Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Karl Kuhlenschmidt who currently is displayed on card number 2161, from the Superstars of 2015 Collection. Karl is an avid arcade preservationist, who loves to fix and restore old classic arcade machines to keep the nostalgia alive. His first and most loved arcade cabinet he restored was the “Discs of Tron.” He would paint the exact details of his preserved machine to make it look like the original. Every aspect of the details was carefully represented. Karl also put his hands in preserving pinball and jukebox machines. His love for the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s keeps him busy with his experience in the preservation world.
What does it take to be an arcade preservationist?
I guess it depends on your level of passion for classic machines. With the internet, it is easier to find information and photos on a machine to restore. Advancements on printing techniques and materials can make it easier to restore.
Do you remember your first arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
Space Invaders/the sound…bump, bump, bump, bump, and it was loud because in most places it was usually by itself.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No, and I never did think I would own an actual arcade machine.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
The 2015 Houston Area Arcade Expo. A group of us were given our cards and I believe Billy Mitchell was there.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would it be and why?
Game-changer because he did something that would unite the arcade groups by keeping official record of high scores (pre-internet).
Do you prefer the original Arcade or MAME gaming and why?
I love original machines. MAMES are nice to have as they have many classic games in one machine, but a restored original machine stands out in a man cave.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I love to play Tron, Frontline, and Karate Champ. Action and military are my favorite genres.
If you could have only one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I love laser disc games, but they are hard to keep working. There was a prototype by Atari. It was Battlestar Galactica—it was in the development stage, but never finished.
How does arcade music influence games past and present?
A classic arcade was full of sounds from arcade and pinball machines. After a while, you could tell what the machine was just by hearing it. No more catchy themes like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Defender, and Tron.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of arcade games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
Newer machines are big, two-four player shooter games; single player machines are fading away. Golden Tee, Jurassic Park, Aliens, etc. 1UP machines are a cheap alternative to buying a full-size machine.
Are arcades aimed mainly at children, adolescents, or adults?
The sad part is you cannot use the word arcade anymore or game room. It’s being used for poker machines or 8liners. Now you have to give it a catchy name for people to know it has real arcade and pinball machines inside.
Do you believe some arcade games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
No, but there will always be arguments about how they give kids bad ideas or information. Kids have so much input from the internet or cable, but that is where proper parenting comes into play. Don’t let these mediums be the ones babysitting your children. Install good parental skills and they should be alright. Remember the first Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat.
Do you prefer playing arcade games alone, against friends and why?
The days of being in the arcade or having home counsel’s “pre-internet” are a thing of the past, putting in a quarter on an arcade machine was to challenge someone in person face-to-face. Now you’re playing a 15-minute round, talking smack. Before you had to face a person, win or lose, know your opponent. You had to know the game, know the patterns.
Do you learn anything from playing arcade games?
I learned, as a kid, that $5 did not go as far as you would like. I had to find a way to make more money to go to the arcade. Laserdisc games did not give you your money’s worth; too short game play for .50 or a dollar.
Who is your favorite game character and what makes that game character special?
It’s TRON. The arcade machine actually made more money than the original movie. A sequel arcade machine (EDOT), and 28 years later returns and gets a sequel and a pinball machine which I have both machines.
What springs to mind when you hear the term Arcade?
Going to the mall, pocketful of quarters, seeing what new machine was there, and if you still had the high score on your favorite machine.
What is your favorite portable game device and why?
The Atari Lynx/if it had more game support, it could have surpassed the Gameboy as it had great sound, full color, and a great library of games.
What is your favorite arcade game of all time?
EDOT (Environmental Discs of TRON) TRON was awesome, but when the EDOT came out, you got to step into the game which was in the movie and it actually talked to you.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
A sequel to Firefox. You are the son of Mitchell Gant. Ace Pilot, who takes control of the new Firefox test program.
Where do you see arcade games in the next 20 years?
Pinball machines are making a comeback, but the price is getting out of hand for the average collector. Arcade machines are moving towards the MAME area, online, and or counsel. Machines from the eighties are wearing out and there are less people that know how to repair them.