Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Jason Williams, who currently is displayed on card 4341, from the Superstars of 2023 Collection. Jason helps coordinate one of the largest gaming events in Florida, “Free Play Florida”. Over the past few years, he has helped the event get to record attendance and produced some of the most memorable moments. Jason is known as the “Weekend Warrior”, who has Instagram and YouTube channels discussing all of his passions, toys, video games and pop culture.
Do you remember your first arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first arcade game I remember playing as a kid was Star Wars at Milton's Pizza in Virginia Beach. As you walked into the restaurant, you could hear the game sounds and Luke saying, "Red Five, I'm Going In." My dad always gave me quarters to play, and I would blast away at the Tie Fighters and then the amazing Death Star Trench Run. The game was simple and fun!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of arcade games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
In my opinion, this isn't an "apples to apples" sort of comparison. Technology has come a long way, as has the psychology and science behind the user experience of arcade games. Classic games will always hold special places in people's hearts for their nostalgia when seeing and playing them, from going to an arcade at the mall to walking into a pizza parlor with their family on a Friday night. The classic games, and I'm being broad here by saying I consider classics to be '80s and '90s arcade machines, are a moment captured in time that we no longer have. But some modern games pay their respects to those who came before them. For example, TMNT Arcade and TMNT: Turtles in Time are my two all-time favorite arcade games. In 2017, Raw Thrills released a new TMNT arcade game that takes the same gameplay style and updates it with the new TMNT cartoon designs, graphics, sound, etc. The point is that a comparison is not necessary. They all have a place, and we should enjoy them.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
My favorite portable gaming device is the Gameboy Advance. It is a Super Nintendo in your pocket. Its game catalog is astounding, with many fantastic titles like Metroid Fusion, Legend of Zelda Minish Cap, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and more.
Do you prefer the original Arcade or MAME gaming and why?
I don't have a strong opinion on the topic. Some are against using emulation, but I don't see the harm. Both can exist, and both can bring joy. If the little kid is playing the game and smiling, does it matter what's under the hood? Or just the smile on their face.
Do you remember your first pinball game you played and what do you remember about it?
When it comes to pinball, I don't have many memories of playing them as a kid, nor do I remember them being in arcades either. However, the first one my wife and I played a few years ago that made a significant impact on us is Black Knight Sword of Rage. The game is fantastic! The design is incredible, the music is epic, the battle sounds, the smoothness of the paddles, I could go on and on. It's the one pinball machine that I would love to buy for our home.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I do my best to carve out time to play games when I'm able. Over the last few years, some of my favorites have been God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Star Wars: Jedi Survivor, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and more. But aside from the Triple-A games, I am also enjoying the modern retro games coming out. TMNT: Shredder's Revenge, The Messenger, Prison City, Phoenotopia, Katana Zero, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, etc. So many great games are coming out by incredibly talented and creative people at indie studios. It is an exciting time to love video games. My favorite genres are Action/Adventure, Metroidvania, Beat 'Em Up, and RPGs.
If you could only have one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
If I could have one arcade game in my home, it would be TMNT: Turtles In Time. It's my favorite TMNT game. It's a lot of fun; the music is fantastic, you can play with four people, and the wrap on the cabinet is excellent. Hands down one of the best beat 'em up games to ever come out.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘Arcade?
Aladdin's Castle at the Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, VA. Tokens. Waiting your turn for a chance to play a game. Setting your token down on the monitor ledge and saying, "I've got next" or "I've got the winner."
What does it take to be an arcade publisher?
This is all subjective because I'm not an arcade/game publisher. But as a content creator and video game fan, I have my opinions. A critical factor in being a successful arcade/game publisher is having a strong marketing and go-to-market strategy for the title. It is creating exciting content to put up on social platforms, gameplay videos, behind-the-scenes videos, video game music, and more. Publishers aren't necessarily the developers, so it's essential to have strong marketing behind the games you're releasing on behalf of the developer. If you're investing the money and time into the developer, then make sure everyone knows about the game, is excited about it, and knows how they can buy/play it.
How does arcade music influence games past and present?
If we're talking about video game music in general, there is a HUGE community for it. Super MAGFest is one of the country's large VGM (video game music) fests, which showcases many awesome video game music creators/bands. But when talking about the games, music plays a massive role in the overall experience. If the music is excellent and appeals to you, you'll want to spend more time on that machine or game. Also, when you hear the music, it will spark a memory or some nostalgia. Think of how iconic the Super Mario or Legend of Zelda themes are; everyone knows them. Today's games pay homage to those of old by creating their own classics. Some of my favorites are Scott Pilgrim vs The World, TMNT Shredder's Revenge, and The Messenger.
Are arcades aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
There are arcade games for every age and every type of player. Rhythm games, fighting, co-op shooters, beat 'em ups, puzzles, and more.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
I have seen Walter multiple times over the years at Free Play Florida in Orlando. However, I was introduced to him for the first time at Free Play Florida 2022.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
If I could describe Walter with a single word, it would be "Genuine." From what I know of him, he is who he is. He's been very kind to everyone, interested in what you say, the games you play, the scores you achieve, and more. He's very proud and happy of the gaming community. He's a Genuine person.
Do you believe some arcade games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
As a parent, it is my responsibility to make sure that I am monitoring the games my kids play or want to play. If a game is rated T (teen) or M (mature), I play it first, then decide whether or not they can play that game.
Do you prefer playing arcade games alone, against friends and why?
This would depend upon the game. I love playing with other people on arcade games like TMNT, The Simpsons, Gauntlet, Golden Axe, etc. I'm big on co-op arcade games. Competitive games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are way more fun with friends. But if I'm playing something like Outrun, Space Harrier, Rastan, then I prefer playing alone.
Which company makes the best arcade games and why?
I can't narrow it down to a single company as I love Sega, SNK, Capcom, Konami, Williams, and more.
Do you learn anything from playing arcade games?
Did I learn anything from playing arcade games? I don't know if I learned anything, but I did gain a lot from going to the arcade and playing those games. Such as friendships, social skills, sportsmanship, community, and a lifetime of memories.
Are arcade games good for relieving stress?
Gaming, in general, is an excellent stress relief for me. Unless you're playing something like Battletoads, then you may increase your stress, haha.
Who is your favorite arcade game character and what makes that character special?
My all-time favorite arcade character is Ryu from Street Fighter II. The simple white karate gi, black belt, and red headband meant he wasn't flash or showmanship. He represented dedication, honor, and strength. I always liked his appearance and chose him as a character because of what he represented.
Do you find boss battles to be the best part of an arcade game?
No, not really. Well, this also depends on the game. TMNT is fun because the bosses are awesome characters. But even then, my favorite part of an arcade game is the level journey to get to the boss.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I would love to design a Masters of the Universe beat 'em up arcade game. You, of course, could choose multiple characters as your main character, like He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, etc., but like Marvel vs. Capcom, you can add additional "tag team" characters for your level journey. Mattel, please partner with someone and make this happen.
Where do you see arcade games in the next 20 years?
It's probably similar to what we see today. You'll have innovative games that are a throwback, then the new games pushing the envelope of technology. With VR/AR and AI becoming more and more prominent, we might see something like the OASIS from Ready Player One. It would be awesome to put on a VR Visor/headset and be transported to Hyrule. Can you imagine being able to wield the Master Sword and adventure through Hyrule in a fully immersive VR game?