Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Donn Nauert, who is displayed on card number 502, from the Circus Card Collection of 2013. Donn is one of the Golden Age Gamers from the early 1980’s. He was featured in an Atari 7800 commercial and won a 1987 “North American Challenge” tournament. In 1985 Donn entered a North American Video Game Challenge while playing Cheyenne. Later in his career produced the “WCW vs. NWO” game for the PlayStation and the N64. Donn is the third person inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and worked as a magazine editor for EGM Magazine.
Do you remember when you played your first video game or arcade and what do you remember about the experience?
I do. I had saved my allowance and bought a tv so I could play Pong. My family and I played quite a bit over the next few months. For arcade games, I would say Asteroids. That’s the first game I really remember playing consistently and making plans to go play. My friends and I would go after baseball practice to play.
What does it take to be a video game world record holder, and what advice would you give a person today who is shooting for video game records?
Dedication. You must be dedicated to that pursuit and immerse yourself in that game. Advice, I think I’d say concentrate on one game at a time. And to think about what the overall goal in the game is and how you can maximize your efforts. This includes not being afraid to try different strategies. Not long ago, I saw a video for a game where the player set a new high score. But not once did he try to beat any of the bosses so that the timer would hit zero. For this game, you received a 60,000-point bonus for defeating bosses with the timer at zero. Remember to do the small things. If you are on location, make sure the game is on the correct settings, that there is someone that can fix the game if you are in the middle of an attempt, and also know if the game has a kill switch. You don’t want to be in the middle of a marathon attempt only to have that back door unlocked to make a repair and the game shuts off.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I really like this generation of games. Their graphics, sounds and story lines make it feel more like interactive movies. How to today’s game compare to older, classic games? Outside of technology, and the obvious advancement to consoles and computers, I would say the replay ability. I feel like games were designed to be played for extended periods of time (marathon) where today most games are designed as to be short interactions (sprints). Take EverQuest and World of Warcraft as an example. EverQuest boss fights could last 45 minutes to an hour and a half, on a good day. In World of Warcraft, the boss fights last roughly 10 minutes before the enrage timer wipes your raid.
What is your fondest memory of the 1985 North American Challenge that you competed in?
I have several fond memories. The comradery is the first thing that comes to mind. Players had come from all over the US and Canada to compete, but no one had egos. Players would exchange tips and advice on the games as we practiced the days before the start of the competition.
How were you able to be in a commercial for the Atari 7800? Do you still own the console today?
How was I selected for the commercial? I’m going to say being in the right place at the right time. I was in Etiwanda, CA working with Steve Harris and Jeff Peters on Electronic Game Player/Electronic Gaming Monthly at the time. Steve walks up and says they are sending me to Sacramento to shoot the commercial. How it was determined I was going; I am not sure (Perry Rodgers also did a commercial for Atari).
If you could rewind and make any changes to the WCW vs. NWO game for the PlayStation and N64, what would they be?
Controls. Wasn’t happy with them then or now. Always felt a little off.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I first meet Walter at the 1985 North America Video Game Challenge at Captain Videos.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Marketeer. That might sound funny, but he was able to market Twin Galaxies, the scoreboard, and competitions better than any other organization at the time. A lot of what we still talk about, in terms of classic arcade games and records, are a result of those efforts.
What video game do you play today, and are you still going for world records?
I really like playing open world RPG’s. Dragon Age series, Elder Scrolls series, but mostly World of Warcraft (yes, almost 20 years and still going). I did play New World for a while but haven’t logged in at all over the last 6 months. I haven’t even thought of trying for another world record.
Out of all the games you have played throughout the years, what would be your favorite and why?
When I think about my answer, my first thought was Skyrim. I have several “favorites”, but I think Skyrim would be at the top of the list. I really liked the story line of the series and just the depth of the play.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
This is a complicated one. I really have two answers. The personal side, no I haven’t come across a game I would deem too violent. I’m sure there might be one or two, but I haven’t come across them. And then the high school teacher side where any games rated M are off limits. Yes, the kids will just go home and play the same very game but it’s part of managing expectations in a public-school setting.
Absolutely not, I do not think video games lead to violence.
Which company, in your opinion, makes the best games and why?
This is a fairly subjective, as you can break this question down into categories or even genres, EA Sports for sports game for example. But I think the overall company would have to be Nintendo. Their games are high quality and are released relatively bug free.
How long were you at EGM, and what is a great memory you have of that time?
I was with EMG when it was Electronic Game Player, before the name changed and when it was located in Etiwanda, CA. From there I followed the magazine to Lombard, IL so, from 1986-1989, approximately. Great memory is all the events we were involved with as part of the U.S. National Video Game team. The commercial, the Incredible Sunday appearance and the tips and tricks videos that were made. The videos were a great idea that was horribly executed. I wish we had a chance to really prepare with games, codes, and at least a script. But it’s not often that you see a 1989 version of yourself appear on Jimmy Fallon in 2016. Even if he is making fun of you.
Who is your favorite video game character of all time and what makes that character special?
I really don’t have a favorite video game character, at least not like a Mario or Pac-Man. Not sure I ever really got that emotionally invested in those type of characters. Maybe a Buster Badshot because of Cheyenne. But I would have to go with my Night Elf Rogue that I have played since Beta 4 (2004) in World of Warcraft. Playing a character that long, investing that amount of time I think makes him my pick.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 10 years?
I would like to say full blown Holodeck level gaming, but I think it might be closer to more AR/VR games. I am seeing more companies develop VR based content for education (BioMed, History, Math, Construction, etc.) at the high school level. Plus, I have had an increasing number of students in my Video Game Design and Game Programming & Design classes ask about developing on XR.