Beautifun Games

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Jesús Fabre - CM|PR - Part I/II

This time is the turn of Jesús, our usual interviewer, to tell us about his life regarding to games, as a gamer and professional. He is one of the last members to join the team, been working with us since September 2013 as PR and Community Manager. The questions of the following interview have been ellaborated by the members of the BeautiFun Games team, and in this case Aniol is the person who is conducts the interview in their representation.

Aniol: Can you tell us about how were you as a kid, and how was your childhood?

Jesús: I was born in Murcia, a city in the Southeast of Spain, I grew up as only child until 14 years old, when my brother was born. In general I can say I was a very shy guy who loved playing with all kind of toys for hours and hours, also enjoyed watching cartoons and listened to music since I was very young. I especially remember how much I enjoyed playing with small cars, Transformers, G.I. JOE, Playmobil Clicks or He-Man, all mixed on the same playground!

TV was the big entertainment in the 80s, which cartoons did you enjoy the most?

I clearly recall an animation edutainment series called "Once Upon a Time... Life", it told the story of the human body through the adventures of a bunch of characters who happened to be cells, hemoglobins, vitamins, viruses and all the organisms and sustances that populate the human body. I have been curious about how things work since I was a little kid, thanks to that series I learnt a lot and also stimulated my imagination. I remember how I tried to recreate the scenes in my room, with tons of pieces of paper from different colors representing each type of organism. Aside of that series I also recall Asterix, Transformers, Knights of the Zodiac, Dragon Ball, Heidi or The Smurfs. As you can see, my interests were really diverse.

Did you read comics?

Not a lot, between 6 and 9 years old I mainly read Mortadelo y Filemón (Clever & Smart), but eventually got a bit tired of their crazy and exagerated humour and then started reading Superlópez, which main character was a Spanish parody of Superman (I felt identified with his daily routine etc), that ended up being my favourite comic and character from my childhood.

And what about videogames, when and how they appeared in your life?

My parents weren't familiarized with video games at all. They've never heard about them, until one day I went to one of their friends house and their daughter was playing a space shooter about a spaceship that could turn into a robot at will. We are talking about 1991, and the game was Choujikuu Yousai – Macross, and I was fascinated to see that robot/spaceship shooting and all those graphics in movement. The colourful backgrounds, the cheerful music, it was pure love, I couldn't stop playing! Such a discovery was so intense that I didn't stop asking my parents to buy me a console to play that game. So finally my grandfather bought me one, it was a NES clone called "dido", with 260 built-in games. 260 games, that was crazy! But soon I discovered it really had around 50 and the rest were variations and glitched versions of those, it was enough to play for a while anyway.

Which NES games did you liked the most from those 260 built-in games?

The most remarkable for me were Bomberman, Tetris, Super Mario Bros, the first Mario Bros (from 1981), Rally X, Pac-Man, Adventure Island, Dr. Mario, Antartic Adventure, Quartz or Soccer. I also remember one weird wrestling game called "MUSCLE" featuring the characters from Kinnikuman series. Had good a good time with that one, and it was so weird that any of my friends ever heard of it, but they came to my place only to play it!

Once I got bored of playing over and over the same games, I started buying cartdridges, great ones were platformers Shatterhand, Batman and Power Blade, racing games like Super R.C. Pro Am or Super Off-Road. Remember I had a friend who invited me to play at his house, we loved co-op games like Chip'n Dale or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Some of the later great games I played on the system were really hardcore and more different experiences for me: Zelda, Maniac Mansion and Prince of Persia. I keep a specially good memory from Maniac Mansion, since it was the first game I beated, did it with all the patience a 13 years-old me could have!

I see you played NES a lot, but what happened to the other systems available at the time? Did you updated to a better console?

I discovered PCs and the 16 bit console systems around 1994, especially the technical leap I saw on PCs fully amazed me. Games like The Neverhood, Myst, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D or Another World blew me away and convinced me that this was the definitive gaming platform, especially for the players who could afford the quite expensive Pentium computers back in the days. At the same time, I had a couple of friends who were really hardcore fans of SEGA and Nintendo, respectively. So I was the lucky enough to enjoy Super Nintendo and Megadrive (Genesis) most relevant titles. From SNES I would remark the long evenings playing Super Mario Kart, Super Castlevania IV, Killer Instinct and Super Star Wars. On Genesis I particularly enjoyed Flashback, Sonic 2, Earthworm Jim 1 and 2 and Micromachines' awesome battle mode.

As you can see, I was surrounded by friends who only played really good games (nothing comparable with most of my old NES clone cartdridges or built-in titles), and my parents didn't like the idea of buying another machine. And as a way to rebel against the idea of not being able to play any new game, three years after the NES I resolved to save a lot of money (I even sold many comics) and secretly buy a Game Body. There I played tons of platformers, like the Donkey Kong Land and Super Mario Land series. Eventually my parents discovered I bought the console and got really angry... but, they also started to accept that video games were a vital part of my life that couldn't be easily removed.

That helped in some way to give you access to a newer system?

Not exactly. They were fully against the idea of spending 400€ on a PSX or a SEGA Saturn. So I had to figure out a cheaper way to play games, and also a good excuse to make that kind of big purchase. The solution I found was the PC, and the excuse to buy it was that I was going to use it to do lot to works during my last year at High School and also the University (I really used it, thanks to that cool interactive encyclopedia that came with it!). That PC was a Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM and 8 MB of video memory. But against all odds, it lasted for 6 years, started playing Doom, Redneck Rampage, Populous, Dungeon Keeper and ended with games like Unreal Tournament 2003, Sacrifice, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Half Life 2, Rise of Nations or Age of Mythology. I managed to enhance the system a bit from time to time: memory, processor, graphic card... every year I was updating some part, until in 2004 I found most of the games were completely unplayable with the lowest settings. So bought a Pentium 4 and felt like if I had a F1!

So you have been playing games uninterruptedly since you got your first console, right?

Well, I have always been a big fan of video games, played a lot of them and from very different genres, that hobby helped me to decide to study Computer Science, which was a really hard degree in my university (and still is). So, maybe oddly enough, when I got that Pentium 4 (and there was no problem to play games with graphic settings to the max) it coincided also with my fourth course, the very hardest one. Lots of practical works and theory at the same time. When I saw those loads of stuff I had to go through, I resolved that there was no more time for games, at least during that fourth year. I won't lie to you, it was hard (especially when I was doing the practical projects at my brand new computer).

And that "dry law" measure worked out well?

To say the truth, it was a complete success. I entered my fifth and last year at university with all prior subjects passed. Then I started to work part-time and with my first salary I decided to buy a PSP. The feeling of happiness was kind of similar to what I felt when I bought a Game Boy ten years back. I have to confess that the first thing I did was installing a Custom Firmware to play emulators and install curious programs (like the one that allowed you to use it as a remote control, or scan Wifi networks around). I enjoyed titles like Wipeout, Darkstalkers, Ridge Racer, and on the emulator I played tons of NES, Megadrive and SNES games.

That should have been a great time for you, but what happened with all the home consoles that were having a big success at the time?

Yeah, it was! I remember the PS2 had an impressive catalog, but many games from PS2 were starting to appear on the PSP and/or also had their respective PC version, so I could end up playing most of them in a way or another without buying the system. I remember I was really curious to play XBOX, I liked the idea of playing online and also saw some games there that looked impressive as Panzer Dragoon Orta or The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. But instead of staying up to date in terms of new consoles and buy an XBOX 360 or a better PC, I decided to "go back in time". In 2008 I was working in Madrid, didn't have many friends to hang around with, so in my free time one day I got curious about the second hand video games market. I was astounded to see how the games I could never afford back in the 90s were at a ridiculous price (around 3 or 5 euros). So started collecting and playing them as a hobby, and that became almost an obsession, I remember I could visit around five game shops per week looking for the best deals.

When did that stopped and how did you managed to control that almost "compulsive collector instinct"?

After buying tons of games, I started to notice it wasn't useful at all to buy a game that you won't have time to play, I felt kind of frustrated of seeing so many games there waiting for me. Also I didn't have a lot of space in my rented room to keep them. Eventually I slowed down with my frantic purchasing pace, and now I kept playing PC, PS3 and XBOX 360, sometimes buy very concrete retro games, but mostly focus on the most modern ones, indies in particular!

And lastly, what have been the best games you played in the last years?

In chronological order I will mention and explain why I chose them:
  • Virtua Tennis 3 (X360): Loved that arcade feeling, and at the same time it had a wonderful simulator vein with great controls and physics.
  • Uncharted 2 (PS3): The perfection of the formula. I had the feeling that when this second installment of the series, Naughty Dog took each and every feature from a lot of previous great games in the action/adventure genre, mixed them and, after all, be able to put their own innovative touch and crafting a really well-made game.
  • Borderlands: Loved its deep gameplay, also was technically spectacular, and with tons of humour.
  • Nihilumbra: Played it in 2012 on my iPad. Was the game that made me think mobile devices could be really good platforms to play the games I always loved, you only have to design them wisely.
  • Journey: Enjoyed the experience after talking to many people about it, watched many gameplay videos and saw how many awards it got. The real experience lived up and even suprised me.
Do you think that society sees now games in a different way than back in the early 90s, when you started playing?

I think most of the people still sees games as an unproductive activity, but with the time we are witnessing how they are more and more integrated in our day to day life, especially thanks to the mobile devices and things like motion sensors or GPS. Now helped by the rising of the indie scene, games are much more closer to be a medium of expression than they were when I started. It will still take a bit of time for them to become fully widely recognized, maybe a generation.

Continues soon in Part II.

You can get in touch with Jesús on Twitter, he is @JesusFabre

Interview done by @AniolAlcaraz and the rest of the @BeautiFunGames team.

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