Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Video Game Trading Cards & Posters at the ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa

The 2nd annual edition of this ART GALLERY EXHIBITION at the ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa, will feature more than 1,000 colorful video game trading cards posters that have been created by Twin Galaxies over the last 31 years. This year's theme will be "The 1,000 Faces of the World of Gaming," as Twin Galaxies will have finished its 1,000th video game trading card in time for the Exhibit. The Exhibition will last from August 1 thru 10, 2014, but the big event will be the GRAND RECEPTION planned for Saturday, August 2 at the ICON Gallery with an evening FILM FESTIVAL and AWARDS CEREMONIES scheduled for the elegant Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway Street, in Fairfield, Iowa. Many of the celebrities appearing on the trading cards will be in attendance to receive awards and to see their trading cards revered as "works of art' in a professional-level art gallery showing. Walter Day, Curator of the Event and creator of the trading card set will join Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy and Ottumwa Mayor Tom Lazio in co-emceeing the event and co-presenting the awards along with numerous guest co-presenters.

On Friday and Saturday, August 1-2, 2014, as part of the First-Friday ArtWalk, the "official" Pac-Man will be visiting the ICON Gallery to participate in the trading card exhibition. Pac-Man will be available for photographs and autographs and times will be posted at the Gallery. This is the "Official" Pac-Man who is based in Chicago.

On Friday night, August 1st, the ART GALLERY EXHIBITION will be one of the featured events during Fairfield's August 1st First-Friday Art Walk, which will see between 2,500 - 3,000 people coming in to see the display and meet the celebrities featured on the trading cards.

Attendees are invited to participate in a mini-rally in support of the International Video Game Hall of Fame. The featured activity will be a re-enactment of the famous LIFE magazine photograph from 1982. Different famous arcades are bringing copies of the original arcade games from the 1982 photograph so as to make the photograph look as authentic looking as possible. Groups of people will travel to Ottumwa and pose for this group photograph in front of the site of the original Twin Galaxies Arcade, at 226 East Main Street, Ottumwa, at NOON time, on Sunday, August 3, 2014. These activities are in support of Ottumwa's International Video Game Hall of Fame, now under development.

This Gallery Showing will examine the history of the global video game culture as commemorated in these posters and trading cards. The Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Card Set was created to commemorate the history of the global video game culture, honoring the iconic industry pioneers, the video game personalities, the world champions; contest winners and the landmark events and historic milestones. The more than 200 Twin Galaxies posters were created between August, 1982 and 2009 to honor important events in the history of competitive eSports. Walter Day, founder of the card set, says: "The vision of the card set has transcended the world of card collecting. We strive to use the cards to create an historic tapestry that can fulfill the artistic and educational needs of Art Galleries and Museums, as well as the study of history in the modern classroom."

Attendance to this event is free of charge.

Produced Eric Tessler
For the 2nd straight year, this art gallery exhibition was funded through contributions from Eric Tessler, of LaHabra, CA. Mr. Tessler is an acclaimed member of the arcade restoration community in California and is a distinguished supporter of video game cinema. He is the Executive Producer of two video game documentary films slated for release in 2013-2014. They are The King of Arcades (Directed by Sean & Krystle Tiedeman) and The Video Craze (Directed by Dave Danzara).

Iowa Contemporary Art (ICON) Gallery
Iowa Contemporary Art is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 to give the gift of the fine art experience to the citizens of southeast Iowa...and beyond. Through its gallery space, lectures, workshops, art forums, video nights, and weekly radio show, ICON has gained national recognition and ICON exhibitions have set standards of excellence for the art community.

The new ICON gallery, which opened in the heart of the Fairfield Cultural District in 2007, has become the center of the growing Fairfield art scene. Fairfield has established a reputation as one of America's premiere renaissance communities and is one of the nation's artistic crossroads.

Iowa Contemporary Art (ICON) is an IRS 501(C)3 not-profit educational charity that is managed by a nine-person board and supported by hundreds of members, donors and volunteers. Located at 58 North Main Street, in Fairfield, Iowa 52556, ICON can be reached at 641-469-6252 and can be found on the internet at For more information, contact Bill Teeple at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

John Wesley Shipp, a.k.a. The Flash

One of the friendlier celebrities I've met, John Wesley Shipp, who played The Flash in the 1991 TV show. I met him a couple of years or so ago at Dallas Comic-Con. I'm glad to hear he's got a role in the new Flash series airing this fall, playing Barry "The Flash" Allen's dad.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My New Business Card

This is my new business card, designed by my lovely and talented wife. 

ScrewAttack Game Convention

ScrewAttack Game Convention is coming to downtown Dallas July 11-13. It's the wildest and craziest video game convention in the country--72 straight hours of fun!

This year's special guest is Mega Man co-designer Keiji Inafune.

Here's the official info:

SGC is a gaming convention like no other! It's a three day party where gamers from around the world can come together and share their passion for video games.
Event highlights include the following:

A massive dealer room with up to 80 vendors.
A huge main stage that can accommodate over 1500 attendees comfortably for large panels and concerts that is streamed live to the Internet!
Two additional panel rooms which can each accommodate hundreds of attendees!
An expansive game room and arcade featuring consoles across all generations and a robust lineup of arcade cabinets!
Tons of guest speakers and YouTube celebrities, including The Angry Video game Nerd.
An open call for other gaming websites to compete in a “ScrewAttack vs the Internet”!
The 8th annual Iron-Man of Gaming Tournament!
Live concerts of amazing video game related bands and DJs!
Table top gaming. We’re going old school!
80,000 square feet of convention space!

The Sheraton Dallas Hotel - 400 North Olive Street Dallas, Texas 75201

(The photo is of me meeting Nolan Bushnell at ScrewAttack a few years ago.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Match 5 for the Intellivision Reviewed!

Match 5
1 player
Programmed by Dave Akers
One of the geekiest things I do is keep track of my high scores on classic video games in a spiral notebook. Most any time I fire up a vintage cartridge or a classic console homebrew title that I enjoy, I’ll have the notebook open to my all-time high score on that particular game so I can try and beat it. This makes the game way more fun and exciting than simply playing it with no particular goal in mind.

With Match 5, a terrific puzzler from the good folks at Elektronite, I don’t consult my notebook. This is not because I don’t enjoy playing the game—I do. It’s because the game has flash ram memory, meaning you can save your high scores to the cartridge! (Yeah, I realize I just used two paragraphs to indicate that a game has savable high scores, but this is a big deal for a title produced for a pre-NES console, so deal with it. Um, please?)

Based on the 1992 computer game, Color Lines, Match 5 has the player moving game pieces (called alien spaceships in the manual) on a 9x9 grid (a spaceship wrecking yard), trying to create rows of five or more of the same piece horizontally or diagonally in order to make them disappear (the manual says you are linking five identical space ships to “blast them to smithereens with an electrical charge”).
As play begins, three pieces appear on the board. To move a piece, pick it up with the cursor and move it to the desired grid square. After your turn, the computer will place three more pieces on the board, and it’s time for you to move another piece. When you match five or more pieces in a row, they will vanish. After a move in which you make pieces vanish, three more pieces will not appear onscreen during that turn. As in Tetris and so many other make-items-go-away games, keeping the screen uncluttered is important. Once all the grid squares are occupied by a game piece, the game will end.

Instead of simply matching up five pieces each time, you should try to match up nine when possible. This is done by placing four in a row, leaving a blank grid space, and then placing four more in that row. Then, you can place the final piece and make all nine disappear. Making more than five pieces disappear is a key strategy in not only keeping the board clear, but in scoring lots of points. Five in a row nets just 10 points while six scores 25, seven scores 50, eight scores 75, and nine scores 88.

You can also rack up extra points by moving the pieces long distances on the board. For every space a piece is moved, you score a point, so if you move the piece to an adjoining square, you only score one.

The pieces the computer places on the screen are random in nature. This, combined with the aforementioned high score tactics, makes Match 5 an intriguing and challenging strategy game that is different every time you play.

Adding to the various strategies are bombs, which you can use to clear nine spaces in a cluttered area. Bombs are limited, so you should use them judiciously. If you play an entire game without using a bomb, you’ll get a medal in the high score table, so there’s another way you can challenge yourself.
Match 5 has three difficulty settings: Easy, Medium, and Hard, the latter of which is the one I prefer (Easy and Medium games take too long to present any kind of real challenge). There are two gameplay modes: Turn and Speed. In Turn mode, you can take as long as you like to plan your move. In Speed mode, however, you only have 15 seconds, meaning you must strategize very quickly. When playing the Hard difficulty setting, I prefer Turn mode so I can carefully plan each move. However, I play Speed mode every once in a while for a change of pace, or if I don’t have much time.

From a visual standpoint, Match 5 is far less ambitious than the gem in Elektronite’s crown: D2K Arcade. Instead of cute characters and different screens, you’ve got simple symbols, text prompts, and a single grid. However, this is not surprising given the nature of most puzzle games. A title like this doesn't need fancy graphicsthe emphasis is clearly on strategy. In terms of audio, music plays during the title screen, and the sound effects are pretty basic.

In Color Lines, which is the title that inspired Match 5 (in case you’ve forgotten paragraph three already), the game pieces are spherical (they disappear when like-colors are matched up in rows of five or more). In Match 5, there are four different shapes that appear from the beginning: hourglass, mirror, mask, and ball. And there are four that begin appearing after a certain point total has been reached: clover (100 points), spaceship (400), wild card (600), and stack (900). A wild card can be used to substitute for any shape, which is a nice bailout when the screen starts getting crowded.

Match 5 may not look or sound much better than Chess or ABPA Backgammon when it comes the Intellivision library, but it’s a fine strategy puzzler that fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy. It will put a pretty good dent in your pocketbook ($70 plus shipping), but it’s a title you’ll return to from time to time, and it’s packaged in a slick, classic-style gatefold box with a full color manual, a controller overlay, and a nicely labeled cartridge. All are made from new materials.

One thing that would’ve been nice is if Elektronite had added a two-player simultaneous mode to the mix. Not only would this would have separated Match 5 further from Color Lines, it would have added another dimension to the game. Even so, this is a fun, professionally produced title with ample replay value.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Video Game Trading Cards & Posters of Twin Galaxies

FAIRFIELD, IOWA—For the second straight year, the Iowa Contemporary Art (ICON) gallery in Fairfield, Iowa will host The Video Game Trading Cards and Posters of Twin Galaxies, an exhibit designed to celebrate the “Global Video Game Culture.”
 According to Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day, who can be seen in such video game documentaries as Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007) and The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007), the museum will display artfully designed cards and posters “honoring the iconic industry pioneers, video game personalities, contest winners, landmark events, historic milestones, and world champions.”

One such champion is Carrie Swidecki, who danced her way to a Guinness World Record by playing Just Dance 4 for the Xbox 360 for 49 hours straight, all in the name of fighting childhood obesity. A fitness buff and dedicated video game fan, Swidecki is passionate about “exergaming” and calls getting her own Twin Galaxies trading card “an honor and a dream come true.”
Longtime scorekeeper Walter Day, co-author of The Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records, began creating the Twin Galaxies trading cards in 2011 as a way to educate, edify, and entertain. The cards, which are named after Day’s legendary arcade from the early 1980s, made their public hobby debut at the Philly Non-Sports Card Show on April 21, 2012 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

As of this writing, there are more than 1,400 cards in the Twin Galaxies set, including issues featuring such prominent figures as Odyssey and Simon creator Ralph Baer, Atari founder and Pong co-creator Nolan Bushnell, and Donkey Kong and Pac-Man champion Billy Mitchell.

The Video Game Trading Cards & Posters of Twin Galaxies exhibit runs Aug. 1-16, but hardcore gamers will want to be there for the opening night festivities, when various video game “celebrities” will be on hand to sign copies of their card, including Leo Daniels, who USA Today once called “the most successful video game player in the United States,” and Michael Thomasson, who owns the world’s largest officially recognized video game collection at more than 10,000 different cartridges and discs.

The next night, Sat., Aug. 2, is noteworthy as well. This is when the Grand Reception will be held, followed by a film festival and awards ceremony at the nearby Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.


As the author of several books on video games, I've been honored with an assortment of cards by Mr. Day:


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer 2014 Video Game Guide

My Summer 2014 Video Game Guide appeared in a recent issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Here it is reprinted for your reading pleasure:

Summer is the time for baseball, backyard barbeques and trips to the beach. But when it’s time to come inside and cool off, you may find yourself wanting something to do other than watch TV, read a book or—gasp!—do chores.

So here are 10 hot new video games you can play in the cozy comfort of your living room or man cave. Certain titles are available now while you’ll have to wait a bit for the others. As always, release dates are subject to change.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma
PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB Rating: Teen
Available Now for PlayStation 3
Release Date: June 24 for PlayStation Vita
$59.99 for PlayStation 3
$39.99 for PlayStation Vita
The fifth title in the “BlazBlue” 2D fighting game series, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma adds five new characters—Amane, Azrael, Bullet, Izayoi, and Kagura—bringing the total number of combatants to 24. Each of the returning characters has new moves and abilities, meaning that even veterans of the BlazBlue wars will have new techniques to learn.

The action, which has been sped up for “faster, more enjoyable gameplay,” is set after the events of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. The disc boasts 11 different modes, including Arcade, Survival, Networking (online) and Story, the latter of which features multiple endings and more than 30 hours of gameplay.

Bound by Flame
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Available Now
$39.99 for PlayStation 3
$49.99 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360
 Bound by Flame is a fantasy role-playing game in the truest sense of the genre. As a mercenary possessed by a fire demon, players, after creating and customizing their male or female character, must decide throughout the game to perform heroically or succumb to the dark side. As the action intensifies and the enemies and obstacles get more difficult to overcome, players will be tempted to forfeit part of their soul in order to access powerful demonic traits. By acquiring or rejecting the demonic properties, the player’s character will change in appearance.

Battles are fought in real time, and players can create new items, improve their weapons and armor and upgrade their skills in terms of combat, assassination and fire magic.

Kirby Triple Deluxe
Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Available Now
The adventures of Kirby, Nintendo’s pink, animated puffball, date back more than 20 years to Kirby’s Dream Land (1992) for the Game Boy and the fittingly titled Kirby’s Adventure (1993) for the NES. The latest iteration, Kirby Triple Deluxe, finds our ravenous hero on a quest to rescue the kidnapped King Dedede.

The classic, side-scrolling platform action remains intact, but Kirby can now jump from the foreground to the background, and he can eat a Miracle Fruit seed to transform into Hypernova Kirby, who can gobble giant objects. New mimicking abilities include beetle (impale enemies), archer (fire arrows in all directions) and circus performer (roll over enemies, juggle flaming bowling pins and wield exploding balloon animals). “Kirby Fighters,” which is similar to Super Smash Bros., and a rhythm game called “Dedede’s Drum Dash” supplement the main story mode.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks   
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Release Date: Available Now
 Similar in theme to Philip K. Dick’s 1962 masterpiece, Man in the High Castle, in which the Allied Powers lost World War II, Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place during the 1960s in a version of Europe in which the Nazis maintain a stronghold over the entire world. What this setup amounts to is a single-player, first-person shooter in which the gamer must battle robots, destroy giant super soldiers and infiltrate Nazi strongholds, with the ultimate goal of defeating General Wilhelm Strasse.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is the ninth game in the series, which dates back to the 1981 computer classic, Castle Wolfenstein.

Watch Dogs
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Release Date: Available Now (Wii U version in the fall)
An epic, open-ended “sandbox” game, Watch Dogs puts users in the role of Aiden Pearce (voiced by Noam Jenkins), a hacker who can perform such dubious feats as control traffic lights (to create accidents), tap into surveillance cameras, disrupt police radio networks and access the cell phones and personal computers of private citizens. Armed with a baton and more than 30 different firearms, Pearce can also unleash vigilante justice on an assortment of bad guys.

The action plays out in a near-future Chicago that is controlled by a vast network of computers known as the Central Operating System (CtOS). In addition to the seemingly endless one-player option, which lets Pearce commander more than 65 vehicles, the game includes an assortment of multiplayer modes.

Murdered: Soul Suspect
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Release Date: Available Now
$49.99 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
$59.99 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
In Murdered: Soul Suspect, you are Ray O’Connor, a Salem, Massachusetts police detective who must solve a murder. There’s only one catch: you are the one who was killed (the basic scenario evokes Ghost, the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore). Luckily, as a denizen of the afterlife limbo world called Dusk, you have supernatural powers, including the ability to walk through walls, teleport and possess people to read their minds. You’ll also battle demonic spirits, search for clues, solve puzzles, interrogate ghosts, collect items and participate in various side quests.

Fans of Beyond: Two Souls may enjoy this third-person adventure thriller.  

Enemy Front
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: City Interactive Games
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Release Date: Available Now
 Billed as “the first truly modern World War II first-person shooter,” Enemy Front promises to be far less linear than most games in the genre, letting players explore open-ended levels with an unusual degree of freedom. The protagonist is American war correspondent Robert Hawkins, who can equip more than 25 weapons as he battles alongside Resistance Fighters against the Nazi scourge. Various fighting styles are featured, including intense combat, sniping, stealth and sabotage.

War isn’t pretty, as they say, but the makers of Enemy Front beg to differ, citing their game’s “stunning visuals” and “breathtaking European locales,” including France, Greece, Norway, Poland and Germany.  

EA Sports UFC
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher: EA Sports
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
Release Date: June 17
UFC, which stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the violent, mixed martial arts competition that was controversial during the 1990s (it officially began in 1993) and has since become a mainstream sport. Developed by the team responsible for the Fight Night franchise, EA Sports UFC aims to capture the excitement of the real deal without harming a hair on anyone’s head.

Along with boasting such UFC fighters as Chuck Liddell and Ronda Rousey, the game features the late, great Bruce Lee, who never fought competitively, but is widely regarded as one of the greatest martial arts practitioners of all time. To capture Lee’s image, the developers used a life mask from the 1960s Green Hornet television series, in which Lee played Kato. 

Grid: Autosport
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Codemasters
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: June 24
Developed by Codemasters, a British company that’s been making racing games for more than a quarter of a century, Grid: Autosport lets gearheads race more than 100 routes across 22 diverse locations, ranging from Sepang to San Francisco. There are five different types of events: Endurance (lengthy road racing), Open-wheel (similar to formula-1), Street Racing (turning sharp corners while driving modified cars), Touring (racing on various professional tracks) and Tuner Competitions (featuring drifting, time attack and traditional racing).

According to Codemasters, Grid: Autosport will be an improvement over Grid 2 by featuring “a more authentic handling style” and by “returning to an in-car view.” Modes of play include Career, Time Trial, split-screen two-player, multiplayer online and more.

The Evil Within
PlayStation 3, PlayStation4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Release Date: Aug. 26
Terror specialist Shinji Mikami is the brains behind The Evil Within, a survival horror title that the developer says will be even scarier than the games in his groundbreaking Resident Evil series, which debuted in 1996 for the original PlayStation. As detective Sebastian Castellanos, players use traps, guns and other weapons to battle undead creatures in a nightmarish world that “warps and twists around you” (the environments change in real time).

To help keep things claustrophobic, desperate and downright frightening, ammo is scarce, enemies are tough and there are numerous instances where the player’s best option is to run away and hide, oftentimes in a cramped, uncomfortable space.