This week we look back at an interview I did with Joe LeVan on January 11, 2019. Joe owns an arcade in Pennsylvania, and has held up to 80 vintage arcade cabinets. It is home of many arcade world records such as Donkey Kong 3, Burger Time and Mr. Do. Although, Joe prefers console gaming because the games were designed to run on a given hardware set which generally makes for a better gaming experience.
Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Joe LeVan who currently is displayed on card number 2206, from the Superstars of 2015 Collection. Joe is the founder of “Challenge Arcade”, located in Wyomissing, PA. It was in the Berkshire Mall from 2004 until it closed in 2010. His arcade held up to 80 vintage arcade cabinets. It was home of many Arcade world records such as Donkey Kong 3, Burger Time and Mr. Do. Joe is a big believer in keeping retro coin-op gaming alive and well. He is currently hoping to reopen the Challenge Arcade in the future and until then enjoys restoring and preserving coin-op arcade gaming. Along with his wife Sue, Joe strives to keep the past time alive with the media so others can understand and see how important the arcade culture was and is today.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
As a child I remember reading video game magazines and thinking of how great the graphics were on the upcoming games. I remember wishing how cool it would be to play ultra-realistic games. Now that we are nearing that era of ultra-realism, it’s ironic that I really miss those days of gaming. Many modern games don’t really seem to have much of a point of playing in my opinion. The art of achieving a certain score or getting to a higher level seems to have been lost for the most part.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
My first memories of arcade gaming were playing electromechanical games such as ball bowlers (um bowling machines) and a driving simulator with a film projector inside of it. The owners of an arcade in a local department store were the in-laws of the person I learned the amusement business from years later. The first video game I really got into was Asteroids when it was initially released. At the time I was completely mesmerized by the game as it was so different from anything I had seen before.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
In the platform gaming world there are many games where the player controls a person and somewhere animals, creatures or objects are controlled. For some reason I don’t think there has ever been a really satisfying platform game in which the player controls a dog. I always wanted to make a game with a dog as the hero.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No, I never could have imagined I would have been on any type of trading card when I was younger.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I met Walter Day during my early days of organizing coin operated video game tournaments. Believe it or not through all our correspondence we have never met in person.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
I would describe Walter as “dedicated” to promoting the achievements of gamers and sharing our gaming culture with the world.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
I don’t really have a favorite portable gaming device. Never got into gaming in that form.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
I prefer console gaming. The games were designed to run on a given hardware set which generally makes for a better gaming experience.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I still prefer to play arcade games. Platformers and shooters are favorites.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
Discs of Tron. It is my favorite game - It has great playability along with some of the best visual presentations of any classic arcade game. The version of this game with the speech chip is especially appealing to me.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
If I had to pick, I would say Nintendo is my favorite company. They have had the greatest impact on gaming in the early years of the listed companies.
What does it take to be a video game journalist?
To be a video game journalist you need to have a good grasp of language, a passion for gaming and be able to honestly express your feelings and ideas to the reader.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I cannot speak for today’s developers and their intentions of the age groups they are targeting to play their games. I believe a truly enjoyable and great playing game should be able to be enjoyed by any age group.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
People without a purpose can easily be influenced by anything either positive or negative.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
This is a good question. I had some of my best gaming experiences and memories in competition with friends, but I also enjoy gaming alone. It depends on the mood, atmosphere and type of game.
Which company makes the best games and why?
Bally Midway had a great string of impactful games in our culture.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Absolutely. You learn logic, problem solving and strategy from playing video games. This is in conjunction with keeping reflexes and eye-hand coordination sharp.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
For me, games are for the most part stress relieving. There are games that are exceptions to this rule. A few do actually stress me at times.
How does video game music influence games past and present?
The soundtracks in video games are very important and can help to keep a player focused and engaged. Adversely, annoying sounds or music can keep a person from playing an otherwise great game.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Don’t really have an opinion on this question.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
I would have to say Pengo would be my favorite character. A penguin represented in a game was different. It may not have been as popular as other games at the time, but the game is intense, random and chaotic.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video games’?
For me, arcade games come to mind when I hear or see the term “video games” but I’m biased:).
Of these five elements video games, which is the most important to you and why? Gameplay, Atmosphere, Music, Story, Art style
Hands down it is gameplay as the most important element of game production.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of a video game?
Boss battles can be satisfying or incredibly frustrating. The answer to this question depends on the game and the balance of risk/reward the programmers intended.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Discs of Tron is my favorite single player game. I enjoy some of the multiplayer airplane shooters the most of any genre with a cooperative player.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
Yes, I will always be involved with coin operated video gaming. I am passionate about keeping classic games as original as possible, so current generations can see them as they were meant to be publicly operated when manufactured.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
I see a completely different experience in gaming 20 years in the future. Hands free gaming along with advanced virtual reality will be the gaming standard.