Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Steve Sanders who currently is displayed on card number 308, from the Superstars of 2012 Collection. He is also featured on cards 88, 127 (with Lonnie McDonald) and 328 (With his Son Isaiah). Steve is one of the original members of the Twin Galaxies community back in 1982. He can be seen on the famous Time Life Magazine photograph taken outside the original Twin Galaxies arcade opened by Walter Day. Steve has many world records in arcade history, including games like Donkey Kong, Joust and Super Pac-Man. He can be seen in the documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which is currently out on DVD. Steve wrote the book “The Video Master’s Guide to Donkey Kong” as a teenager back in the early 80’s and also competed on the “That’s Incredible” Arcade Championship as a top contender. Steve currently works as a trial attorney in Kansas City, Missouri.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
My first memory of video games is playing Atari’s Pong on a home console my parents bought for me in the early to mid-1970s. I was still in elementary school, so it would have been 1972-1974 time frame.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I have zero interest in modern games. They are too complicated to be interesting to me. The older, classic games were simple & elegant. The best ones (like Donkey Kong & Ms. Pac-Man) had very few controls and very few screens or mazes, but, were nearly impossible to master.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card?
Well, yes, actually. Those of us on the original national video game team all believed that we would be professional video game players and would make a life-long career out of video games. That dream seems silly now, but that was our dream.
When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?
We spoke by phone roughly ten days after he made his famous press-release (on or about February 1, 1982) announcing to the world that Twin Galaxies was the keeper of video game world records. Bantam Books told me to call Walter because they wanted to know how good my high score was on Donkey Kong at the time. (Bantam was considering whether to have me write The Video Master’s Guide to Donkey Kong. Walter told me that my then-high-score of 175,000 was a world record. Bantam gave me the book contract.)
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Kind. He is kind to everyone, always, no matter what. He is the kindest person I have ever met, period. He wants the best for everyone, hopes the best for everyone, and gives his all to everyone – even to a fault.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
I’m tempted to say “neither” because I prefer the classic quarter eating machines. If you force me to pick, I’ll say PC gaming – but only because of the emulators that allow us to play the classic games.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
Scrabble, Candy Crush, & Tetris. That’s about it. Mere timekillers at the airport or similar places. It is hard for me to pick a “genre” (like maze games, or pattern games, or whatever)_other than to say I love the classic arcade games. Joust is my personal all-time favorite.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I own: Joust, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, 2 upright all-in-one emulator machines, and the relatively new Avengers pinball by Stern. I bought them for just the occasional game-play with my kids. I don’t want to play X-Box with them, so we play these machines instead.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
I’m too old for team Sega. I was born in 1964. I was in college when the original NES came out, and my roommates bought one. (I had already “retired” from gaming by then.) So, I guess you might say team Nintendo. I did reach the end of Super Mario Bros. during college.
What does it take to be a Video Game Journalist?
Ha! I was one, technically. I wrote that Donkey Kong book and wrote an article called “The Arctic Antics of Pengo” for Joystick magazine in 1982. I guess it takes the ability to string a few words together coupled with the love of video games.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Yes, and there is no well-reasoned argument to the contrary. Without question we all become what we spend our time reading, watching, listening to, and doing. To pretend that video games have no effect whatsoever on the psyche is incredibly naïve. On the other hand, video games are merely one of the myriad factors that lead to violence. I am not suggesting, as some have, that video games should be banned. But clearly the publishers of games like Grand Theft Auto care far more about profits than whether they are contributing to the moral decay of America’s youth.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
Definitely with friends. I prefer playing two-player Joust with my sons. I prefer playing 2 player Donkey Kong with my sons or with Billy Mitchell (even though Billy always wins). I’m a people person. Games bring us together.
Which company makes the best games and why?
Namco, for giving us the Pac-Man games & Galaga. Those are the most famous video games of all time.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
Definitely. I’ll often play a game of pinball when I get home from a long day, for that very reason.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
JumpMan. I was a fan of Mario before anyone new his real name was Mario. I even wrote a book about him. JumpMan will always have a special place in my heart. He made me “The Original King of Kong." :)
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
Yes, If they make a good movie, but unfortunately, the video game movies haven’t exactly been academy award winners. Sigh.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Yes, about myself. I learn about my risk-tolerance, my impatience, and my ability (or lack thereof) to adapt and overcome.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
It’s already everywhere – on all of our devices and set-top boxes. That trend is likely to continue. Gaming is constantly with us, for better or worse.