Gaar: Legendary video game ref to hang up his stripes
Jan 27, 2013 (Austin American-Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Walter Day is a video game celebrity, but he did it by keeping score.
If you're a fan of classic games, you might be aware of Day, who founded the company Twin Galaxies in the early 1980s to keep track of high scores.
As one of the pioneers of scorekeeping, Day became one of the most recognizable figures in video gaming, especially of the classic arcade era.
These days, he's winding down his time as a public personality and moving on to composing music.
Day was in Austin recently for one of his last events in his legendary referee outfit, at the Pinballz Arcade.
The arcade was jam-packed for the event celebrating Texas video game players; the day also featured contests and a panel discussion. Day, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms, was deluged with autograph seekers and picture requests.
"The people living in Austin, I hope they don't take this place for granted, because this is a wonderful place," he said. "I've been all over the world; this is shoulder-to-shoulder with the best arcades anyplace."
Day is producing a series of video game trading cards that highlight some of biggest names (and unsung heroes) of the classic video game era.
Day called them a "historical gift to future generations."
"We want them to remember who we were, that we were the first ones to get involved in video games and we were the ones who started it and made it happen," he said.
Video games, he said, are an art form still in its infancy.
"The people who were the first people to embrace and adopt video games are many of the same people who are still paying the games now," he said. "So we're still in our first era."
Josh Jones, one of the Austin event organizers, said such events are an attempt to counteract an often negative media portrayal of video games being violent.
"I walked around and I see a lot of these machines that I played when I was kid and it really takes me back," he said. "There's a lot of nostalgia involved."
Richie Knucklez, a New Jersey arcade owner who recently bought Twin Galaxies with a partner, called Day a pioneer in gaming.
"Walter was the first person to actually embrace the spirit of competition in video games and he's carried on that legacy this far," said Knucklez, who is a record-holding "Space Invaders" player. "And as he feels it's time to retire, I felt compelled to be the person to pick up the torch."
Old school coin-op games are special because "they don't rely on fancy bells and whistles or graphics," he said.
"They rely on the playability and the challenge and the fun of the game, Knucklez said.
As for Day, his personal favorites are "Make Trax," "Centipede," "Galaxia" and "Berserk" (all classic-era games, of course).
But I wondered -- what drew him to devote so much of his life to video games
It could be a debt from past lives, he said.
"Probably back when I was king of England; I'm working all that karma off," he said.
Day quickly added that he was kidding.
"It's just something I had to do," he said. "And now it's done and now I get to go out and do fun with music instead."
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