Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Jason Gares, who currently is displayed on card number 4094, from the Superstars of 2022 Collection. Jason has been a major contributor to the Midwest Gaming Classic convention for almost a decade. He is the shows panel director and videographer of the panels to make sure they are watched again after they occur. He also contributes to the tvMGC Twitch Channel show. You can see Jason playing his favorite pinball simulation games on the channel and discussing all things gaming to his subscribers.
What is your favorite part of the Midwest Gaming Classic?
May favorite part would be all the friendships made and relationships formed by being there every year for the past eight years. Back in 2015 I was invited to film the convention to produce a documentary on it. I returned in 2016 to film more and ended up helping a little in the panel room. In 2017 I returned and helped the sound tech Jason Paul with direction of the panel room and anything else that was needed in that space. In 2018 I became the “official” panel director (and videographer) and have been there ever since. The position has allowed me to have an integral part in the convention, allowing me to meet a plethora of known talent from the video game, pinball, movie, television, music, and online entertainment industries. I feel very fortunate to have the position and don’t take it for granted. The Midwest Gaming Classic has become a very important part of my life and look forward to it every year. The documentary never got made, but I’ve produced a few online shows and series that have to do with the panels I film. They can be found on my YouTube channel, Jason’s Showtime Arcade Extravaganza and on the tvMGC Twitch channel.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I think today’s generation of video games have a lot more depth and of course gorgeous graphics than what I grew up with. But, at the end of the day, I ALWAYS tend to gravitate back to the classics. As they challenge me to get better every time, I play them. To get that higher score, or to get to the next screen or level. All though newer games tend to have more depth and awesome looking graphics, the one downfall is that once you finish the story, that’s about it, you’re done. Unless you want to achieve all trophies (or accomplishments), then there’s a little bit more gameplay that can be squeaked out. But eventually, the game play does stop when all trophies have been earned. In my opinion, it’s very hard to get to the “end” of a classic game, unless you dedicate a lot of time and have the mindset to do just that. It can be accomplished; as proven by many record holders, it just takes a lot longer to get there.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No, not at all! You know as a kid; you think how cool it would be to be on a Topps baseball or football card. These video game trading cards weren’t even out back then, so the thought never crossed my mind. Then a few years back (I don’t remember when) I found out about the Walter Day video game trading card series. I thought they were pretty cool as well. But again, it never crossed my mind that I would have any part in it. Then one day out of the blue, you contacted me. And the rest we shall say, is history. Being awarded my own video game trading card, being part of the collection and receiving the award was one of the most surprising and most cherished memories of my life. It really felt like winning an Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, etc.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first video game I remember playing was around 1982 (I believe I was 11 at the time) and it was the original black and white Space Invaders at Aladdin’s Castle inside Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, WI. Along with that, I remember my first pinball machine play being there as well. The game was Haunted House by Gottlieb. The original Pac-Man was also in that arcade, and I’ve been a HUGE fan ever since. I’ve enjoyed almost every sequel and platformer tied to Pac-Man over the years and have been pretty open minded to anything new being connected to that game franchise.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I actually have never met Walter Day. I’ve shared the same building with him though. Let me explain. He was at the 2018 Midwest Gaming Classic sharing a table with Billy Mitchell and I was just too busy in the panel room to be able to visit their table. As the saying goes “close, but no cigar”. Perhaps I will have a chance to meet Walter sometime in the future.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Pioneer. For having the foresight and vision to form Twin Galaxies and being the “grandfather” of eSports. A LOT of what’s done today in terms of high score keeping and eSports in general owe a lot to Walter and what he started with Twin Galaxies.
What does it take to be a video game podcaster? What advice would you give others?
My podcasting is in video form on both the tvMGC Twitch channel and on my YouTube channel. I record my weekly Twitch streams and upload them in a day or two to my YouTube channel. Advice is a hard one to answer, as I don’t consider myself a master at what I do. As I’m always still learning. I would say do what interests you FIRST. Don’t do it for the money or fame. That can come later (or it may never happen). Do it because you want to and that it makes you happy. Fame, money, and everything else will come in due time (or maybe it won’t). Pick a subject you like and embrace it a thousand percent because YOU find it interesting, don’t do what’s “trendy” as you may not like the subject matter. Believe me, you’ll find out that others enjoy what you say and do. You’ll find your voice and audience in time. Don’t let the “haters” get you down and FIGHT for your vision, nobody else will do it for you. Success comes in many forms and is different for everyone. Don’t measure yours by what others think it should be. You’ll be the final judge of what makes you happy and how you define your triumphs. Be patient, open minded, learn to take criticism, have “tough skin” and always be willing to learn.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
That’s a hard one to answer, as both have their positives and negatives. Like my portable gaming device question, I’m going to give you two answers, but this time with one word… BOTH! I can’t lie, I really like both. PC gaming for the ease of just picking up a controller that’s already connected to the PC I’m working on, turn on the Steam app and pick from the hundreds of titles I own. How easy is that? On the other hand, console gaming has so MANY exclusives that usually don’t end up on PC, so that’s where they have the edge over PC gaming. Specifically depending on who manufactures the console. You get Mario games exclusive to Nintendo consoles, Halo to Xbox, Uncharted to PlayStation and so on. I’m very fortunate to have a PC that plays just about any game and a bunch of consoles between my game room and living room for myself and others to enjoy.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I would own the arcade game Ms. Pac-Man and the Haunted House pinball machine by Gottlieb. I like Ms. Pac-Man a little bit more than the original Pac-Man because of the maze variations and usually gravitate to it more in the wild when I see it than the original Pac-Man (even though Pac-Man is my favorite). As for pinball machines, the reason I would like Haunted House goes back to what I mentioned before, as I remember it being the very first pinball machine I ever played. I have many other arcade and pinball machines I would like to own, but I don’t need to be greedy. A lot of arcade and pinball machines I own on various console platforms and am very happy having those. I don’t need to have the original machines or hardware to still enjoy them.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
I started off team Nintendo but gravitated to team Sega once the Genesis came out with Sonic the Hedgehog. I really enjoyed Sega’s “tude” in the 1990’s with their marketing. It did talk to me more than wholesome Nintendo. Don’t get me wrong, I currently enjoy both Sega and Nintendo (I do have a Switch), but Sega was in your face and wasn’t ashamed of it. Many people (myself included) consider Nintendo to be the “Disney” of video games, and I think that’s still true to this day. Even though Sega isn’t in the console business any longer, the current games they produce still have that 90’s “tude” in them. I hope that never changes.
What is your favorite video game controller and why?
That’s an easy one… The Wiimote and Nunchuck controllers. As I still use them today playing various Wii games, especially Wii bowling with the family. I’m pretty sure that’s the most played game here at home (still). Then second, would be the Switch Joy-Con controllers. As I play my Switch quite a bit.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents, or adults?
All three, without a doubt! I saw that happening way back in the 1990’s largely between Nintendo and Sega. I worked at a couple video game stores in the early to mid-1990’s. They were Captron: World of Nintendo at Southridge mall in Greenfield, WI where I was the assistant manager and the Video Game Exchange on the South Side of Milwaukee, a few blocks north of Layton Ave. I was an assistant manager there as well. I saw in both stores games of all types targeted at all three groups. The main idea back then (and still today) from both Nintendo and Sega was to start with learning titles for children to get them “hooked” on video games at a very young age and move them up the ladder with titles that eventually would be of interest in their adolescent years, then have them fully dedicated as adults when the have more money. That practice is still being done today. Just look around at all the consoles and their titles and you’ll see it.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I do NOT feel that video games lead to violence. I feel the same about music, movies, books, and TV shows. They are scapegoats for bigger problems, poor parenting and not taking care of mental illness properly in this country. It’s always been the nature of people to blame others or something else when things go wrong. It’s very rare, or hardly at all when someone owns up and says, “I guess I should have done better as a parent”, or “perhaps so-and-so should have had better mental health treatment”. When do you hear people say those things? I surely don’t. most people automatically go on “witch hunts” and try to blame something that’s easy to attack rather look at themselves and figure out how they missed the warning signs. It’s always easy to blame music, movies, TV shows and literature and their creators because surly that’s where the problems come from. Not poor parenting, a violent home life, bullying at school, rejection, etc. I played a LOT of violent games in my life, and it didn’t make me want to go shoot innocent people. I believe it starts with how people are treated at home, work, school, etc. Video games and the like are just easy targets for the larger problems people easily ignore.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
I’m going to cheat here and give you TWO, which are both connected one way or another. The original Nintendo Game Boy and the Nintendo Switch. I played the original Gameboy a LOT and have way too many favorite games to mention here. Of course, I mentioned the Switch, which to me is a LOT like the Game Boy, but with MORE power (of course). It’s portable like the Game Boy, and can be easily connected to a TV, just like a console. I did have both the Super Game Boy peripheral for the Super Nintendo and the Game Boy Player for the GameCube, those were as close as you could get to console gaming with the Game Boy. These days I usually play my Switch before bed to wind-down from the day. It’s fantastic to be able to play the same game on my TV in my game room and in bed. That’s the ULTIMATE in portability.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
With video games I’ve always been a loner. It’s pretty much how I started when I was young going to arcades. I’d plop in a quarter and be lost in that world for however long I could make that game last, and it stayed with me when I got into console and PC gaming. I like the challenges that games offer on their own without having to be part of an online community… which some are known to be very toxic, so I just stay away. I do play Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99, but that’s as far as I get with online gaming. I’ve tried Mario Kart online and that’s just brutal. I play video games to get away from the real world and that would include getting away from people as well. I just have to have that time away from the real world alone to recharge.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I LOVE playing pinball simulation games like Pinball FX 3 by Zen Studios and Stern Pinball Arcade by FarSight Studios. I’m also BIG into most Pac-Man game variations (arcade and platformer) and really like the Atari Recharged series. I’m mostly an arcade and pinball simulation gamer. Arcade style for its challenge and simplicity, and pinball simulation because it’s really the only economical way I can own many pinball games/machines at the same time.
Are you still involved with the Midwest Gaming Classic, and what roles do you play?
Yes, I am. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve been the “official” panel director since 2018 and return every year to keep the panel room running. I help audio tech Jason Paul with the sound in the room, keeping the “flow” going from one panel to the next and watching over both the audience and panels guests’ safety, which is VERY important to me. Safety and enjoyment of the panel guests and audience members are very important to me.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 10 years?
I still see it just as popular 10 years from now, as I’ve seen it grow a lot over the last 30 years. Though to be honest, I think companies might be at a stalemate with graphics. Gameplay will always be there, that’s a given. But the graphics are pretty much “on par” across the board between PC and console gaming. Since the dawn of dedicated console gaming, it’s always been severely lacking behind in the graphics department. But that really stating changing with the PS3 and Xbox 360. That’s when consoles were starting to catch up… and now they have. It’s almost like consoles and PCs are on a level playing field with graphics. It’s amazing to see that finally happen. Virtual reality has gotten a lot better as well. I have a PS4 VR headset and it’s amazing. My wife bought it for me a year after it came out for my birthday. The first game I popped in was the Star Wars Battlefield demo and it actually made me cry (really). I couldn’t believe that I was inside, piloting an X-Wing fighter. My 5-year-old Star Wars loving self would have never thought anything like this would be a reality in the future, but here we are. So, I guess after all that, I think VR gaming will be a lot more advanced in 10 years. It’s AMAZING now, but I can’t wait to see where it’s at in 2033. I’m sure it will be amazing!