Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Ιlias Florakis who is displayed on card number 70, from the Superstars of 2011 Collection. Ilias lives in Athens, Greece and is an avid game player on multiple game consoles. Ilias is the record holder on many games such as Ghostbusters and Decathlon on the Commodore 64 as well as Point Blank on the Sony PlayStation. He is also an author of two books with strange stories, many theatrical plays and scripts. In 2005 Ilias wrote for a Greek Computer Magazine called “RAM” and supplied game reviews for the magazine. Ilias is also good with his hands as he used to work and repair arcade games in his hometown.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
A lot of effects and amazing graphics but usually very low gameplay. Most games are a one way path that you just have to move on straight. And there is more violence. Of course there are exceptions, such as my favorite Riven - The sequel of Myst, which is covered with great music. The technology helped the video games to become more impressive and more realistic. Most often without substance though.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
What I remember vividly is Othello in a play machine which I can’t even recall. A VHS player with games!!! Later, it was Commodore64 from a friend, we tried so many games simultaneously where I can remember images from Pitfall (wandering endless hours at the levels), Pacman, Hunchback (many hour of playing), Baseball (here I learned the actual rules of the game, playing) Zaxxon, Ghostbusters, Pole Position, One on One and many other. What I definitely remember is that we never had any instructions and that we always had to search and find what we had to do, or which keys to press. It went for a while to find out that pressing “B” was how you throw bait and catch the Marshmallow at Ghostbuster. At that age (around 9) I had played many games. Especially at ZX Spectum, Amstrad128 and Commodore64. Always at some home computer of friends. I can recall many memories from games, of which the title I can’t remember.
From my first arcade experiences, I have memories from Space Invaders and later from Chilly Willy, many more of which the names have been forgotten at this time. What I remember is that we, the gamers, would call arcades “dekarikakia” (from the price that was used at that time in order to play) or «Ταίζας Game Over» meaning “End of Fiding”. But mostly the widely known name was «ουφάδικα» (ufadika) because the first arcaded were with UFO, like the Space Invaders and the other one with the meteorites.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
No, never. I wanted though my name (CLSAD or just SAD or IF) to be in the Top Ten, or the Hall Of Fame. I was always very competitive in gaming.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the Trading Card? If so, where?
No never. Nobody is interested here in Greece to give importance to such an event, which I think is most relevant to America. Greeks these years are mostly interested in teams which are playing sports games like FIFA.
In fact, when I organized the event for gathering greeting cards for the 30 years of Pacman in 2010, as the official representative of Twin galaxies confirmed by a letter coming from Walter Day, I asked for support from Namco Greece. They gave me no attention at all. It was completely indifferent to them.
Nevertheless, I had written an article on the Twin galaxies and how you can make a record in January 2006, for the magazine "RAM" and "BIT", which was then the largest magazine in the field. A four-page tribute which was later sent to Walter Day, before we became friends (if I can say this), but it was written in Greek language.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
Unfortunately I have never met Walter. He invited me twice to the International Video Game Hall of Fame & Museum, in Ottumwa, but I was not able to attend due to lack of money needed for such a big journey. We spoke many times online, but I have never shook his hand. This happened with other gamers too whom Ii really appreciate and I met through Twin galaxies, but only electronically.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
A Legend. If there wasn't his vision I think nothing will be recorded in the history and great people would be just initials in a forgotten arcade.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
My time is very limited and the games are not a usual option for me on my day. I play occasionally just to rest my mind. There are still some titles though, especially for the Commodore 64 that I know I can overcome the existing record. Of course for breaking a record I have to be committed to this and to have a clear mind. And right now my mind is lost somewhere between reality and imagination. Once though I was in charge of transferring a PC game into Greek.
Also, between 2005-2009 I was working for the "RAM" magazine which was the best IT magazine in Greece. I was also writing for the "BIT" which was an extra for game reviews. Now I write occasionally in online magazines.
Oh yeah, and for three years I worked in an electronic lab, repairing arcade games and motherboards.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
I like not to do everything at my computer. For games I prefer Console gaming because they are designed for you know… gaming. They load faster and if something breaks it does not affect my work. Moreover it can function simultaneously with the computer.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I prefer strategy games, mind, puzzle and board games, mainly. This doesn’t mean that I won’t play any games that fall into my arms. I don’t like as much FPS games, but I am still tempted to try and play them all.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
Only one? ONLY ONE??? I believe it would be Point Blank. Why? Because I want to surpass the current records.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
I believe I was more of a Nintendo type. I grew up with Sega games, because these were dominating the Greek market, later on I transferred to the Nintendo side. I preferred their consoles and their philosophy.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
First of all to play every kind of game and to be able to reach a good level at it, so that he will be able to describe it in more details and not just the surface. The description of the game exists at the information material. The scores/ rating stars are meaningless. The substance (for me) is the gameplay and the duration of a game. This information should exist at this kind of an article by the reporter. Although most gamers do not care particularly about it, as I said above. The journalist though should be able to give facts and information as objectively as possible. And to know the story behind each game or console. You cannot ignore basic things.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
There are games for all the ages. Even for the young ages who are digital natives, there are online games that can be fun and educative for them. The problem is with the parents who should pay more attention to the rating of a game and to the boundaries that their children should have considering the video games, as indeed in all things.
Unfortunately, we have turned video games into modern nannies so to occupy the children and thus parents will be able to have some free time.
The games though are targeting in ages up to 14 which is the main purchasing group.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Violence existed everywhere and always. Even the fairy tales with the bad wolf, the hunter who opens the womb to save the goats etc. But yeah, I think video games, became more violent and raw. If these kinds of games are played from young ages it can confuse them on what is right and wrong. Their mind and their moral are not ready for such decisions. Also, they create kind of immunity on harsh images in a way that their moral will not stop them from reproducing them. The killings, violence and lawlessness are now a common picture / act on their mind without consequences, and thus they can more easily cross to the other side. However, this can happen with the "art" in any form, also with the television and the news.
Yes, we used to play without videogames, with fantastic weapons and killings (we, the boys). Nevertheless, we could never imagine the blood splashing everything and screams heard everywhere while the corpses dismembered, especially to gain points from it. The realism in these games I think makes them escape from the condition ... game. They should be called horror simulators.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
Interesting question. Each choice would have its pros and cons, against friends there is more fun because you can see their faces and reactions. They either lose, or win. If they are losing, even better. On the other hand, at online gaming, you can find even stronger opponents. “The power of your opponent is your pride” (a Chinese saying) . Lastly, playing games solo games has the charm of competing yourself, crossing your limits. Sadly mostly at this occasion you have no witnesses to brag at, unless you were having a verified recording taking place.
Which company makes the best games and why?
I don’t believe that such company exists. For my point of view there were many companies producing a good title and sometimes great sequels. Many would probably answer by their personal favorite game. I have many favorite games, so I think highly for most of the companies as well. And like every decent company, it must at least once launch a total failure.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Yes. To search, combine, think differently and study. I was also thought to lose and surpass my defeat, to find what went wrong and to try again harder. I also learned the different beauty of playing single or with a team. I also found out how to adapt and upgrade myself. Lastly I learned that my opponent can also be a decent friend or a friend an annoying enemy. You see, when things get harder, you can decipher the reality of who is next to you. Especially when it’s a loss. And also, to read maps :)
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Most of the time I play is to release stress or to forget myself. But somebody has to be able to control this. He must not erupt at games, especially in war games. Nor to gain the value that he cannot find in the real world. Games can be diffuse but not the replacement of the reality. This kind of mistake lies into people and their choices. And by that i mean that there are people who cannot manage a defeat, a game over and they cannot relax. Most of the times electronic games do not help them to relieve. On the opposite they leave their mind even more stressful. Playing does not help them to relax. Most of the times when somebody feels stressed it is better for him looking at a nice landscape or a nice existence.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Yes. Most of the time they are fun. Many of course would start the same boring discussion, like the books that become movies, and if it was transferred accurate enough or whether it was a success or not; always in reality comparing different things. For myself these are all different arts, with different demands, just sharing common leads; so I percept in another way a game, a movie or a book. I don’t like movies based on games like Resident Evil, just because I don’t particularly like those games. Generally speaking, most of the movies are enjoyable.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
I believe that the hero that I can resemble myself, mostly because of the attitude, it was Squall, from Final Destiny VII. Also Gabriel Knight, from the same game. Never have I found myself agreeing more with any other character. I always respected myself and wanted to have my own style and humor. I wanted to be the original and not any copy.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
Mainly more of an addiction that real substance. Most of the gamers are simply addicted without real purpose. Maybe because the play to escaped from the reality they have to compile with.