Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Tony Temple, who is displayed on card number 134, from the Superstars of 2011. Tony is also on trading card number 1757. Tony is one of the United Kingdom’s foremost classic gaming champions, famous for his world record play at the Funspot championship. He is recognized in the pages of the Guinness World Records 2007 Book, and The GWR Gaming Edition as the world champion on the arcade game Missile Command. With a high score of 4,472,570, Tony set the world record back in May of 2010. You can get signed copies of his book “Missile Commander”, available to buy with global shipping via his blog at www.arcadeblogger.com.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I own a PS4, and watch my kids play modern games. Games today are amazing looking. If you’d shown me something like Grand Theft Auto or Oculus when I was 10, it would have flipped my mind. But ultimately, they are the same as classic games. The objectives are all the same, it’s just the graphics that are different. It does feel like today’s games have to look good to sell, rather than just have good gameplay. A lot can be learned about game design from something like Frogger or Robotron – these are incredibly fun to play even 40 years later. Gameplay subtleties tend to get lost in the complexity of console gaming today, I think.
When did you first play Missile Command and what do you remember about it?
How long have we got?! When I first came across Missile Command, I distinctly remember at that moment not thinking “this looks like a cool game”, but more “I can play at nuclear war”. This was the mental placebo I had been looking for, because the big fear in most kids of my age at that time was nuclear war. I had a macabre curiosity to dive into this electronic simulation. I fumbled in my pocket, pulled out a coin, and held it on the edge of the red coin acceptor. I let it go, watched it teeter for a moment, and drop into the machine. I could hear it land with a satisfying clunk into the cash box inside the machine. A red cone button started to flash slowly urging me to press it. I pulled the stool closer to the machine, knees pressed against the black vinyl, cracked my knuckles in one quick movement, blew out a big breath, and forced myself to enter the arena. Instantly I jumped at the barrage of noise. Six ear-piercing, distinct air raid sirens called out one after another, making me jolt to attention. Panic set in immediately, and I fired off multiple missiles randomly around the screen, flailing with the trackball trying to keep it under control. They hit nothing. The missiles that appeared at the top of the screen kept coming. Even at this slow early pace, it was relentless. I tried hard to control the trackball, but it ran away from me – my judgement and senses all over the place. More shots. This time I took out a missile with a satisfying boom. I was tense. The sensation of using a trackball with one hand while pressing buttons with the other was something that seemed quite natural right from the start. I took to it quickly, and the rest is history, I guess. To this day, Missile Command is probably the only video game that gets my adrenalin going – still.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
I do! It was 1977. My father drove us to a coastal resort here in the UK called Burnham-On-Sea. We walked to the pier where there was an arcade. At eight years old, I wandered through the cavernous structure wide-eyed at the flashing lights, coin pushers, mechanical pinball machines and Skee-ball games. We came across something new - a video game. I’d never seen one before, and neither had my parents. We watched someone play. The game was Atari’s Night Driver. A simple black and white game, that created the illusion of a first-person perspective from the driving seat of a car - one of the first video games to do so. It had an accelerator and brake pedal to control the car and the objective was to keep the vehicle between the reflectors without hitting them. Night Driver highlighted the beauty of some of these early black and white video games. The car the player is driving is not actually drawn on-screen but is instead a printed plastic insert that is laid over the screen. And of course, being set at “night”, no other characteristics were drawn on screen - no cars, trees or any other graphics you might see on a driving video game today. The limited technology of the time couldn’t cope with anything other than these white reflectors coming at the player, so the game’s setup was positioned accordingly - Night Driver. We were being conned of course, but the ability to control objects on a TV set vastly outweighed any cynicism you might have had at the time. This was something new. This was something from the future. My eyes were wide with excitement. “Do you want a go?” asked my father. “Yeah!” was my inevitable reply. Dad picked me up and placed me into the seat. What I hadn’t noticed was the crash helmet sitting on top of the machine; presumably there to give players a more immersive experience. Dad reached for it, put it over my head, dropped a coin into the game, and patted the helmet twice. I was off! It was amazing. “I’m actually driving a car!” I thought to myself. The engine made the appropriate noise, the tires squealed, and the screen flashed white when you crashed! Of course, I was utterly hopeless, swinging the wheel left and right and selecting random gears with my foot flat to the floor - but there I was, driving a car for the first time and, more importantly, there were no consequences! Eight years old. It was magical and is something I’ll never forget.
What does it take to be a world record holder on an arcade game?
Tenacity. You’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to be prepared to dismantle your gameplay and reconstruct it if you aren’t getting the results you want – it feels wrong instinctively to do this after many years of playing a game a certain way, but it’s the only option if things aren’t working out for you. Figuring out new ways to point press and survive is absolutely key.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I enjoy most classic games, more as a time machine to take me back to the early days of videogames and what was going through the minds of the early programmers, with the design choices and the ergonomics of the cabinets. It’s interesting to make comparisons of these early games to see where it all started. Of the modern genres, I do like a mission-based single player first person shooter, and the open world games like GTA. I always feel I can dive in and feel a part of what I’m doing. Mobile gaming on the other hand, does absolutely nothing for me at all.
If you could own one arcade game besides Missile Command, what would it be and why?
I have a small collection of arcade games at home, so I’m pretty much covered with what I actually want. But if I could find an Aztarac by Centuri, I’d love one of those. It is hands down the single most impressive vector arcade game I’ve ever played – and the history of the game, designed by the late Tim Stryker makes it even more special. They are extremely rare, so I think I’ll be waiting a long time to finally pick one up.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the trading card? If so, where?
I had some media attention for breaking the Missile Command world record. The trading card was a happy follow up. I’ve had a few people approach me to sign their cards, which is always an honor.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I first met Walter in 2005 at a gaming event here in the UK. He was accompanied by Billy Mitchell, Steve Sanders, Don Hayes and other old school gamers. It was pretty surreal to have this army of American gamers descend on our country challenging us to play classic arcade games. I was fortunate enough to join them in the evenings where I was able to socialize and get to know everyone outside of “showtime”. I knew nothing about any of these guys or the history surrounding Walter, so it was great to hear all the stories from the early 80s about Twin Galaxies and the US National Video Game Team.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Happy! Walter is always upbeat, positive and approachable. He’s an inspiration in that regard. The thing people overlook about Walter is that he understands that gaming is a conduit to getting people together. Walter didn’t just track high scores – that was a means to an end. His tournaments and management of Twin Galaxies created not only a once great brand, but also these amazing in person events that ordinary people could experience and as a result, form strong lasting friendships – right across the globe. That I think was the point of Walter’s foray into videogames. Sadly, the internet and actions of some individuals has killed off this social aspect of classic arcade gaming.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I think it’s everyone these days. Today’s adults were the kids of the 80s in arcades and playing NES at home on their TVs. And now the entire world has a mobile phone, games like Candy Crush have proved that gaming is ubiquitous and not just for a certain demographic.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
No. I don’t buy this at all. There’s been a lot of debate about this over the years from the very start of videogaming. As an outsider, I would suggest America looks at things like gun ownership and drug problems first and foremost, before pointing the finger at a form of entertainment.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
Alone. I’ve never really grasped online gaming. I find it too frantic and full of idiots. Plus, there’s always someone who’s better than me. Unless it was Kingpin on the PC. I ruled at that game on my 56k modem.
Which company makes the best games and why?
Tricky one to answer, but I’d probably go with Nintendo, because they’ve been pretty consistent over the years making “fun” games, rather than following trends or ramping up the violence or throwing money at consoles designed to throw complex graphics around the screen. They focus on the most important thing – gameplay. Everyone loves Nintendo, from kids to adults.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
I don’t know about stress, but I think they are a great way to transporting the player to another place – we all need to have that escape at times.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
I really liked this obscure Japanese game on the original PlayStation called Jumping Flash. You played this mad robotic rabbit in first person perspective and could jump to incredible heights picking up things and killing enemies. It was so innovative and in 3D with amazing graphics for its time. Jumping Flash was the perfect videogame character – quirky with charm and these superpowers that all fed into the game in some way.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘Missile Command’?
It’s a call to arms. I don’t see a videogame title; I see an opportunity to control a simulation.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Single player game probably WatchDogs on PS4 and Robotron on an original arcade cabinet. For multiplayer, I would say Destruction Derby on the original Playstation and Space Duel on an original arcade cabinet.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I’d design a modern shoot-em-up in the spirit of DonPachi, Xevious, Darius and Raiden. I feel the genre pretty much stopped in the mid-90s/early 2000s. It is such a shame that few mainstream developers create decent shooters these days. Imagine something like Raiden with modern graphics – it would be amazing!
Are you still involved with competitive gaming today, and what are your goals?
Not really. From where I’m sitting, the classic gaming high score scene is pretty dead on its feet, which I’m really sad about. I still enjoy playing my own arcade cabinets and trying to best my own records here at home. These days I’m more interested in sharing the history of arcade video games via my blog at www.arcadeblogger.com and podcast www.tdepodcast.net
Where do you see arcade gaming in the next 10 years?
VR seems to be the big thing now. I see a time where you don’t walk up to a cabinet. You just put on a headset.