Trading Card Spotlight - Paul Hornitzky

Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Paul Hornitzky who is displayed on card number 91, from the Twin Galaxies Superstars Collection of 2011.  Paul grew up in the Golden Age of Video Games.  When Arcades and Pinball were all the rage back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Paul would go on to break world records on such games as Discs of Tron, Pengo, and Blaster. Paul is from Australia and finds time to game with his call sign of “OOO”.   

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

Video games were an exciting new frontier when they were first created with its own evolving universe. I was lucky to be there when it all began, in the 70s and into the 80s, seeing and playing my first video game which was the mighty Pong. And then “I was there” for all of the hundreds of games made until today. That’s 46 years of gaming experience, memories and good times. I was video gaming 9 years before Twin Galaxies was even born and the later scoreboard created. So here are my top 5 thoughts and impressions of the term “video games” and what it means to me.

  1. The Games. The golden age of arcade games is my favorite era of the video gaming universe. “Video games” make me think and see images in my mind of the great games I enjoyed like Pong (1972), Kee Games Tank (1974), Taito Space Invaders (1978), Namco Galaxian (1979), Namco Pac-man (1980) the worlds no.1 selling arcade game, Defender (1980), Atari Battlezone (1980), Universal Lady Bug (1981), Nintendo Donkey Kong (1981), Taito Wild Western (1982), SEGA Pengo (1982), Universal Mr Do! (1982), Namco Dig Dug (1982), Namco Xevious (1982), Cinematronics Dragon’s Lair (1983), Bally Midway Discs of Tron (1983), Williams Blaster (1983) and Capcom Exed Exes (1985). The games and their images are unforgettable. I could list a hundred more games that come to mind that were fun from that era and beyond.
  2. The Gamers. One of the best things about arcade video games in the 70s and 80s was the coming together of all walks of life to play video games in the arcade and have fun. In the arcade I could see a business man in a suit playing next to a kid that was 10 years old and next to him a mum or a dad with their children. Whether a shift worker, a genius or just getting into life, the arcade welcomed every one of all ages and backgrounds and it was great to see all these people together in the same place. The gamers themselves all had different personalities with experts on certain games and people just starting to play. I have often said there is one universal language for video gaming, and it does not need to be spoken.
  3. The Manufacturers from Japan and America come to mind straight away as the culture from these countries were embedded in their games. Taito caused a 100 yen coin shortage in Japan and exported their invaders to America to further spurn the arcade craze with Space Invaders. A partially eaten pizza from Japan was the no.1 selling arcade machine in the world with Namco’s Pac-man. Donkey Kong was a Japanese creation from Nintendo that spurned movies and the console era. Atari from America made fantastic games and even featured in the Blade Runner 1982 movie as a gaming icon. Taito, Nichibutsu, Stern, Universal, Gottlieb, SEGA and many other manufacturers were also creating great games. Video games in America were big business in 1982 at 4.3 billion dollars (equivalent to 10.9 billion dollars today). The video game market in America with all the new devices and applications was worth 18.4 billion dollars in 2017. That’s almost double the sales in 35 years. Bigger than the movie and music industries combined, that’s video games today, and as it was in 1982.
  4. Thinking about video games is impossible without thinking about the movies and the media. Movies have a big impact on life. Pixels, Wreck It Ralph, Space Invaders - In Search of Lost Time, The Video Craze, The King of Arcades, Man vs Snake, Tron, Tron Legacy and King of Kong are fresh in my mind about the excitement in golden age arcade video games and the drama. Then there are the movies with today’s games like Assassin’s Creed and Ready Player One. On TV there was the Starcade 80s game show where you could win an arcade machine and several competitions in the media. Pac-man and Space Ace had their own TV shows as well. Print media was extensive with magazines like Joystik, Play Meter, Vidiot and Computer Games just to name a few. The hype was video games, everyone wanted to get into the craze, and no one knew where it was heading in the 80s.
  5. The MGL. I have been running the world MAME Gaming League for the last 5 years and this competition is the heart and soul of competitive arcade gaming around the world. 33 different arcade video games are being played over 33 weeks in the 2018 regular season on the toughest video games in history. This is the ultimate test of endurance and dexterity in the video gaming universe. Now in its 12th year, longer than the NFL season and similar in length to the NBA season, this competition is for all gamers to enjoy whether a newbie, novice, export or pro. Gamers from all over the planet nominate the games from the extended golden age era of 1978 to 1990 and compete at aussiearcade.com and twingalaxies.com. The MGL is arguably the toughest video gaming championship in the world, and it’s great to run the championship for the world gaming community to enjoy. I welcome all gamers to visit the websites and play these video games in the MGL with your friends.

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

If I think about the video games created after the classic arcade era of the early 70s to late 80s, I would have to say that for the last 25 years they have been fantastic. The improvement in graphics, game story and player immersion has been ground breaking.

As examples the games that I really enjoyed over those many exciting years included PC games like Space Quest I (1986 text based adventure with crude graphics, but fun), Prince of Persia (1989), Wing Commander (1990), Ultima VI (1990) and Ultima VII (1992) were great role playing games, X-Wing  (1993) was a huge step forward in the Star Wars flight simulation universe, Battle Isle 2 (1993) a great turn based strategy game from Blue Byte, Kings Quest VII (1994), Torin’s Passage (1995), Command and Conquer (1995) was my first real time strategy game which was awesome and the music was fantastic, Dark Reign (1997), my no.1 favourite RTS was the incredible Total Annihilation (1997) and Battlefield 1942 (2002). On the N64 console I enjoyed with the family titles like Super Mario 64 (1996) , Mario Kart (1997) and Mario Party (1998). On the PS1 and PS2 I enjoyed G-Darius (1997), Gradius IV (1999), R-Type Final (2004) and Gradius V (2004). I also loved playing Pokemon Pinball (1999) on the Game Boy. Tanks! (2006) with the dual control sticks on Wii Play was awesome.

Today’s current games like Fortnite, Battlefield, Minecraft, Dark Souls, the GTA series, the latest version of Mario Kart/Party and hundreds of other titles are a continuation of wonder, imagination and technology from where it all began with the ultimate foundation block known as the golden age of arcade video games. Simply put today’s generation of video games are excellent.

How do you compare them to older, classic games?

The classic games of the early 70s to late 80s are very different to today’s games. Firstly, the classics are much harder to play and perhaps less enjoyable for gamers who find them too hard. These arcade games were designed creatively under cutting edge technology as company revenue generation machines. The average game time was to last about 2 minutes for a novice with the need to entice the gamer to drop another quarter.  If you could only play the current generation of games for only 2 minutes before you need to start again, the game would not be well received. One similarity between new and old arcade games is the ability to drop a coin to continue play on certain games.

Today’s games have much better graphics, higher complexity in design, and a whole world of interaction through multi-player on-line world wide with an audience of millions on Twitch and other streams.  Technology today has enabled global viewing and collective enjoyment of the games more than ever before.

The classic arcade games however are the foundation base of today’s video games. These were hundreds of mostly great games made during this era where gamers required tremendous skill and determination to do well. Defender for example had a very complex control system to play, trackball games like Centipede and Crystal Castles were a new dimension, car driving games made their debut like the famous Pole Position, shooters exploded to the extreme in variety and engagement like Galaga and Raiden, and fighting games developed from Karate Champ and Yie Ar Kung Fu to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and beyond. These games were the “golden template” for what was to come.

The real gold in these arcade games compared to today’s generation of games is the superior game engine design for the gamer who wants to be challenged up to the extreme. The number and variety of games in the era was vast. You are playing the tough and relentless machine and not another human where one human with their frailties must fall. The game may have simple graphics and seem to have a straight forward objective, however the strategy and tactics to be used over the last 28-40 years requires high skill development and deep knowledge, depending on the game.  It’s one thing knowing what to do, and that can take years to discover, however it’s another being able to do what you want to do in the game. And to measure this performance, a game score is needed for the title to demonstrate the level of competence achieved, whereas in today’s games, many have no score. Entering gamer initials is another feature. I mentioned earlier that today’s generation of video games are excellent.  Well the arcade video games of the golden age are excellent + 1. As Spock would say with his logical gaze, they were and continue to be “fascinating”.

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

There isn’t one word that I could use to describe Walter, as it wouldn’t be enough. However, if I could use one acronym, that would be TGSTCP.

Looking at all of the positive achievements, I would have to start with the concept and creation of the Twin Galaxies Scoreboard. Created back in 1982 when the game manufacturers asked Walter to keep the arcade scores, this was a great idea for high score competition and recognition. If you look at Twin Galaxies today which is currently owned by Jace Hall, the spirit of gaming with the scoreboard are the legacy of Walter’s creation.  And the TGS was the model for the on-line game scoreboards that you see today.

TC for the video game Trading Card project is a very important initiative to recognize and bind the video gaming universe together. I supported Walter in the first 100 video game trading cards ever created and when he said he would stop making the cards in 2013, I strongly suggested he continue the video game trading card project for the next few decades. I mentioned this was his idea and his connection to the gamer generations, personalities and events was very important. So here we are in 2018, up to card no. 3000 plus, and Walter has done a great job.  Also a big thank you should be given to all the supporters who funded the cards.

In marketing they talk about the four Ps and Walter has done a terrific job on arcade video game promotion and awareness in the media for several decades. The referee shirt and the talk of arcade gaming at events has been a big plus. And it’s also great to see that Walter enjoys it as well.

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

I see that video games will continue to grow in sales and market penetration across the globe. Video games will become even more technologically developed in graphics definition and realism. Like the Wii enticing all genders and ages, everyone will play video games in some form, whether on a watch, glasses, shoes, phone, tablet, PC, console, the side of a building, in space, at school, at university, in exams, for assessment of performance, military or anything to entertain a human or animal. Will the VR headset realize its full potential and replace the main stream video gaming experience? I think this will develop into a niche market and grow in its development with smaller lightweight gear and an incredibly complex world of software. The merging of movies with video gaming will continue to grow and the video gaming market will expand into other traditional business markets. For example, perhaps theme parks built on movies will have video games as the core attraction. If there is a way to sell or create a game to increase sales over the next 20 years, there will be a massive push and risk to get there. Speech recognition in video games will be a much larger industry as will hologram hardware and software for the exceptional 3D experience. And the golden age of video games will continue to be played over this time as they and the Twin Galaxies Scoreboard are immortal, digital, compelling, historically important, and beyond the mortal original arcade cabs that will eventually disappear.