Trading Card Spotlight "Rewind" - Greg Freres
Today we look back at an interview I did on February 14th, 2016 with Greg Freres. Greg is a well known artist in the pinball world. He has worked on many projects with the Stern Pinball company.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Greg Freres, who currently is displayed on card number 787, from the Superstars of 2014 Collection. Greg is a skilled artist of the pinball world and you have probably seen his work if you have ever played pinball. Some of his work includes Medieval Madness, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Elvira. Currently Greg is the Art Director at Stern Pinball where he continues to express his art in the new pinball games. On October 16, 2004 Greg was inducted into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame.
What was the best era for Pinball gaming in your opinion?
Each era of pinball has its own unique highlights but for me the 90’s was the culmination of all elements – art, music, sound, rules, and overall mechanical tricks and gameplay. Having been in the industry since the late seventies it was great to see the growth of the overall experience that pinball had to offer as an entertainment piece.
In your opinion, are there enough or too little Pinball Expos and conferences held each year?
It seems that most every region now has a great show to offer, and it seems the organizers have worked well together in planning so there are one or two per month. It’s going to get more competitive for these organizers to maintain the momentum if more shows enter the field.
What’s your opinion of the Console Pinball games (Xbox, PlayStation) that recreate the original machines onto the TV screen?
The few I’ve played are pretty good at recreating and sometimes enhancing (visually) the original experience. I think these have become great vehicles for people who may never have played a game to get a feel for how it may play, especially for people that may want to own the real game someday.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I think I first met Walter at Pinball Expo in Chicago maybe around 2003 or so. He was giving his awards to fellow pinball folks and I didn’t quite grasp the concept until later. When I watched King of Kong a couple years after that I began to realize where this guy Walter came from and what he was trying to do with the historic aspect of the cards. Later, in 2011, I was contracted to create a show poster for the Northwest Pinball and Gameroom Show in Seattle and I included Walter in the artwork since he had become such an important part in the history of games.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Dedicated. I’ve met a lot of passionate folks throughout my life and career but Walter brings a real sense of dedication to this hobby that resonates through every aspect of his purpose in life.
Did you agree on the pinball ban in New York City on the 1970s? What is your opinion on this topic?
The same ban was in Chicago as well. As a kid I never really got to play pinball unless I was on vacation in Wisconsin. I felt the ban was overreaching and they were probably trying to limit corruption from the wrong direction.
Do you remember your first pinball machine you played and what do you remember about it?
I recall playing a lot of pitch and bats as a kid before I really discovered pinball. In college our student union had a few games and I recall gravitating to the Bally games because they looked different/better than the other manufacturers. Who knew that someday I’d get my first job with the same company. WIZARD was the first actual pinball game that I played at that time.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
My first recollection of a true arcade was after I got into the pinball business in the late 70’s – most often before that I played games in the student union at college or in the bars. Mother’s in Mount Prospect Illinois was a test location for both Bally and Williams so we at Bally would drive out to Mother’s to see how games were doing on test…and we would run into our competition from Williams doing the same.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of Pinball? How do you compare them to older, classic machines?
As a player I like to play most any kind of game from any era. After designing WNBJM with Dennis I really learned a lot more about EM style games and have made it a point to play more of them at shows to understand the history of game play and design better. Today’s games have a lot of rule depth built in which is great for some people, especially home games where you want to be challenged over and over again, but I still prefer a rule set that allows a novice or medium skilled player to enjoy the game without being overwhelmed.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I worked on a couple of console games in the latter days of Midway Games – the complexity of today’s console games seems to make it feel less like a game and more of a role playing experience. I prefer classic video games that have simple rules but are difficult to master. I recall watching friends of all ages and gender having fun with games like Galaga, Pac Man, and Space Invaders.
What is your favorite pinball machine past and present and why?
As for games I’ve worked on I still enjoy Scared Stiff – it has everything that I enjoy about making this product – campy humor, hand-drawn art with plenty of freedom from the licensor, great music and sounds, a very shootable layout, and a rules et that is easy for all players to understand. Some call it a shallow rule set but it works for me as an average player. When I first got to Stern a few years ago I played a lot of ACDC with Steve Ritchie – I like playing the game even though it’s a tough game…but that’s how Steve design’s his games. I also like playing John Borg’s Metallica – another great shooting game with a fun theme – and I wasn’t a big Metallica fan before I played it. I now have a new respect for their music.
Are you fan of the new digital pinball machines and what makes them better or worse than the standard machines?
Some have replicated the classic games very well. I like the fact that you can add cool stuff, like characters and animation, to enhance the digital pinball experience but nothing beats, IMO, the real feel of an actual pinball game with gravity doing its thing.
Are pinball machines aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
For the most part the first word that comes to mind is adults – but probably because of the size and physicality it takes to play a pinball game. BUT I would hope that we can attract all ages with some of the themes that we create. If our market was enormous, it would be fun to create games targeted directly to kids or young adults, just to change it up. Back when I still owned a Revenge from Mars, my nephew who was about 6 or 7 at the time, would play that game more than any other game in my collection – most likely because of the video game connection with the reflected animations on the playfield.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
I never did. I enjoyed collecting various forms of trading cards as a kid but it brings a smile to my face, and many other friends and family members, to know that I’m part of that genre now.
Do you prefer playing pinball alone or against someone and why?
It’s more fun to compete! 1-4 Can Play! I have played alone and found that I can get absorbed into the theme more than when competing but it’s definitely more fun to play with others.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Yes and No – The amount of violence in some games has received a lot of press and actually helps sell those games – when I worked at Midway I did participate in the creation of a couple of what some would call violent games – 3rd person shooters - but I feel it’s a stretch to say that playing these games could lead a person to commit a violent act. However, if people are unstable to begin with there may be some cases where the desensitization to violence (because it’s “just a game”) could possibly allow that instability to view the real world differently.
Are pinball machines good for relieving stress?
Absolutely – unless you are playing in a tournament.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I am currently the Art Director at Stern Pinball Inc. and continue to create graphics for today’s new pinball games.
Where do you see the pinball world in the next 20 years?
I hope it’s still around in 20 years and thriving – I hope that for myself as well. ;-)