Trading Card Spotlight - Wolff Morrow

Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Wolff Morrow who currently is displayed on card number 978, from the Superstars of 2014 Collection.  Wolff is a legendary console world champion.   He has posted high scores and won tournaments on many retro consoles such as the NES, SNES, N64, PS1, and PS2.  In 1995, he won store champion for the Super NES format at the BlockBuster World Video Game Championship II.  Some of his high scores include speed records on Doom 64, SSX, and SSX Tricky.   He has been featured on the old G4TV channel for his record on Tomb Raider 2.  His favorite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda for the NES.   Outside of gaming, Wolff is an expert blitz chess player and former USA champion at correspondence chess.   Currently Wolff is in electrical engineering, involving modding consoles for stuff like clean RGB output, better audio, recaps, repairs, and special installations that add in HDMI upscaling internally.

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

Firebrand from the Gargoyle’s Quest and Demon’s Crest games. It’s a rare thing when you play a game where your non-human character has no moral compass to worry about, not to mention looks wicked-awesome. I even got him tattooed on my shoulder, and of course all my avatars online are of Firebrand. I even managed to slip in my net-nick initials of “FBX” on a snowboard for the PS2 version of SSX 3, so Firebrand has influenced a completely unrelated gaming genre.

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

Oh gosh, I want to say 2001, and it was online. My brother and I both were advocates for speed-gaming and high score gaming on consoles, which were underrepresented on Twin Galaxies at the time. We started submitting records on video tape, because we liked the idea of a scoreboard where you had to prove you were the best rather than merely make claims on a forum. I think Walter liked the idea of expanding Twin Galaxies to be more inclusive of gamer achievements on the ever-growing list of new consoles coming out back then, and he asked both my brother and I to help with that expansion and promotion.

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

In all honesty I never thought video game trading cards would exist. As I got more and more skilled, I figured I might have a good shot at winning a tournament, but I was more focused on being absorbed by the game itself in terms of maximizing my score or minimizing times on speed-based gaming.

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

I’d have to say “gentle”. In my conversations with him on the phone, I’ve never known him to get outwardly angry, even when I myself was livid.

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

Well I already own a Pinball machine I restored to museum quality (Rocky & Bullwinkle), and I own a Neo Geo arcade machine with a special flash cart that has every game on it. However, I’ve always wanted a pristine condition original Star Wars arcade game. I used to be very good at that and loved the vector graphics on it.

What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games?  How do you compare them to older, classic games?

I actually will sometimes play and enjoy modern games. I loved GTA V, The Last of Us, the Doom reboot, The Tomb Raider reboots, Fallout 4, and so on. My take on the modern versus classic entirely depends on the game, but generally you could say classic games were about hand-eye coordination while modern games are more intellectually stimulating. You’re more involved in a story, and you have to be more strategic in your planning than memorizing a pattern or having perfect reflexes, though even some modern games still require old-school skills.

Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?

I like both actually depending on what I’m playing. For a first-person shooter type game or massive online multiplayer role playing game, nothing beats a powerhouse PC with a mouse and keyboard. If I’m playing a fighting game or shooter, I’ll prefer to use a console and controller.

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

I enjoy quite a lot of different types of games. I’ll play anything as long as it’s well made. My favorite genres are Japan-style role playing games and survival horror. Sci-fi exploration is also a fun experience in my opinion.

Super Punch Out Contest December 1994 Mr Sand Man World Record

What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?

It would have to be a tie between the Game Boy Advance and the PSP. The Game Boy Advance was like having a turbocharged Super NES console as a handheld, and it had a superb library of games for it. Metroid Zero Mission was my personal favorite. On the PSP side, the technology was much more refined with a backlit screen and higher resolution. Being able to play games like Ultimate Ghosts ‘Goblins in what they call “2.5D” was quite fun. This is where the action is still a side-scrolling 2D game, but the backgrounds having been built with polygons to allow for proper perspective scrolling. It’s a really neat effect when playing on a handheld.

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

The first one I actually remember playing was Atari 2600 Combat. We’d gotten an Atari for Christmas, and that was the first game along with Air/Sea Battle. Since playing video games was new to me and I was so young, I was quite intrigued. My enthusiasm and interest in the console were pretty much killed off with the release of Pac Man for it. It was so pathetic, and we knew it even back then. Just insulting.

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

Okay so this is difficult to say because it has changed depending on the era we’re talking about. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was totally smitten with Nintendo. The NES and SNES are two of my all-time favorite game consoles, and I did also own a Sega Genesis as well. Then the Sony PlayStation came out in 1995 and I was blown away when I first played Doom for it. Sony held my attention ever since then, though I continued to buy other consoles as well, like the Sega Dreamcast and Microsoft Xbox.

What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?

While not my field of expertise, it takes most importantly: Education. The person writing the article needs to know the subject material intimately as well as be able to present it in an informative and concise manner. What the journalist should not do is have a biased agenda. People in this day and age can smell undertones in a given agenda-laced article a mile away, and it can give the journalist a bad reputation. At the very least, it will diminish readership from the target audience.

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

I’m not aware of any media coverage over the trading card appearance, but I have been on TV before when I did a demo of my perfect world record on Tomb Raider II’s obstacle course.

How does video game music influence games past and present?

In the distant past, music wasn’t really a thing because hardware didn’t have the capability to really produce it to an entertaining level. I’d say it wasn’t until the NES came along that you saw composers really making an effort to create immersive or thematic soundtracks. In some games, it can make or break the overall experience. For example, in the Silent Hill series, Akira Yamaoka’s haunting soundtrack made a lasting impression on the emotional content and atmosphere of the games. In many ways you can argue that the soundtrack made the visual limitations forgivable. In present day gaming, both audio and video are simply superb in terms of what can be achieved, and so it now becomes a matter of just hiring the right people in all aspects of game design.

Final Fantasy III Contest Nintendo Power Feb1995

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

I’d say mostly at that hazy area between adolescents and full adults. Granted, there are still some games aimed at children, but let’s face it, more often than not, you’re hearing about adult games like GTA V setting all sorts of sales records.

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

It’s entertainment and rated for the appropriate audience. It would be a lot like asking if movies are too violent and lead to violence in America today. You can’t blame arts and entertainment for mental health issues like psychopathic behavior. Never once when playing GTA V did I get the feeling I wanted to steal a fire truck and run a bunch of people over. It’s entertainment and nothing more. Either we accept this, or we ban all arts and entertainment that aren’t kid-friendly, and nobody wants to live in a world like that.

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

I’ve done all three types. I typically prefer alone because I don’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts and can just play at my own leisure. I’m also a chess player, so that’s where I direct all my “versus the world” gaming online.

Which company makes the best games and why?

I can’t state any one company. There are far too many games I like from companies such as SquareSoft, Capcom, Konami, and lately I’ve been really enjoying indie projects that are fan-funded or brilliantly designed by a single person. Axiom Verge is an excellent example of someone designing a game and the soundtrack for it, to where both are just as awesome as a full-fledged company can do, and yet a single person made the entire game.

Are video games good for relieving stress?

Well if you’re not obsessing over setting a new world record, they can relieve a lot of stress. For example, I can play Brutal Doom 64 and get engrossed in the game and forgot about my life troubles for a while.

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

Typically, not, because they tend to do a terrible job of it. I think the problem stems from ‘suits’ looking at what sells and not bothering to really engage in finding out from experts of the genre what really makes a game an epic worthy of a movie. I mean, just look at the Tomb Raider movies, the Doom movie, and a few others, and you realize whoever made them missed the mark on why the game was captivating to the player. I in fact had written my own Doom movie script back in the late ‘90s that would have been truly appreciated by the fans of the game. Why? Because I’m a fan of the game.

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

Entertainment. Same thing with movies, books, TV shows, etc.

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

First and foremost has to be Gameplay. If you can’t control your character within reasonable expectations, the game is ruined on the spot no matter how pretty it looks or sounds.

Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?

Not really. I like exploration most of all, leading up to the boss battle of course.

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

Favorite single player has to be a tie between Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, and Legend of Zelda. Favorite multiplayer for a long time was World of Warcraft. Though when I think back, there was nothing like the thrill of Death Match in Doom.

Do you learn anything from playing video games?

Sure, though it depends on the game’s story line. I felt emotionally involved in Silent Hill 2 and The Last of Us. Maybe you can learn something about yourself, or find you appreciate some aspect of life you didn’t before. We should keep in mind that the primary goal of the game is to captivate our interest, so there’s always that thin line of having an agenda versus an engaging plot.

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

I’d probably try to combine the open world and building elements from Minecraft and use Fallout 4 as the graphical style and theme. While you could build some pretty complex structures in Fallout 4, you were pretty limited in materials and capabilities. I’d like to expand on that concept and make it the focus more so than it was. Then I’d have a multiplayer option so others could join in and have a free-for-all death match. Maybe even have trading and peace treaties between camps, all the while knowing someone could betray you or that you’ve booby-trapped housing complexes with explosives. You know, make it a real post-apocalyptic scenario of survival and dominance.  There would be no main character other than one your design yourself in-game.

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

Still very much involved, though instead of spending 8 hours a day trying to shave a half-second on a world record, now I do retro-console modifications and repairs. There’s a booming market as nostalgia has kicked in for people of my age, and people want the best-looking picture quality that can be squeezed from those old consoles from the ‘80s and ‘90s. So, I work on RGB modifications, improved audio output clarity, and other things like replacing worn out capacitors with new ones, coin-cell battery holder mods, and other overall improvements to the original console design. I also develop optimized upscaled profiles for these older consoles on devices like the Framemeister and OSSC for hooking them into modern flat panel displays and having them look really good.

Console modding and repair Lab

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

VR gaming seems to be the hot new craze now that it makes use of much better technology. I think you’re going to see more and more “helmet gaming” as the technology continues to improve, where people don a helmet and see everything around them in beautiful 3D.