Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Matt Payne, who currently is displayed on card number 3528, from the Superstars of 2021 Collection. Matt was the owner of “New Challenger Arcade”, in Dayton, OH. Every era of gaming was covered in his arcade (1969-2001). This arcade had everything from pinball, arcade machines and even consoles. Almost every machine has a save kit so the high scores can be there to try to beat and have bragging rights. Matt’s arcade was closed down about 6 months ago but has always been a big part of his gaming life. Matt currently has an “Arcade Club” at his middle school where he teaches.
What does it take to be an arcade owner?
I think I failed as an arcade owner mainly due to COVID hitting 3 months after I opened, but I did learn a few things along the way. An arcade owner must also offer some other kind of service--media store, comic store, bar, restaurant, etc. An arcade will truly struggle if it attempts to operate like an arcade from the 80’s/90’s.
Do you remember your first pinball game you played and what do you remember about it?
My parents had two EM pinball machines in our basement, so I always had pinball in my life. Granted, I never loved pinball until I got into collecting arcade games and eventually opening my arcade. The pinball that I remember the most is one of the two my folks had--Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle. I mainly remember the art and the look of the playfield.
If you could only have one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
This is an incredibly tough question. I recently had to reflect on this when I had to close down my arcade. I was able to keep about 15 of my favorites, but one? It would have to be either Mortal Kombat 2 or Street Fighter 2. Those are games that I play off and on with friends. They are also the titles that drove me to the arcade as a kid.
Do you remember your first arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
I was born in 1978, so arcade games pretty much always existed for as long as I can remember. I remember being so intimidated by the local arcades. Lots of older kids who would snatch your quarter right off the bezel!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of arcade games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
The newer arcade games are pretty rad, but they are nothing like the old classics. I haven’t spent much time with newer games, but the few I have played are pretty impressive.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Absolutely not! I never would have thought that video game trading cards would even exist.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I have not had the pleasure of meeting Walter in person. He reached out to me via my arcade’s Facebook page and offered me the honor of being on one of his cards.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
One word? Warm. He is incredibly humble and kind, and he constantly thinks of others.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
Original Gameboy. Hands down. I used to collect original GB games before I ventured into the arcade scene. I had a complete set of all 511 US releases. Took me a few years to find them all.
What gaming console is your favorite and why?
Probably the Super Nintendo. I love my Switch for more current games, but the quality of the games on the SNES was through the roof. It was one of the consoles I owned as a child, so there is that nostalgia factor as well.
What is your favorite arcade game of all time?
Probably Mortal Kombat 2 or Street Fighter 2, but I have developed a love for MIssile Command. As a kid I never understood the game and I just thought it was stupid.
Do you prefer the original arcade or MAME gaming and why?
I guess I consider myself a bit of a purist when it comes to arcade games. I love original equipment--CRT monitors, joysticks, buttons, PCBs, etc. The only things I swap out for newer stuff are power supplies and lights. I haven’t played much MAME, but I would be very reluctant to toss one in a cab.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I don’t actually play as much as I used to. I just can’t find the time. I do play my Switch a fair amount. I spent an ungodly amount of time playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild. My favorite genre is fighting games, believe it or not. There just aren’t too many modern fighting games.
How does arcade music influence games past and present?
Absolutely. Especially if you look at synthwave or a genre like that. I think the music touches on people’s nostalgia.
Are arcades aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I think arcades (actual places filled with games) are aimed at adults nowadays. I sought to change that with New Challenger--I wanted a place kids could call their own. All of the arcades within driving distance are catered to adults and serve alcohol.
Do you believe some arcade games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Arcade games? No way. Console games? I could have that debate. I do think kids are desensitized at young ages nowadays due to insanely graphic console games. Like I mentioned before, I grew up playing Mortal Kombat and I turned out OK. But some of the newer console games have some gratuitous violence that I believe is excessive.
Which company makes the best arcade games and why?
I gotta say Capcom. I just think everything they touch is gold. I love their fighting games and their stylized graphics. You can tell you are playing a Capcom game without having to check the title.
Do you learn anything from playing arcade games?
I think you can learn social skills. Arcades can be places that bring people together on a level playing field.
Who is your favorite arcade game character and what makes that character special?
I know it’s cheesy and overused, but I have to go with Mario aka Jumpman. He is the iconic video game protagonist. My 2-year-old son has now formed an obsession with him. He calls him “Mar-mar”.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘arcade?
Now that word floods my mind with emotions. I think of Krazy Kat’s (the arcade I visited as a kid and the inspiration for New Challenger); I think of my garage and basement (now overloaded with games and a few projects); I think of closing my beloved arcade, New Challenger. Arcade games are just a part of me. Closing the arcade did not close my love for classic games.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
A middle school teacher trying to get through his day. You have to teach, grade, manage discipline, run safety drills, escort kids on field trips, etc. The final boss would be the state test.
Where do you see arcade games in the next 20 years?
20 years? Wow. I don’t exactly see a revival of the arcade days of old, but that would be the best. I think barcades will keep the old machines up and running as best as they possibly can, and there will always be a few museum-like arcades.