From organizing the long-running Midwest Championships annual majors, to writing strategy guides and tournament coverage as senior editor for Tips & Tricks Magazine, to designing game controllers at NubyTech and Pelican, to working on Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe at Midway, Jason “DreamTR” Wilson has done it all in the game industry. He now co-owns and operates his own arcade with some 125 cabinets on display.
Maj: Let’s start with a little background on what you’re doing right now with Game Galaxy Arcade. How did it start, what’s your day to day role, and how has it been faring in this slow economy?
DreamTR: When I moved to Tennessee I had always wanted to find a place for a game store, but a friend of mine and I had some revenue share from some arcade games I had on location. We went to the Hickory Hollow Mall to buy some stuff from the old Tilt/Time-Out location, but everything was removed.
I contacted the mall office and the rent was decent enough for us to take a chance at getting a location, but at the time we only owned 30-35 games combined, so we had a lot of work ahead of us to obtain more games. We opened in November 2008. I am the co-owner of the arcade and the game room is steady, not great, but not terrible either. Because I am a collector, this actually allows me to maintain storage as well as allowing everyone to enjoy these games once again.
Maj: What was your inspiration for opening an arcade and what’s your ultimate goal? Is owning your own arcade as cool as it sounds?
DreamTR: I’ve always wanted to own an arcade. I frequented them obsessively when I was little in the early 80s and even designed my dream “game room” a few times on paper when I was in elementary school. It was similar to the room-by-room genre you see with Japanese arcades except back then I only had sections for cocktail games, nickel games, and current releases. When the years progressed and I started to collect more console games, I drifted towards wanting to own a video game store with “some” arcade machines, but now it’s the other way around.
Owning your own business is very hard work. I figured I would eventually have to open a business moving to Tennessee because my work experience is in the video game industry and Nashville is more geared towards educational and musical entities.
Maj: You have a very unique style as a tournament player. One of your old rivals once told me that you play MK2 Jax using only two buttons and that you could be playing on a machine with the Forward direction broken and never notice. Now i don’t know how you can beat that description, but how would you describe your overall play style?
DreamTR: Hahaha, I tend to “annoy” players with my game play style because (especially in tournaments) I am low on execution but high on adapting to an opponent’s style. I’m good at finding moves that an opponent is unable to stop, especially basic/standard moves that you normally wouldn’t think would work.
I don’t play in tournaments very often anymore. In fact, I can think of less than a handful I have entered in the past few years, but my tournament style play is highly different than my casual style play. In casual style gameplay I do incorporate the necessary “annoyance” moves, but I don’t utilize them as exclusively as I would in a tournament match.
For me, spacing is essential. I don’t watch videos of regular gameplay. I depend entirely on experience and for some reason it still works, so I guess it can be hard to prepare for someone who plays as unorthodox as I do. It doesn’t work on everyone, so I end up having to re-adapt if that becomes the case.
Maj: Does that mean you’d play differently if your execution was better? Let’s say you had the best combination of physical skills (execution, reaction time, etc.) that you’ve ever witnessed. What would be your ideal play style?
DreamTR: Well, let me clarify, my execution in casual matches is not so bad, but in tournament play it suffers a great deal so I tend to stick to the absolute minimum when it comes to combos: basic 3 hitters that can lead to juggles depending on the character – combos that are not “fancy” per say.
If I did have the best combination of both, I would like to be able to just demoralize an opponent by playing basics only, then surprising them with the ability to do 13 hit fancy combos for fun, but that doesn’t always win matches. I would like to be more of an offensive player in tournaments, but I tend to have to “turtle” in tournaments and attack in casuals just because of the stakes at hand.
Maj: Have you met anyone who comes close to matching your desciption of “playing perfectly”?
DreamTR: I know some people might not agree with me but Ricky Ortiz is the closest person to someone I have seen who can out-turtle you and attack you at will. His defense and punishment skills are incredible. I know him and Justin go back and forth but to me Ricky is the more “complete” player at times.
Maj: Back when you lived in SoCal and we used to play in run-down Van Nuys arcades, i remember you used to play characters that literally nobody else would pick. Since this was way before matchvids on u2b and even before console Training Mode became popular, what was your approach to learning these uncharted characters?
DreamTR: I always thought that you had to have some idea of how every single character in any fighting game was played. For a game like Tekken, there are so many special moves that it is very likely you will lose to someone in a tournament seeing things you have never seen before because of lack of experience against said characters.
For Street Fighter you can actually learn all of the basics of a character in a very short amount of time. The way I approached it was to competitively use a couple of characters at a time that I was unfamiliar with and make it a habit to learn the spacing of all of their moves in the course of a match.
The biggest obstacle was realizing that playing against computer opponents wouldn’t teach you as much as playing against a human. Factoring that in as the “training mode” of the day, it took a lot longer to understand the mechanics of each character as opposed to today where you can learn high level gameplay in a fraction of the time.
Maj: If you had to pick one title to represent classic fighting games forever at every tournament, which would you choose and why?
DreamTR: Super Street Fighter II Turbo. The game seems to never die and players seem to enjoy and appreciate the arcade version more as time progresses. (I still don’t understand the need for HD Remix when ST was already the most balanced SF game at the time.)
Super Turbo is 16 years old and it seems like with the GGPO netplay, new players and high level competition will always be around. The game is much easier to get into than Hyper Fighting was, and I always consider ST the first game that newbie SF players could enjoy because of the higher difficulty level of Hyper Fighting as a competitive game. It’s obvious ST was able to pass the test of time.
Jason Wilson is co-owner and CEO of Game Galaxy Arcade in Nashville, TN – where he reguarly runs various fighting game tournaments on a monthly basis. He also owns one of the largest video game collections in the world, with around 16,000 games!