Trading Card Spotlight - Stephen Burnett
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Stephen Burnett, who is displayed on card number 2478, from the Superstars of 2016 Collection. Stephen was present during the birth of Twin Galaxies in 1982, and played with the best of the best in the early 1980’s. He had many visions in that period of time, including opening up an arcade with fellow gamer Leo Daniels, helping Walter Day create an Electronic Sports League, and offering his time as a competition official of major gaming events. Today, Steve is the Co-founder and Chairman of Koolbridge Solar, a leading force in producing Solar Energy around the world.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
It would be probably the old Playboy pinball game. There’s just something cool about seeing Hugh Hefner and those sexy ladies with skimpy outfits on each side of him as you play the game. I’d also like to own a 2019 pinball game where the flipper action is fast and hard, has multi-ball action, and has lots of targets and ramps that take real skill to hit and go up. Not sure which game it is, but I’m sure that there is one like that out there.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
My Grandparents built a beach cottage at Carolina Beach, NC in 1936. We would move from our house in Wilmington, NC to the beach every summer in the 1960’s and stay there for about 2 1⁄2 months each year. There is a well-established boardwalk there where we would go almost every summer night to play games and win Teddy Bears and other stuffed animals. I would play Skee-Ball and play pinball for hours and hours, and not just at night. I believe that this was before Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. There were a couple of arcades that had many different old pinball games from the 1950’s and those are the games that I became good on. These were the early pinball games with great sounds and flipper action. There were no multi-balls, no ramps, just a flat area with large bumpers. You could not win anything but free games! My goal was to always win the most-free games that I could on one quarter. I started playing pinball seriously around 1969 when I was 14 and had my first business on the boardwalk with my 18-year-old first cousin. The business was called “Drown the Clown”. It’s the business where you throw the ball at a target and the clown drops into a tub of water. We would work the business at night and play pinball and Skee-Ball all day long during the daytime. I was never into video games, only pinball and Skee-Ball. However, I do remember playing my first video games, they were Pong and Frogger!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
When I see today’s games, i.e. Electronic game competitions / Leagues, games that can be played online or on a smart phone or tablet, it’s not the same as going into an arcade where there are more sounds, more people, more colorful visual effects. The arcade games like those at Dave and Busters are great...they are very visual, you can have four people playing a racecar game side by side, it’s very interactive. The older video games did not seem to be as interactive. But, regardless, everyone still enjoys playing today’s video games just like they used to on the older games.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No, but I’m not surprised. I used to be extremely good at pinball. And, not too bad now at 63!
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I first met Walter Day in Ottumwa, Iowa if I’m not mistaken around 1979 or so. Leo Daniels was a good video game player from Wilmington, NC where I’m from. Leo and I became partners and opened an arcade called World Class Amusements in Wilmington, NC. Leo was one of the players on the “National Video Game Team” and we went to Ottumwa, Iowa where a competition was being held. Walter was the referee and managed the contest. Shortly after that, Walter moved to Wilmington, NC and he and I became partners in a new venture. We were going to open a Twin Galaxies arcade on International Drive in Orlando, Florida and it would be the largest arcade in the world. We were going to have 3,000 video games, in-house video game competitions, go-carts, mini-golf, a History of the World represented by the headlines of old newspapers, a Museum of High School Yearbooks of famous people like Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson, etc. It was going to be a very large tourist attraction. We almost got it off the ground!
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Guru! Walter has been a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation for 30+ years...maybe 40+ years. He is dedicated to the teachings of Maharishi Mehesh Yogi. Many folks in the video game world do not know that about Walter. He is a true spiritual guru.
Do you prefer PC or console gaming and why?
Console. It’s the environment that the console games are usually in.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
Pinball games, Air Hockey, Driving games, Skee-Ball, baseball. My sons and I like to go to Myrtle Beach, SC on occasion to the arcades there and we love to play the old baseball games with the flippers that don’t work properly from the 1940’s and 1950’s.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
Video game music is important...it attracts a person initially to the game, but it helps keep the game interesting and exciting, in my opinion.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
When I go into Dave and Buster’s in Orlando, there are lots of families there. I believe that it depends on whether or not it’s an online game, a standalone video game, and the type of establishment the game might be in. For the majority of online games, I believe that they are targeted for adolescents. For arcades, I think that most games appeal to all family members.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I don’t know what the research shows, but I believe that it depends on how seriously addicted someone might become to a specific violent game. I’m sure that there is research out there that would indicate if violent games lead to violence. I think a better question would be “If research shows that violent video games lead to violence in America, should they be regulated better” or something to that effect.
Do you prefer playing pinball games alone or against friends and why?
When I play pinball, I love to play alone but I also love to kick someone else’s ass and make them wallow in pity and squirm in defeat!
Which company makes the best games and why?
I’ve always liked Williams pinball games.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Patience, determination, accuracy and that video games make a lot of money for the owner.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
In my opinion, Yes. They are a good reprieve from everyday life and can take you to a make-believe place which can be a short escape from normal stuff where you can forget any problems for a while.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Like Tron? I’m OK either way.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
Ms. Pac Man. That is about the only video game that I can play well, so I like “her” .... if there is a “her”. Not really sure!
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
Fun with the family and “Kick some ass”!
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art or style.
Atmosphere. If the atmosphere is good, almost any game can be fun to play.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Ms. Pac Man / Ms. Pac Man. (Sorry...I’m old-school!)
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
It would be like a James Bond movie where there is a villain, a Secret Agent, and a beautiful woman. The main character would be the Bond character and he would always end up with the girl.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
I’m very intrigued about the League playing...you can actually make a living as a professional gamer. Walter and I were invited to go to Manitoba, Canada around 1979 or 1980 to help a company create competitive video gaming on standalone games. That was the forerunner of the Leagues that you see now with teams like the one that Rick Fox owns. I see professional gamers and live streamers playing games as the future of gaming.... I believe that the future of gaming is where folks can actually make some cash playing games.