Hello again, everybody. I think it’s needless to say that we’re all going through a more than tough time right now, with some of us stuck at home while others are still having to go out there and brave it day in and day out. From all of us here at 101 Gaming Militia, I just want to say stay safe and be smart out there, and hopefully we can bring you a little something each week to help take your mind off things, even if it’s just for a short while. We sincerely thank you for your support and the time you take to check us out each week, and we hope you enjoy the content we work so hard to bring to you here. On a personal note, this space has been a lot of fun for me to dive into, and I hope you’ve liked reading it so far as much as I’ve liked writing it, so thank you. Okay, with that said, let’s jump into something that’s a bit more entertaining, and see if we can have a few smiles together?
So, as much as I would like to, I just don’t get to do a whole lot of video gaming these days anymore, a full-time job, a little one at home, and working on my next two books eating up most of my time, not to mention my evenings at the gym and bringing these articles to you guys each and every week. For quite a while, I’ve pretty much just been a casual gamer as they say, popping in an older title here and there that I can pick up and put down and doesn’t require a whole lot of commitment on my part. But with the stay at home orders in full circulation, I found myself rummaging through some things in search of a movie for my daughter, coming across The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and thought that it might be time to take a trip back to Cyrodiil after so long being away, mostly visiting Skyrim and other fantastic lands. Sitting up that night with a controller in my hands, I began to think about all the time I had spent playing and enjoying video games over the years, my mind unable to keep itself from wandering during the lull of the load screens. I thought about the high points and the brutally low points of just getting thrashed over and over again, some making me chuckle to myself while others still evoked scorn, I’m looking at you Castlevania. I think that every gamer probably has that one moment in their gaming history that sticks out most for them, whether that be something that drew you in for a long time to come or just plain turned you off so that you never wanted to pick up a controller again. There are plenty of frustrating horror stories I think we can all remember to be sure, but for me it’s always more fun to remember our crowning moments in our gaming past, not our miserable failures, and I’d like to tell you about mine right now.
It was probably the summer of ninety-two or ninety-three and I was just a young, awkward kid pedaling my bike around the small town where I grew up. On the weekends, me and my mother would always go on a drive to one of the bigger towns a few miles away, her doing a little shopping for herself and me tagging along mostly to break the boredom and routine of the last week. Tucked away in a shopping mall that we often went to they had a small arcade just outside the movie theaters, nothing fancy or huge but it was always a goodtime when mom would give me a couple bucks to get some quarters so I could go in and play around. We were there this particular weekend and I happened to notice a brand-new machine they had been placed smackdab in the middle of the floor, a group of people gathered around it who were all waiting for their respective turn to play. Well, naturally I had to maneuver my little twelve-year-old self over to see what it was all about, taking up my place at the back of the group to await my own turn at the controls.
As I stood in line, I couldn’t help but watch and listen to everything that was going on, the others standing around letting out groans of pain and bursts of cheers as two players at a time faced off at the cabinet. The sounds that came from the game were of vicious blows being struck and incredible maneuvers being pulled off to beat another player into submission, the glimpses over shoulders and around intervening bodies of the battles being waged enthralling and exciting me more and more. Needless to say, by the time I reached the joystick I was ready to try my hand, eagerly popping in my quarter and foolishly thinking I had a snowball’s chance in hell to do a damn thing.
I stepped up to face an older teenager who so far had beaten the last five or six players that had come before me, probably smirking to himself and knowing he was going to have a more than easy time with his next challenger. I quickly flicked through the eight characters that were there to choose from, almost going with a giant mohawked wrestler but then my eye landed on a fighter that looked even more vicious and badass. He was a squat green little beast with a mane of wild orange hair, and I was sure that with him I would surely conquer the grinning zit face that sat next to me, but oh how naïve and wrong I was.
The ass kicking that followed was a beat down of epic proportions, by poor green buddy taking a barrage of kicks to the mouth and what looked to be a blue fireball straight to the face. In two quick rounds, my dreams of victory were swiftly dashed to pieces, going down for the count only to slink off in defeat with my head drooping low. I once more took my spot in line and awaited my next go around that was to come, attempting to formulate a plan as I tried to watch and see what others were doing and if could pick up on how to do any of the special moves. By the time I reached the front again, that same teenager was still there and sitting secure in his place as the king of the mountain, but I was still determined to knock him off if I could. I once more selected my orange haired pal to accompany me into battle and went at it, but again got smacked around only to have to retreat to the back. I blew every quarter I had on that game that day, going back time after time only for the outcome to always be a the same, me face down in the dirt. Eventually, I managed to at least win a round here and there, my pockets quickly emptying out but the hooks of the game were already sunk in deep. To his credit, the kid that I was playing against did give me a few pointers after a few go arounds, sparing me the experience of becoming completely dejected thanks to the ordeal. I left the arcade that day with a new obsession, already thinking about next week and ready to fight again.
In case you haven’t figured it out just yet, that was my very first experience with Street Fighter II, and Blanka was my guy from then on out. I can’t tell you what appealed to me most about that little green guy, probably the fact that he looked like a ferocious monster when compared to the likes of Ryu or Chun-Li, and I thought that was pretty cool at that point in my life. Every weekend that me mom would go out, I’d hope to stop by that mall and little arcade from then on, ready to hone my skills in another match or two with a fellow fighter or just against the computer itself. But alas, sometimes it just wasn’t to be, either lacking the time or just not having the extra cash to blow on some change. It always sucked that I liked the game so much but lived so far away from the nearest place to play, having to wait out Monday through Friday until the weekend came and with it another chance to hopefully throw down. I had a Sega Genesis at the time and a few other games to play to get me by, but Street Fighter hadn’t been released on my console just yet and that’s what my mania was running high for. There were a few other fighting games at our local video store that I went and rented in hopes of duplicating the feeling of Street Fighter, but all of the them fell short when it came to the pay-off, although I remember one called Fighting Masters was kind of fun in its own way. But still, there was nothing that could replicate the joy of beating the crap out of a stretchy Indian guy with a wild beast man, everything else paling in comparison to my eyes. I desperately wanted to smash anyone that dared to stand up to me in that game, me and Blanka fighting side by side as the true badasses I knew we were. But only getting to play on the odd Saturday here or there did nothing to improve my skill level or give the fix I so desperately needed, my poor little self still getting trounced left and right every time I stepped up to the controls. And then that summer something awesome happened, something that made sure my pockets remained empty for weeks to come but my afternoons were always filled with good times, but I’m not going to tell you what it was just yet.
“Well, what do you mean you’re not going to tell us what it is just yet?” I hear you say. “That’s total bull crap to bait us in and then switch it up on us like that. What about this great moment you told us about, is there anymore of you getting your ass beat, cause I thought that was pretty hilarious, and where are the friggin pizzas, where the hell do they fit in with all of this?!” Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that pay-offs are sometimes better when they’re worth waiting for, and taste a little sweeter when you have to show some patience and put a little work in to get there. I’ve also learned that good stories keep you on the edge of your seat, and you never want to reveal too much too soon or you lose your audience. So, with that said, I think it’s time that I employ a good old literary standby, the cliffhanger ending just to keep you coming back and wanting more, or maybe just to be a jerk depending on your point of view. You want to know what happened that summer to make it so cool, you want to see what became of my journey in the World Warrior Tournament with Blanka at my side, and I bet you can’t wait to know where the flippin pizza is, am I right? Well, I promise that all of these questions will be answered in our get together, so be sure to come back for the exciting conclusion of our epic tail and my crowning moment in video gaming history, well, my history at least. Until next week, gang, be safe and happy gaming. And remember, social distancing saves lives, and if you’re off work, you’re still essential to me. Later!