This week we look back at an interview I did with Leyla Hasso on April 10th, 2020. Right at the beginning of Covid, Leyla was sweet enough to take time out and do this inteview. She is a top competitor at Mario Kart and is based out of London.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Leyla Hasso who is displayed on card number 933, from the Superstars of 2014 Collection. Leyla is also on error card 933 which says Superstars of 2013 collection. Leyla lives in South London, UK and is a top competitor in Mario Kart games for the Super Nintendo (SNES). When Leyla was only 8 years old, she won her first Mario Kart Tournament, where she played a 19 year old in the finals. She has won many other tournaments as well in 2012 and 2013. Leyla now is the world women's #2 on the PAL version and world #20 on the PAL version. She has been completely playing until 2019 where she now attends a university in the UK which takes up a lot of here time.
What is your best Mario Kart score and achievement?
My best Super Mario Kart record is my Vanilla Lake 2 fast-lap of 0’09”49 which is ranked joint 8th in the world. Vanilla Lake 2 is notoriously a difficult track and it has many haters, although it is without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite! It’s what we would call in the UK a ‘Marmite-track’, meaning that like Marmite here, you either love it or you hate it. The fact that a lot of people hate it because of its difficulty and I somehow managed to connect with it makes me feel extra proud of what I have achieved!
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m pretty sure that the first video game I played was Super Mario Kart! I was around 5 years old at the time and I always remember an occasion where I managed to complete all 5 laps of Ghost Valley 1 without falling off the edge of the road or bumping into a wall; this made me so happy that I forced my Mum to call my uncle Sami (who had introduced me to the game) and tell him the great news!
What is your favorite Mario Kart game and why?
Definitely Super Mario Kart! Being exposed to it from such a young age by my uncle did make all the difference but I’m quite stubborn so if I hated the game, I never would’ve continued playing it! Super Mario Kart will always be special to me because of its nostalgia factor but in terms of actual gameplay, it forces the player to be much more precise in their controlling of the kart than in more modern games. It is an extremely challenging but rewarding game and in the multiplayer modes, it doesn’t create any issues of unfair wins through random blue shells (like some other versions)! Super Mario Kart revolutionized racing games and set such a high standard for future editions that even with its little bugs here and there, it was always be a much-respected and special game.
Do you prefer handheld or console gaming and why?
If you’d asked me this a couple of years ago, I would’ve said that I firmly prefer console gaming. However, I really, really love my Nintendo Switch, so I’d have to say that it’s pretty equal at the moment! Handheld and console gaming, to me, provide players with two separate experiences and so I think it can be quite hard to compare them at times. However, there will always be something special about sitting in your bedroom until the early hours of the morning, staring at your little TV set with your SNES laid out in front of you!
What other games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I don’t tend to have a favorite genre of games but in my free time I’ve been playing on my Nintendo Switch. When it was released, I completed Breath of the Wild to a 100% and last year I started this same challenge with Assassin’s Creed 3: Remastered. I’m about 67% complete but with a play-time of around 60 hours so I have a long way to go! But, a few days ago I actually downloaded Animal Crossing: New Horizons as some of my close friends have been raving about it. It’s a very different game to what I would normally play but I am enjoying it all the same.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
It would definitely be Pac-Man! When the Nintendo 3DS was in its prime, I downloaded Pac-Man and I was obsessed with it. There is something about the simplicity of the game’s design that makes it all the more addictive and while I can’t quite describe why it affects me so much, I just know that I would LOVE to have that in my house!
What does it take to be a video game champion?
Hard work, determination, respect for the game, patience and time. Rome wasn’t built in a day so nobody should expect to become a video game champion in such short time. It can take years to build your skills and gain experience in competition but as well as this, one’s mental state is extremely important. If you go wrong, you need to identify WHY you went wrong. No rage-quitting, no blaming of the game. You have to understand that there will be always be a way for you to improve and that no one is bigger than the game itself. Have patience, take your time and set frequent goals or milestones for yourself to achieve. Tackling the competition section by section is a great way to see progress.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I do find today’s generation of video games to be exciting, especially with regards to developments in motion-technology and the ability to connect and play with friends from around the world. Modern games have allowed us to experience a digitally-immersive open world which classic games did not, but I do believe that in many ways, these still cannot compare to the classic games. With classic games, there is a huge nostalgia factor and something about the ‘simplicity’ of their designs that makes them more challenging and memorable. I’m in quite an unusual position as I was born in 1999 so I grew up amidst the boom of the Nintendo Wii and developments with the Xbox, yet my close relationship with my uncle exposed me to retro staples like Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario Kart. So, in many ways I do gravitate more towards a larger appreciation for the classics!
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
Absolutely never- I mean, would anyone?! It was crazy because I was only 13 or 14 at the time and had only been properly competing in Super Mario Kart for a couple of years, so I never thought that I would get to be in this position.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
I’ve spoken about this a lot, but nostalgia is a very powerful thing, especially in the video game world. Certain themes, such as those from the original Super Mario Bros., have become so globally well-known that they are associated with the entire franchise that they were born in and thus can be used in present installments as a means to entice a greater player frequency. Remixes and edits of past game music also show how these adapt to time and technological developments. But what is most important about video game music is how it captures the world in which you are playing. It makes you feel like you are the plumber who is rescuing the Princess from Bowser’s Castle or like you are Link in the Lost Woods. Without video game music, much of our experience in this immersive setting wouldn’t be the same.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
It depends on what I’m in the mood to achieve, actually. If I’m feeling like I could improve one of my Super Mario Kart records, then I simply have to play alone and I do enjoy that, unlike some others. Playing against friends or those around the world is fun, although in recent times, I’ve used video games as a means of relaxation after a long day working and studying, so I do enjoy playing alone. But, whenever I am at a Super Mario Kart Championship, playing with friends is the highlight of my time there!
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
If you’re playing an educational video game, such as Brain Training on the Nintendo DS, then for sure you can learn from actual video game content. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from more generic entertainment games. These can teach patience and dedication, especially when you are trying to improve a record or train for a competition, and this is something that I know all competitors can agree on.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
As I previously mentioned, I do love to use video games as my method of down-time after a long, hard day. For me, it is a case of having the ability to transport my mind into another frame of existence, another world where there are a different set of rules and regulations, and where my own life has no involvement. It is a good way of taking your mind off of certain things and reminding you that there are things in life that you can enjoy. When you are stressed, it is so important to give yourself that time to relax and calm your mind, and there is no better way of doing that than doing something you enjoy. For a lot of us, this is video games.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
I’ve never actually watched any recent Hollywood adaptations of video games as they don’t interest me that much. I wanted to see Assassin’s Creed when it was first released but the poor reviews put me off and I never watched it in the end. I think the only Hollywood adaptation I remember watching is the infamous Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993; that was…interesting!
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
I don’t have a favorite as I love so many, but I have always carried a soft spot for Yoshi. I just think that he is adorable! To me, he is special because of his purity, selflessness and desire to help Mario and his friends. I wish I had a better answer to this question, if I’m honest!
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
Awesome-ness! It sounds silly but it is true because whenever someone mentions video games, I feel a warmth in my chest as I think of my Super Mario Kart community and all of the happy memories, I have accumulated from my time competing.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
This is a hard question because most of my favorite games can be played both in a singular and multi-player format. But I would say that my favorite solely-single-player game has to be Breath of the Wild because I think it was just beautiful and it really made me immerse myself into Hyrule through its open-world form. My favorite multiplayer game would then have to be Super Mario Kart (of course!) with Super Mario Bros. 3 as a very close second.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I’m a massive history buff which is why I love the idea of the Assassin’s Creed franchise so much, but I also love the idea of time travel so if I could design my own game, it would very likely be surrounded around historical time travel. Even though the Assassin’s Creed franchise has recently brought us the protagonist Layla Hassan, whose name sounds freakishly similar to my own (Leyla Hasso), I still would like my own representation so I think I would somehow try to make myself the main character. I promise that I’m not vain in any way- I just love time travel!
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
Yes, as of today I am still competing in Super Mario Kart, my last tournament appearance having been at the Championships in the Netherlands in August 2019. Unfortunately, my busy university schedule has prevented me from playing much or attending many events in recent years but when do I get a chance to take part, I make sure to get fully involved. At last year’s Championship I joined my friend for a very brief moment in the commentary booth and I promised myself that at our next event, I would commentate a full match! I also wrote the official English language summary for the Championship, which was made available to read on our website.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
Technology can be quite difficult to predict but I do think that video gaming will have reached a crazy level, such as allowing us to play with our friends in the form of holograms or something! I’m no technician or video game designer but I do think that the interactive experience is a boundary that will be continuously pushed by developers.