It's Only A Video Game...
by The Finn
You can call me a bastard now. Go on, I’ll wait. Done ? Good. Yes, I bought a Wii. It’s wonderful and sleek and lovely and possesses the most intuitive control system I’ve ever used. And I’ve played a couple of consoles. Currently the PS2, the SNES, the Dreamcast, the Gamecube, the Wii and the Xbox are all connected to the TV. These aren’t every console I’ve ever owned (and there are a few still in the basement, as well as a bunch of handheld systems lying about), but they are the systems I play often. I was goofing around the other day with the Virtual Console feature (it lets you download older games that you may not have had any luck finding at garage sales, swap meets, etc.) when something caught my eye. It was a game that I used to be really good at once and it got me into some serious trouble. I hadn’t played it since.
In case you’re a youngn’ or just not that into games, there was a time when consoles started outpacing the arcades. Tons of new games that were never released for the arcade audience, were coming out on consoles. After initially dismissing the rise of consoles as a trend, arcade games makers started to take notice when their larger francise arcades started to lose money hand over fist. Atari and Namco were the first to feel the pinch and after a year or so, they weren’t alone. But they continued to develop for the arcade.. The initial hope was that they’d at least make back their R&D money in their arcades and sell a few thousand units and make a profit.
One of the first games I remember them making a killing on was Street Fighter II. Street Fighter was released a couple of years earlier and made a modest amount of money. Enough that when a new producer approached Capcom about making a sequel, they said yes. Two years later, there were lines in every arcade in D.C. You couldn’t play the game, at all, unless you stood in line. And even if you stood in line, there was no way you were going to play by yourself. You see, the Street Fighter series is just that, a fighting game. So after you’ve been in line for twenty minutes, you have to play against the guy who been handing dozens of other people their ass. Two minutes later, it’s game over and you’re back in line.
I got eaten alive the first time I played. It was a Sunday morning and there was no one in the arcade except the attendant, a younger Asian kid and myself. As soon as I walked in, I headed over the Street fighter II machine and dropped a quarter. About two minutes into it, my character had been pounded into dust and I was dropping another quarter. The Asian kid came over and started giving some pointers here and there. And after about ten minutes, I was completely hooked. The Asian kid started playing against me a little after that, stomping me every time we played. But I kept at it until I was out of quarters and went back for more. After a week or so of playing at the arcade in the mornings, I got good enough to consistently take the Asian kid down. Since he wouldn’t play against me, and since I worked the afternoons and nights (when the arcade would be full), I started looking around for more machines. And, as luck would have it, I found one.
I didn’t work on Friday nights, and could have gone to the arcade then, but that was family time. And by family time, I mean that I went bowling with the people I lived with. It was always a lot of fun (hey, we were a fun group…) and involved lots of beer and shoe theft. It just wasn’t a Friday night unless we were drunkenly throwing balls at pins that kept moving about. And the bowling alley we frequented had just gotten a Street fighter II machine. We were halfway through our first game when we ran outta beer. And it was my round. So I headed to the bar area, empty pitcher in hand and thoughts of a turkey running through my head. I saw a short line over in the arcade area and headed over to check the action out. And there she was. I watched other players for a few minutes and knew I could take them down. So I went to the bar, grabbed two pitchers, and dropped them off at the lane. I told the guys that I was ditching them and went to the arcade area to rack up some wins.
Which I did for several hours. There were a few guys in the line that provided me with some decent competition, but for the most part I was running the show. Until He came along. A tall redneck with a mullet and a trucker cap, who was insistent on beating me. He had come up through the line like everyone else, talking shit to the guys in front and back of him. He’d been drinking almost as much as I had (after the first four or five rounds, some of the guys around the machine had started to play me for drinks) and by the time he and I were ready to square off, he was slurring like a madman. He finished the rum and coke he had been drinking as he came up to the machine, looked me square in the eye and said “Boy, I’m gonna beat your ass one way or another.”
I laughed him off as he dropped his quarter. And two minutes later, it was over. His character was down and mine was jumping about with jubilant glee. And the redneck pushed me. “Motherfucker,” was all I heard as his hands came crashing into my chest. He knocked me away from the machine and was headed towards me, his head down and his legs gaining speed. Now, I’d been drinking and was just having fun. I didn’t wanna fight this guy, especially not in the bowling alley I went to every week. So I waited on him to get close and sidestepped him, throwing my foot out to trip him. He bounced off the wall behind me and was right back on his feet, swinging and cursing at me. I took a step back, and then another, watching his fists and looking for an opening. But the booze got the better of me.
The booze slowed my reaction time. While looking for an opening I barely noticed his left coming at me. I ducked my head back just in time to save my chin, but not fast enough to save my glasses. He clipped the right lens ever so slightly and knocked them off my face. Let’s get one thing straight, I go Velma immediately without my glasses. I can see about three feet in front of me, but no more. And when I heard them hit the ground and the lenses shatter, I lost it. Fuck being nice to this asshole. All I did was beat him at a video game and he just broke my glasses that I can’t afford to replace. So I rushed him. I got right up in his face and pinned his right arm back. I told him to knock it off and he spit on me. Right in the face. So I head butted him, right in the bridge of the nose. I heard the cartilage go and his scream when his nose broke. I felt him go a little limp in my arms, so I let him drop and proceeded to kick him in the ribs while he was down. After two or three good kicks, I felt my arms get grabbed from behind me and I was pinned against the wall.
The cop who had pinned me against the wall put cuffs on me before he kicked my feet out from under me. Once he had been assured that I wasn’t going to start anything with him, he removed his knee from my back and led me to his car. I spent the night in the drunk tank while the redneck went to the hospital. Luckily he never pressed charges and I was free to go the next morning. But I swore off the bowling alley and Street Fighter for quite some time.