What originally brought you to NA/VGS?
I didn't own a NES as a kid, but I always wanted one. Emulators started become popular when I was in college, so I was finally able to replay all the games I had experienced at my friend's houses growing up, along with many unfamiliar ones. I would often think about which games I would have wanted to own, if I'd had a console back in the day. In 2014, I had just read Console Wars by Blake Harris and my interest in retro gaming was at an all time peak, so I decided to start collecting. I went and bought a NES and a Genesis, and while searching online for information, I found and joined NintendoAge. Then I followed along when everyone transitioned over here.
Story behind your username?
My username is from R-type, but with my first initial, G. Strangely, I have only played R-type a couple times and don't have any strong feelings about it either way. I just wanted a videogame related user name that I could modify with my name or initials, and this was one of the first games to pop into my head.
Where do you hail from?
I live in Northern Virginia. About 30 minutes south of Washington DC.
Spouse? Kids? Pets?
I'm married and have 4 boys ages 7-15. I also have 2 dogs, 2 birds, 4 cats, and 7 kittens (that we'll be rehoming as soon as they're big enough)
Can the old man still keep up with his boys? Can you still wrestle all four at once?
Definitely not if they all gang up on me at once. When they were younger, they would grab onto one of my legs and I'd try to walk around. Now that they're bigger, that'd be impossible.
What do you do for a living? Favorite non-gaming hobbies?
For my day job, I am a training coordinator for the VDOE. I provide support and training to teachers in k-12 special education in the areas of literacy instruction, assistive technology, and alternative assessment.
For my side job, I am a magician. (I just did a "video game magic show" at Magfest) and I've invented several magic tricks that have been published and sold on the magic market.
I am also a comic creator. I wrote and drew a YA graphic novel called The Scientists (that's like a Sci-fi Goonies) and an action-adventure comic called Bug Hunt (featuring a Bruce Campbell inspired space-exterminator fighting robot spiders). I have an upcoming anthology coming called Stupid Kids: True Tales of Reckless Youth, based on autobiographical childhood mishaps. I also enjoy reading comics and have been collecting since the 90s (mostly indie stuff).
Another hobby of mine is game design. I have a card game and a board game that I am hoping to publish in the next year or so, and I also dabble in coding games in Scratch and MakeCode.
I enjoy playing music, even if don't get to do it much these days. I sing, play keyboard. I'm learning to play Ukulele. I was in a band when I was younger.
How would you describe your card and board game?
my card game, Flip Freaks, involves players laying down cards on the table like tiles, creating sequences of fighting moves, competing for control over who wins each sequence reversi/othello-style. At the end, all the sequences are gathered together to create an animated flipbook that shows the complete fight.
my board game, Aréna: The Arcane Sands, is a checkers-style game on a hex-board, played in real-time, using 15 and 20-second sandtimers as your pawns and they also dictate when the piece is free to make another move.
How long does it take to write a draw a comic? The amount of work to me feels almost overwhelming.
I have ADHD, so its hard to sit down and work for a long period of time. Sometimes, I can push myself to go fast. I recently drew and colored a 6-page short story in 2 weeks this past December. But my 200 page graphic novel took about 15 years from script to finished book, (working in small bursts).
Who's your favorite magician?
My favorite magician growing up was David Copperfield. His tv specials set the standard. I'm a fan of lots of magicians: Jeff McBride, Andrew Mayne, Jeki Yoo, Shin Lim, Rudy Coby, Penn & Teller, Tom Stone, Lance Burton, Rune Klan, Dani DaOrtiz, Asi Wind, Shoot Ogawa, Michael Ammar...
Best reaction you've ever gotten from a crowd?
I once invented a trick and David Blaine called me and asked if he could use it on his TV special. He said thought it "looks the way real magic would look".
I've had lots of great audience reactions. For the show at Magfest this past weekend, the room was filled to capacity and the crowd was pretty hyped.
Can you tell us anything about the trick?
I can show you:
The idea was to write with ink on your finger and cause that writing to transform or vanish.
The Prestige or The Illusionist?
I'm partial to the Incredible Burt Wonderstone. The Prestige and the illusionist are both pretty good. I think the Prestige is probably a little more entertaining. One funny thing about that movie is that the terminology they claim are the 3 parts of every magic trick "The Pledge, The Turn, The Prestige", were terms the writers invented.
What's next for your career as an artist and writer?
I have a couple more projects that I'd really love to do. Especially my 90s-era cyberpunk body horror story: "Brainhackers.txt" But I don't know if I would call it a career. I do a lot of things moderately well, but I've never been able to focus on any one of them long enough to reach that next level. "Jack-of-all-trades, master of none" is what it will say on my tombstone.
10 favorite games of all time and why?
1. ZZT (PC/Dos) Around this time this came out (1992), I was really into the BBS ANSI art scene as well as video game design. This game perfectly scratched both those itches. Plus its just really well made. Even the pack-in sample game, Town of ZZT, was brilliant. And the community of home grown ZZT worlds is amazing.
2. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) There was a time whenever the topic "are games art?" was brought up, this game would be mentioned. It is hauntingly beautiful. But also a lot of fun with its perfect mix of puzzle solving, platforming, and exploration.
3. Might and Magic Clash of Heroes (DS) Lots of games have tried to put some unique twist on the "match 3" puzzle game genre, but this one is the best. It's a little lacking in replayability, but its still amazing.
4. Legacy of the Wizard (NES) When I started collecting, this was one of the first games I got. It was thrown in with a few other games that I was looking for. I had never heard of it before, so when looking for some information about it, I discovered a video of it being played on Game Center CX and I was very intrigued. This game really hooked me in hard! Even moreso, because it felt like something I had discovered on my own. I made this Nintendo Power guide for it.
5. Yar's Revenge (Atari 2600) In Howard Scott Warshaw's attempt to find a way to port Star Castle, he managed to create something even greater. The most successful non-licensed game on the Atari 2600. Pure arcade action with fantastic sound design (they used the sounds in the movie Airplane. Only thing the game is lacking is a little more variety. It has cool backstory explained in the included comic book. I recommend game mode 6: "Ultimate Yars"
6. Space Quest 3 (PC) This was my first adventure game that I played and beat. Sierra games are a whole vibe that I just dig. I was stuck on that damn garbage freighter for SO long, when that I finally managed to figure out how to escape and make my way to Monolith Burger, it was very exciting.
7. Food Fight (Atari 7800) The best game on the 7800, by far. I can't believe this was an original game and not an arcade port. It really feels like an arcade classic.
8. Battletoads (NES) My one and only "gamer cred" claim is that I've beaten Battletoads. It makes me feel better when I get completely crushed in every other video game contest I compete in. (Although I did get 3rd place in a Warlords tournament at Magfest this past weekend!) Once you understand how to beat turbo tunnel. The rest of the game is just matter of memorization and determination. Great music and graphics, and so much variety to the levels and gameplay! I also really enjoy some of the weird humor, like when the space invaders try to steal squares off your life bar. Too bad they didn't make it more 2-player friendly.
9. Tron (Arcade) a great collection of minigames, and really fun control scheme combining the flight stick with a spinner! Too bad that discs of Tron wasn't included on the same machine, because that one is probably the best of them all.
10. Eyetoy Play (PS2) I was at Best Buy in 2003, trying to decide whether I should get an Xbox or a PS2. They were both the same price, so it came down to the games. A little further down the shelf, I saw, Eyetoy and was really intrigued by it. It turned out be really fun. Sometimes, when I would host parties, I would just have it on with one of the cool video effects filters. (this was before instagram, so these filters were still pretty novel at the time)
Favorite piece in your collection(s)?
My favorite piece that I've acquired, is my boxed Odyssey2, purely for the aesthetics of the graphic design. I love the colors. It reminds me of a 1970s black light poster.
My favorite piece that I retained from my childhood is my Tomy Pocket Arcade: Knight's Mission. I am fascinated by mechanical and electromechanical games. I remember when first I got it, I was kind of disappointed because I'd been hoping for an LCD game. But I think this mechanical game ended up being a lot cooler in the long term.
Is Super Mario Bros. 2 ever gonna be conquered?
I made it as far as Wart's castle. I was able to see the ending using save states and called it a day. I've moved on. This is isn't the first time I've fallen just short of beating a game. I made it up to the Joker in Batman, and I made it to the final dungeon in Legend of Zelda.
I actually gave up on the Joker last year as well. At some point there's an opportunity cost. I either spend 5+ hours grinding away at the last 1% of a game, or I go experience 100% of something else instead.
I tend to favor gaming in short bursts and playing for a score, which is why Atari/arcade action games appeal to me. The last time I beat an NES game, was Lolo during the Survivor contest.
What do the boys think of your retro games?
They think they're ok, and will give them a try if I ask, but its never something they would choose for themselves. They have their own tastes. They're into games like Roblox, Clash of Kings, Fortnight, Overcooked, Smash Bros, Dragonball fighters, and VR.
Favorite movie of all time?
This was also my pick for the movie debate poll: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? One of the few perfect movies. I've watched this movie countless times, and owned it on VHS as a kid. Great characters, great performances, great story. The technical mastery here still hasn’t been surpassed when it comes to toon/human interaction. All credit goes to Bob Hoskins who's mime work and acting to an invisible co-star are ON POINT. Recent movies that have tried to follow in it's footsteps, like Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, just don't have the same vibe. Roger Rabbit captured lightning in a bottle.
Did you watch the new Chip & Dale movie?
I thought Chip and Dale was decent, but not great. I never watched the cartoon, so I have zero nostalgia for it, which is a problem for this type of movie, where so much of it is built around "Hey, remember this thing?" It had a couple good jokes like treating CGI as plastic surgery, or bringing back ugly sonic. I liked the Roger Rabbit-esque merging of human and cartoon worlds... but I felt the world-building was a little lacking (compared to Roger Rabbit).
Ender's Game. I know this this author has turned out to be kind of problematic and some of the other books in this series are downright bad, but this first book will always be very special to me. I especially love all the battle room scenes and how Ender keeps coming up with new strategies to the counter all the challenges thrown at him.
I've only read Enders Game, but I do own the 8 "main" books. How would you rank the ones you've read?
My ranking of the Ender's Game books:
1.Ender's Game is #1 of course.
2.Ender's Shadow was almost as good as Ender's Game. Interesting to get a retelling of the first book's story from another character's perspective
3. Speaker for the Dead: Don't remember it well. I think it had a few scenes I enjoyed, nothing I'm eager to read again.
4. Ender in Exile: OSC decided to use this as a platform for his famously conservative religious views. It could have been neat to read a direct narrative sequel to Ender's Game but its almost impossible to read his character's pontifications on the importance of marriage, monogamy, and gender roles to the stability of civilization without rolling my eyes.
5. Xenocide: Don't remember it at all, but don't remember liking it.
Larry Marder's Beanworld. It is the comic I've reread the most. Even my kids have read it multiple times. It centers around a tribe of sentient beans who live on a 2.5 dimensional island, as they try to decode the mysteries of their environment, build a society, create art and science, and problem solve the various new developments and intrusions that threaten to upset the balance of their ecosystem. It's drawn in a unique style, heavily influenced by Native American mythology, with lots of geometric shapes and patterns.
The other comic that was super important to me as a teen was Rob Schrab's Scud the Disposable Assassin.
Musician? Song? Album?
Hard to pick just one. I'll go: Nirvana/Nevermind/Smells like teen spirit. I have kind of a raspy voice... but its not because I was a smoker... I think it's because I used to scream along to Nirvana songs when I was teenager.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
I am more of a Star Wars fan, specifically the original trilogy, are some of my all-time favorite movies. I couldn't wait to get more Star Wars when the prequels were announced. My friends and I went to see Enemy of the State with Will Smith, just to catch a glimpse of the Phantom Menace trailer. We collected the Taco Bell cups and bought the soundtrack in anticipation. We waited in line for it opening day and couldn't possibly be any more excited. After it was over, the first words I said when the lights came back up: "Well, that sucked." Everything after that has required me to reframe my expectations. Ever since the disneyfication, I've become less and less interested. I did have fun watching the Force Awakens trilogy, and Rogue One... but now I kind of view it like I do the MCU... everything is very middle of the road and they just pumped out too much, that it got diluted and lost its specialness.
Which member of The Breakfast Club are you?
Wasn't the message of that movie that we can't be defined by the those narrow roles that people try to put us into? "Each one of us is a brain, an athlete, basketcase, a princess, and a criminal."
...You're the first person in 25+ interviews to ever pick up on that...
I could probably relate most to being the nerd, and the weirdo. I'm not much of a Breakfast Club fan (I think its one of the more overrated 80s movies) but I did get a laugh from Emilio Estevez's gigantic lunch.
How chaotic is a house full of 4 boys and a dozen+ animals?
It's non-stop action. I take my dog on long walks just to get a break sometimes.
Favorite console of all time?
Gotta go with the Atari 2600. I think it's so cool how they were able to take a machine that was only designed to play Pong and Combat, and push it to recreate or approximate nearly every popular arcade game of it's era.
Beer, liquor, or wine?
I only drink occasionally, and usually it's to pair with food. Beer with spicy food, Wine with Italian or fish. I don't care for liquor.
Coffee or tea?
I drink 1 or 2 cups of coffee every day (although I occasionally drink tea too). I especially like Vietnamese coffee or Milk tea with boba.
I love Thai food, sushi, pizza, But my favorite, if I'm being honest, is McDonald's. Definitely the place I've eaten at the most.
Favorite McD's item?
I think the simpler, "1,2,3 dollar menu" items tend to be the best. The McDouble is a perfectly balanced burger. Small fries are plenty, and as long as you eat them while they're hot, they're the best in the game. A McDonalds fountain diet coke just hits different.. better than any other canned or bottled incarnation. I know they have premium chicken sandwiches, trying to compete with some of the other brands, but I'll take the basic McChicken over those. I'll sometimes go for an apple pie or a vanilla cone if I want something sweet.
Wendy's or Burger King?
I’m not a fan of either, but Burger King is worse. My alternate fast food picks would be Taco Bell or Chick fil A.
Favorite sushi roll?
I like the dragon roll because it looks so pretty and I love avocado.
Favorite sushi restaurant?
I don’t have any chains. Just our local restaurants. We go to one called Jangko.
After Super Mario Bros. 2, what would be your next white whale in gaming?
Super Metroid has been my list for a while. Maybe I should declare that for the backlog challenge.
What games do your kids like to play?
My kids keep telling me I should play Hollow Knight. Maybe I will someday. My son who is into VR really likes the game Gorilla Tag.
Yea, I don’t play it either. I just know it involves lots of arm movement to get around and he works up a pretty good sweat.
Which of your jobs is your favorite?
I go through phases. I went pretty hard on the comic creation for the past 5 years… but now I feel like the pendulum has swung back towards the magic. I have been creating a lot of new material based on my new “retro magician” concept which is very creatively rewarding. Building a career in any one of these fields is pretty hard, but trying to do them all at the same time is nearly impossible. There’s just not enough hours in the day. Especially when you are easily distracted and have a hard time making yourself get started.
If you could visit one country...
For a country never been to before: I’d love to visit Japan. More likely that I’ll return to my wife’s country (Thailand) first, since it’s been a long time since she’s gone home.
If you could meet one person, alive or dead
I’ve met Dan Harmon before, but I do believe there’s another version of me out there in the multiverse who moved out to LA and became buddies with him and rode his coattails into a career in film and television.
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Crazy to think about but my youngest will be a senior in high school by then. I’ll be on the verge of becoming an empty nester. I hope in 10 years, I’ll have achieved some level of success in my side hustles that I can do it full time.
Who would you like to see me interview?
I’d be interested to hear from fellow Atari fan and artist extraordinaire, @CasualCart