Editor’s note: You think you had it tough playing Street Fighter 2 in the arcade at your mall? Lance had to venture into society’s seedy underbelly to get his game on. – Aaron
When I was kid video games were not allowed in the house. This horrible rule led to me spending a lot of time at friends’ houses and at a downtown arcade. The experiences at my friends’ houses were like Retro Game Challenge, the experiences at the downtown Arcade were more like Grand Theft Auto.
The arcade had once been a bar, but had been converted. When I say “converted,” I mean it looked just like a bar, it smelled just like a bar, and I don’t think a lot of the customers realized it wasn’t a bar. My friends and I were the only kids brave enough to go in and that’s because we were too lazy to take the bus to the Roller Skating Place across town. The arcade was ruled by two 25-or-30-year-old guys: Jerry and “Dr. Skills.” Jerry was crazy and sucked at video games — a bad combination. We never found out Dr. Skills’ real name, and his friends did a great job of ensuring it remained a secret.
In the Summer of 1991 Street Fighter 2 had taken over the arcade scene. It was a full year before the game would appear on the Super Nintendo, but at that time I had not even played a Super Nintendo, and I certainly didn’t have the patience to wait a year. So my two friends and I spent a great deal of time in this smoke-filled arcade, trying to get our hands on the one Street Fighter 2 cabinet.
Dr. Skills had skills. He was the best at Street Fighter 2 and was constantly on the machine. My friends and I learned all the moves from watching Dr. Skills do his thing. Jerry was usually right beside him, getting destroyed in his ill-advised attempt to play only as Zangief. When Jerry wasn’t playing, my friends and I had our chance at Dr. Skills.
At first, our gang sucked so bad that we were almost laughed out of the building. But after a few days we noticed that Dr. Skills did not arrive at the arcade until 1 or 2pm, so we started showing up at the second it opened at 11am. We practiced for hours until Jerry and Dr. Skills arrived, and then tried our best to beat the latter.
It must have taken us about a month, and then my bud Adam finally beat Dr. Skills in a round. Adam ended up losing the match, but he won a round! With about two weeks of summer left, we doubled out efforts. One day, I beat Dr. Skills in a round using Chun Li, but he won the match.
We were getting closer.
The day began just like any other. Adam and I made the trip to the arcade. Dr. Skills was there, of course, yet Jerry was nowhere to be seen. Adam started a match. He always played Ken and Dr. Skills always played Ryu. To my complete astonishment — and from the look on Adam’s face — his too, Dr. Skills went down in two quick rounds.
He then told us that we were “annoying little f#$ks” and stormed out of the arcade.
We were stunned for a moment. It was Adam that broke the silence. He shouted loudly about something to do with Dr. Skills’ behind and took a step to his right. The long coveted 1st-player spot was now his. I high-fived Adam,took my spot beside him, and then proceeded to get my butt whooped.
Adam and I felt the victory was bittersweet for our other friend and Jerry were not there. But still Adam relished in his win. For the rest of the summer we had won the arcade. Adam did lose to Dr. Skills from time to time, but we now had control of the cabinet about 75 percent of the time.
The problem we then had was that if we beat Jerry we were in mortal danger… but that is another tale.