Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Josh Tsui who currently is displayed on card number 3447, from the Superstars of 2020 Collection. Josh spent over two decades working in video game development on key franchises such as Mortal Kombat, Tony Hawk, and Fight Night. First as a video artist to co-founding two AAA studios. Having studied film in college, he accidentally got into gaming development and put his filmmaking career on hold. In 2020 he produced and directed the film “Insert Coin”. This feature length documentary brings him back to his roots as he explores the rise and fall of Midway Games in the 1990’s. It was selected to have its world premiere at SXSW 2020.
What does it take to be a documentary producer, and what advice would you give a person today who would like to get into the industry?
The will to just want to get started is what it takes to produce a documentary. Followed closely by a love of the subject. It’s very hard work and you really have to love it to put up with the pain. I don’t see myself working on a doc unless I’m personally immersed in it as the work is so hard that you need that drive to keep going. Anything can be a subject so don’t think you’re supposed niche subject matter isn’t worthy. If you love it and can really deep dive into it, then it’s worthy.
How long from start to finish did “Insert Coin” take and what was your best memory of the process?
It took about 5 years total from start to finish. TBH, I took many breaks in between so if you were to concentrate it down, it was about 3.5 years. There were many times where I just wanted to walk away for a bit just so I can have fresh eyes later on.
Do you remember when you worked on your first Mortal Kombat game and what do you remember about the experience?
Yeh, it was for Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero and I just remember being so thrilled to be part of the MK team. Back in the day there were multiple teams at Midway on various games. Being asked to be on the MK team was like “you made it.” So, I felt like after many years of work at Midway this was my bar mitzvah.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I think games are just incredible now. The size and impact of games on pop culture and society is at its all-time high. I love older classic games but I’m not one of those who people who pine for the old simpler times. Games were great back then and even better now. Nowadays the sheer variety of games from AAA publishers to Indies allows for mass market appeal across all demographics.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Being on a trading card is just so insane. To most people this may not seem like a big deal but being an old school arcade gamer makes this extra special. I never thought that a kid like myself who would run around with a sack of tokens at Showboat Golf and Games in Puente Hills would end up on a card. Total geek moment and I’m loving it.
What is your favorite game you have worked on in your career?
This is always a tough question because there are games, I loved working on and there are games I love playing. Sometimes they’re not the same. I’d have to say that Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was just an incredible experience. It was also my first game and it spoiled me forever against any other experiences. I mean, my first job and I get to hang out with WWE wrestlers all day, and they were amazing.
What was your role and Midway and what is a story some may not know?
My role was initially an artist. Back then the teams were so small that everyone had multiple rows. So as an artist you weren’t specialized. We did everything from characters to backgrounds to props. As for unknown stories? Too many to name but I’d say there were a ton of games that were never released for various reasons and they all have compelling stories behind them.
What was your favorite experience on the Tony Hawk’s series?
My favorite experience on the Tony Hawk series in general was just being able to work with Tony Hawk. An incredible human being. He wasn’t just a name on the game, he truly cared about the game and wanted to innovate and try new ideas with them. We were super lucky to go on various journeys with him.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Walter Day is the figurehead we need to remember why games are awesome and why community is important. He was the first to give us an organization to keep score with and learn about other players around the world. What an incredible gentleman. So if it was down to one word, Legendary.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
Lynx with California Games. Blew my mind to see a full color screen that small. Otherwise, the iPhone which still has so much potential for gaming
Do you prefer arcade or console gaming and why?
I’m still an arcade gamer at heart. I love console gaming, but time is so hard to come by nowadays, so arcade games is the hit I need every once in a while.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I’ve been really enjoying some of the arcade games that have been modernized for multiplayer such as Pac Man 99. My favorite genre? Tough one, I still love fighting games (MK of course)
Are video games today aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
The answer is Yes :)
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I think some games are too violent, especially when it’s not in service to the game. Can it lead to violence in America today? Not by itself. People are way more complex than that
Which company today, in your opinion, makes the best games and why?
Naughty Dog. They make what they want to make and not just adding a checklist of features
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Absolutely love it. Even when they aren’t successful it’s good for the industry
Who is your favorite video game character of all time and what makes that character special?
Tony Hawk, the man and character. Maybe because it’s a personal thing but the guy loves games and loves to innovate in skateboarding and gaming. The personality of skaters is that they want to keep trying new things over and over again no matter how often they fail.
Do you have another project after “Insert Coin”? and if so, what are some details?
Absolutely planning the next projects. I learned so much from Insert Coin and the reception was just amazing. I felt like I touched upon something that people really wanted so I’m hoping to continue these themes and give the videogames its place in history.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
More immersive experiences, maybe the next innovation on VR but with less barrier of entry