Monday, June 2, 2008

The Funspot Tournament, Part 1

Act 1: They Meet

So this past weekend was the 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament at Funspot. Guinness was on tap (heee) to document any official records, and I was bound and determined to be there, too! The caveat was that if it was to happen, our two toddlers were going to have to come along for the ride. So on Sunday, around 10 AM, we loaded them into the car, picked up our good friend Chris, and headed north.

The Funspot Angle

When we first got there, it was a little overwhelming. This is it? We're really here, at the Funspot? The place is HUGE, much bigger than it looks from the outside. We started in the lower level, which contained a bowling alley and tavern on one side, and a kiddie area with little bumper cars and kid-style rides and games on the other. My daughter had a BLAST on all that stuff, and it was nice to know that there was something there for her too.

And then we went upstairs. Oh MAN, it was unbelievable! There was a whole row of pac-man series games, and almost every arcade game I loved as a teenager. I mean Crossbow, they had it, and Timber, Moon Patrol, Spy Hunter, Qix…I would go so far as to say they had a plethora of games. There were these weird surreal moments, like when I was walking past Wonderboy and heard the sounds coming out of that game, it was a complete auditory trigger, like suddenly being 18 again, just for a flicker. Almost like the Butterfly Effect movie. It's hard to describe, but it literally brings you back.

Memorabilia case at Funspot

I really wish I'd had more time to play the games (and the presence of mind to take more pictures!), but I did get to visit some of my old favorites - Crossbow, Dig Dug, Gauntlet, and Timber.

I'm just so thrilled to know that there are still places like this around, and thanks to everyone at The American Classic Arcade Museum there who makes this bastion of classic arcadia possible. I’m told they had even more machines there this year than the year before, so it seems they're still adding games. Please, Funspot, can you get Kiwi Kraze (The New Zealand Story) for when we go next year? I never did get much farther than the whale boss at the end of the first stage, and I'd love to try again!

The King of Kong Angle

I’d just like the record to reflect, I am NOT a King of Kong groupie! Err…well, maybe I am. I admit, that’s what drew us to Funspot in the first place, and I was very much hoping to see some of the faces from the movie. I didn't see anyone I recognized for quite a while, though I was pretty sure I'd seen Brian Kuh walk by (he’s local, so I fully expected to see him there), and that guy there eating pizza in the cafĂ© looked a lot like Todd Rogers. It wasn't until after lunch, though, that Chris said, "Hey, I think I just saw the Xybots guy!" I said, "Where??" and naturally, the reply was, "Playing Xybots around the corner." Duh.

We stealthed on over, and sure enough it was true. I didn't really know what to do (I often wuss out on this stuff in person), so my husband basically just walked up and said, "Hey, aren't you the Xybots guy?" Thanks, honey! He was indeed Joel Hedge, the Xybots guy.

Joel Hedge explains the finer points of Xybots

He was really nice, and talked with us for quite some time about Xybots, Funspot, and so forth. The subject of "the wall" came up, and I hadn't seen it yet, so he took us over to see it. "The wall", really is more "the hall" as it is quite expansive, incorporating both sides of the upper entryway (there is actually a third section I didn’t capture). And a very large portion of it belongs to Brian Kuh.

The Funspot Wall of Fame

The Funspot Wall of Fame continued

You know when you have a really, really favorite pair of pants, or maybe a shirt? I'm talking an article of clothing that is just so "you" that it feels like it was made for you, you regard it as almost on par with your actual friends, and you just want to wear it all the time? I mean, like, you'd wear it every day if you could get away with it? Brian, you totally get where I’m coming from! (j/k...Brian actually achieved all those records on the same day!)

So towards the end of my conversation with Joel, we noticed Walter Day walk by. I'd corresponded with him a bit before the tournament, and had been looking forward to meeting him. So I made a mental note of where he'd gone, and shortly thereafter, Joel headed off for some more gaming, so I went to try and track down Walter. Now I had the perfect greeting line all prepared, I was going to walk right up to Walter and slyly say, “So, I hear you’re good at centipede…” Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I caught him on his way in the other direction with two official-looking people (tournament registrants, I believe), and only managed to choke out a "Hi, Walter?"…which was enough to make him pause, at least, and I introduced myself. I was psyched that he did know who I was, but asked if he was busy. He said yes, at that moment, but that he'd try to catch me later.

Right after that, I saw this Brian Kuh fellow in the hallway, and, buoyed by my recent success, decided to go ahead and speak up. He was indeed Brian Kuh, and though he refused to reveal the secrets of retiring at 30, he was amiable enough (I think he's used to being recognized), and said he'd check out my remake casting choices (really, I've got to find Steve Buscemi an understudy, because Brian's WAY young for Steve to pull it off I'm afraid). I asked how the tournament was going, and he said that unfortunately he’d lost a high score (and now I can’t remember on what, curse my swiss cheese memory!) but overall it was going well. We didn’t talk for too long, and I figured it was about time to check on the family, who I’d sort of left to fend for themselves.

Brian Kuh and I think Todd Rogers

What happened next was utterly serendipitous. Colin was starting to voice his displeasure again (i.e., prepping a tantrum), and I said, hey, let me go grab him a bottle out of the car. As I walked out the entrance, I passed Walter, on the phone. He paused and said he'd be free in just a minute, and I said, great! I went to the car, got the bottle, and as I was coming back, Walter gave me the universal sign language signal for "hold on a second" (you know, the pointy finger in the air). He says to the caller on the other line, "Billy…" and my internal monologue went, no way…are you kidding me? as I realized what was unfolding. "Billy, I'm about to do an interview with someone here, but I thought she might like to say hello."

Next thing I know, I'm on the phone with Billy Mitchell.

TO BE CONTINUED... (tomorrow!)

PS - OMG, Robert Mruczek posted the following sequel teaser on the official boards...had to share:

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