps to be able to get into the minds of the game players and game creators.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
The target audience has long been adolescent males, and even though there have been more inroads into adult and children’s markets, the biggest (and most profitable) audience remains those pimply boys.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I believe that video games were and are a great way to stave off the desire that some people may have to commit violence, in the same way that watching a violent cartoon can help keep people from perpetrating such violence in real life. However, and this is a big however, there are some people (such as sociopaths) who might get some of their violent ideas from playing violent games or watching violent cartoons. That’s why this issue is a toughy.
Which company makes the best games and why?
It’s gotta be Actual Entertainment! Why? Well, because I was the company president, and Franz Lanzinger and Eric Ginner were our programmers.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Probably the biggest thing I learned was how to focus. Those skills really helped me when I entered the working world as an engineer. Even now, when I play a game or any sort, my wife notices that my expression changes, my demeanor changes, as I enter “the zone” of a game player.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Absolutely, 100%! When I was in college, after I felt that I’d done all the studying I could possibly do in preparation for an exam, I would play video games for a while to unwind. Then, after a good night’s sleep, I would almost always ace the exam.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
I did like Tron, but in my opinion, most of the other movies based on video games have failed to meet the expectations of both game players and the general public.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
That would have to be Gubble D Gleep, the main character from the games Gubble and Gubble 2. Gubble D Gleep is special because he’s the creation of Actual Entertainment (see above), and as an interesting bit of trivia, all of Gubble D Gleep’s sounds are Finnish!
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
The whole concept of video games makes me smile! They were a huge part of my upbringing, as a source of fun, a means of socialization and even a huge ego boost. I never expected my video game playing to result in anything more than fun, so when Life Magazine and Chasing Ghosts came along, I was delighted to hop on for the ride.
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
It’s all about gameplay. To me, part of the downfall of the video game industry was that too many people jumped on the art/style bandwagon. Once gameplay was no longer the focus of games; that was it for me.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
No; while boss battles can be fun, and it can be immensely satisfying to get past a boss, I feel that an even bigger thrill can be gained from conquering a difficult level in a puzzle game.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
My favorite single player game is Pengo; I really loved the combination of speed, technique and cleverness featured in Pengo. Even today, I could spend hours playing Pengo on MAME. My favorite multiplayer game was Dr. Mario; I enjoyed torturing my opponent by dropping random pills on his side when I did particularly well.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
I would guess that video gaming will move into the brain. I attended an event at which they demonstrated new technology that allowed players to control a video game using only their brain, and if complete focus wasn’t maintained, the controls would slow or stop.