This week we look at an interview I did with Jaden Berk last year on Febraury 1st, 2021. Jaden's family have been running the Pinball Expo for the last 38 years. Jaden has his own retro collection of games he sells at the event with Holy Grail Games. You can see Holy Grail and more retro vendors at this years Expo on October 19th-22nd, 2022 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg, IL.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Jaden Berk, who is displayed on card number 1324, from the Superstars of 2014 Collection. Jaden has been around pinball in some sort of fashion his whole life. His father, Robert Berk, would create and start a pinball expo that has lasted since 1985. Jaden has attended pinball shows all around the country and has racked up a lifetime worth of pinball playing. Jaden has a knack for cleaning up an old and dirty pinball machine. He also loves modern day consoles and enjoys the PlayStation and XBOX. Now 19 years old, Jaden is working on helping with the Pinball Expo each year and making it the biggest pinball expo in the country. The pinball expo can be found by clicking here. Also check out Jaden’s “The Holy Grail Video Game Store”. This traveling gaming store sets up at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Too Many Games show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, and the Classic Game Fest in Austin, Texas.
Do you remember your first pinball game you played and what do you remember about it?
The first pinball game I remember playing was Medieval Madness. As a young guy, it is always fun to hit and destroy objects, and that is just what the game is based off of. I always enjoyed hitting the castle, which would open the gate, and then after you hit the drawbridge, it falls down and you have to shoot to destroy the castle. I also enjoyed hitting the two Trolls that would pop up from time to time. It was truly an exhilarating experience.
How old were you when you first helped out with the Pinball Expo? What is your first memory?
When I first helped out with the Pinball Expo, I was about 8 or 9 years old. It has been a blast working the show and seeing the growth over the years. My first memory would have to be when I surprised my dad at the Pinball Expo. This particular year, my dad was in Chicago preparing for the show, while my mom was still at home. When my mom flew out to Chicago, she brought me along with her to the show. I remember arriving at the Pinball Expo, and surprising my dad. It was great to be at the show, and I also remember walking in the game hall and being blown away. As a young guy I did not realize how many pinball machines were made, and I had a great time playing just about every game at the show.
What is your best memory of working at the Pinball Expo?
My best memory would have to be the auction at the Banquet. My dad would be the auctioneer, and for those that attended the auction, they witnessed my father’s skills in action. He was great at it and would have my sisters and I hold up the auction item. We would walk around the room showing potential buyers the item, and it was a great event to be a part of. He really made it a fun event, and all the proceeds went to Charity. I also remember meeting Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, at the Pinball Expo. That was another memory that I will never forget.
Do you remember your first video game you played and what do you remember about it?
The first video game I remember playing was Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Nintendo GameCube. I remember how fun it was to smash as many buttons as fast as I could and try to beat up my opponent. It was a game that was best to play with friends, so I definitely enjoyed it and it brought out my competitive spirit. The first arcade game I ever played was Midway’s Space Zap. This was a similar style game in which you had to smash the buttons as fast as you could, but this game was solely based on reflexes. As you advance, alien attackers shoot at you faster and faster. It was an entertaining game, but it also tested my patience. Sometimes I would get so far, only to die, and restart the game from the beginning. My father even recorded me in hopes of setting the World Record.
What was the first pinball machine you worked on and fixed?
I never actually fixed a pinball machine, but I did work on cleaning them. I remember working on a Williams Gorgar machine. It was not in the best shape, but it was fun to see the process of how the game cleaned up.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
My favorite portable gaming device is the Nintendo Switch. It is Nintendo’s newest console, and I really like the idea of playing games on a TV, but also taking it on the go. I beat Mario Odyssey on an airplane and bring the Switch with me whenever I travel. It is very easy to transport, and some of my favorite games include Mario Kart, Arms, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Super Bomberman R.
What pinball games do you play and what are your favorite era of games?
Any pinball game that I come across I will play. It could be from the 1940’s or 2021, and I will play it. My favorite era of games are from the 70s. Although simple, I like shooting drop targets and even targets in general. It has a slower pace, but the games are still very enjoyable. My all-time favorite pinball is Gottlieb’s Dimension, which came out in 1971. The game features multiple banks of drop targets, and it has a lot of action as well.
Which company makes the best pinball games and why?
Although my all-time favorite game is made by Gottlieb, I would say my favorite pinball company overall is Williams. From FunHouse, Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Pin-Bot, to many others, I believe Williams games were very fluid and had great gameplay. Each game has a unique feel to it, and after the game ends, I cannot wait to play it again.
Are pinball games good for relieving stress?
I do think pinball games are good for relieving stress. Sometimes life can be stressful, but it is important to step away at times and decompress. If you have a few machines in your house, you might as well play them to relieve stress. Pinball is a fun game and will help take your mind off of unwanted stress.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
Today’s generation of video games are a lot more violent. There were older, violent classic games which were shooters, but not nearly as graphic as the ones today. I think it is very cool to look at the evolution of video games over the years. From old school Atari, to Nintendo, to Sega, to many others consoles that were released, each one has a unique feel to it. I am a big fan of Madden Football, so for me I enjoy seeing how far a game like that has come in terms of graphics and overall gameplay. I believe the future of video games is very promising.
If you could own only one pinball game, what would it be and why?
If I could own only one pinball game it would have to be my favorite machine “Dimension”. I could play that game for hours, and I really enjoy trying to knock down all of the drop targets. I also like the overall design of the game including the artwork.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
I would have to say Nintendo is my favorite console company. Although I like playing the others, the one thing that makes Nintendo stand out is its multiplayer games. Whenever I have friends over, we always play Nintendo. Whether it is the Nintendo GameCube, playing games such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, or Wario Ware, to the Wii playing games such as Mario Kart, Wii Sports, Mario Super Sluggers, to the Wii U playing Nintendo Land, to the Switch playing Mario Kart, Super Smash. Bros. Ultimate, Arms, 1-2-Switch, Nintendo games never seem to disappoint. I like playing any Nintendo console, and think Nintendo has created a fantastic library of games.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I first met Walter Day at the Pinball Expo. My dad introduced me to him, and I never forgot Walter and his referee costume since then. My dad and I have crossed paths with Walter at various video game and pinball conventions, and it is always great to see him and see what he does for the video game industry.
Did you ever think when you would be on a video game trading card?
It never occurred to me that I would be on a video game trading card. Being in the hobby for so many years, I have seen various people on video game trading cards. I am 19 years old and have my own video game business called “The Holy Grail Video Game Store.” With the help of my father Rob, I started the business when I was 16 years old. It has been very enjoyable to meet fellow gamers and help them find games they have been looking for. To be on a video game trading card at this age means a lot to me, and shows it is never too early to get into the hobby.
What does it take to run a successful gaming expo?
It takes dedication and determination to run a successful gaming expo. I think it is awesome to travel to various video game conventions and see how each one is different in its own way. There are not only video game expos in the United States, but around the world. All it takes is someone with an idea to start the process of having their own gaming expo. They are great for the industry and are always fun to attend.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
I do believe that some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America. There were violent video games many decades ago, but none of them compare to the violence in today’s games. Many games today include fighting wars or shooting at enemies. Violent games have increasingly become more popular over the last few years, and with the graphics and the gory gameplay, it only fuels to violence in America.
Do you prefer playing pinball alone, or against friends and why?
I prefer playing pinball against friends. As much as I like to play pinball, I enjoy watching just as much. Sometimes the other person may hit a shot you could not hit, and you can see what happens when they hit the shot. Also, it brings out the competitive juices in everyone and that is always fun. Tournaments and playing against friends push us players to do our absolute best.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
I think it is very cool to see Hollywood make a video game movie. I like all types of games: pinball, arcade, and console games, and no matter what the movie specializes is, as long as it contains something related to gaming, I will watch it. With Hollywood making movies, it also raises awareness of certain video games, and can even bring new people to the hobby.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
My favorite video game character is Mario. I have grown up all my life playing Mario games. From a young age to even today, I enjoy any game that involves Mario, and who doesn’t like Mario? You have to appreciate someone who wants to defeat enemies and restore peace. Mario is a character that is recognized all over the world, and I even met the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet. Definitely a cool experience that I will never forget.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘Pinball’?
When I hear the word ‘Pinball’ I think of excitement. Each and every pinball game has a unique design, layout, and various bells and whistles. Pinball has evolved so much over the century, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the future of pinball. Pinball machines are all over the world and bring excitement to everyone who plays it. All ages can play pinball, and it is imperative to keep the hobby alive for future generations.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Although my favorite single-player game is Dimension, my other favorite single player game is Triple Action, which was designed by Williams. There is something about this game that I am attracted to. It is a relatively simple concept, with the goal to knock down the four drop targets. There is a spinner right in the center of the playfield, and that alters the ball as well. It is a game that has much action to it, and once I even turned the game over three times. My favorite multiplayer game is Texan designed by Gottlieb. Not many people know about the game, but it is a really fun game to try, and I think anyone who comes in contact with it should play it. The game has 3 eject holes, and the goal is to have the ball land in each different eject hole, then that gives the player the opportunity to score a couple hundred points.
If you can design your own video game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
If I could design my own video game it would be about Mario being on a stranded planet, and he has to defeat all of the enemies to return back to his home. He would be informed that he is on another planet, and the only way to return home is to defeat everyone he comes in contact with. He would battle aliens, and other strange creatures, and when he defeats them all, he has to steal their rocketship to return back to his home. Mario is always a great main character, and in this game the spotlight would be on him again.
Are you still involved with the Pinball Expo, and what role do you play?
I am involved with Pinball Expo, and I announce some of the Seminars. I also assist at the front booth when necessary and walk around the vendor hall to check on vendors. When the auction was running, it was my job to go around to different vendors asking if they had anything to donate to the auction.
Where do you see the Pinball Expo in the next 10 years?
I see the Pinball Expo going nowhere but up in the next 10 years. It was the first pinball show of its kind, and it is still flippin’. It is truly amazing for a show to go on for over 35 straight years. Even with the pandemic, the show still managed to go virtual, and did an excellent job. It seems like pinball and the hobby is always growing year after year, and I anticipate nothing but future success for the show. The show must keep flippin’, and I believe the show will continue to grow over the years.
Also, for all the readers out there this is your sign to attend the Pinball Expo in Chicago. It is truly an amazing show and you will not be disappointed. Also, I will also be setting up a booth selling retro video games at the Classic Game Fest in Austin, TX, which takes place from July-24-25, 2021.