Hometown Blues

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

We are now officially t-minus three days away from VERSUS! Plus I’m just few short hours away from taking the bus up to Seattle. And because I’m filled with nervous energy that needs to be directed somehow, here’s a quick recap of my week back home.

To be honest, there’s not that much to say, other than how Lakewood, WA is as depressing as ever. Which was to be expected, but this year’s dosage was the worst. On the plus side, I finally got the chance to spend some time in downtown Tacoma, where all the excitement (supposedly) is, with my b-fry from back in the day, Suzanne, plus her husband Mark.

They took me to Wingman Brewers, a relatively brand new entity that just opened its doors to the public. If you’re familiar with Barcade in Brooklyn, imagine that place with just two dusty old arcade machines and 1/50 the amount of people?

The lack of people, even for a Friday night, was certainly not indicative of the quality of their spirits. Far from it; they serve a variety of wacky, seasonal ales that are pretty fantastic, like the strawberry flavored beer I had that night?

Nope, Tacoma is just simply dead. There honestly is not much going on, because there are hardly any people anywhere, or at least it feels like it. Anyhow, back to Wingman Brewers; they really play up the areal angle, to good effect?

Because last call was 11pm (lol), was taken to a swanky bar and grill by the water. Was totally unprepared for an August evening in which I’d be freezing my ass off. Thankfully there was an open flame out are table?

? Instead of pitchers, large quantities of beer are served in jugs that the locals call “growlers.” I have no idea if this is a term that has existed in these parts for some time now, or if it’s a recent thing (and a lame attempt to give Tacoma some identity).

Anyhow, because we were near the glass museum, we decided to take a drunken, late night stroll. Again, the city is a ghost town?

Thanks to all the funky architecture, it felt like we were roaming the streets of some post apocalyptic cityscape, something along the lines of Logan’s Run. Which is a cool thing, btw.

Suzy kept saying that all nightlife happens on 6th Ave. Which we passed by; there was like one bar with maybe 4 people outside. BTW, I actually have been to Seattle already. For just a few hours. Enough so my dad could finally go on the big ferris wheel that they recently built, near the waterfront?

Also stopped by Pike Place Market for a bit, till my dad became too exhausted and grumpy (again, for all the details pertaining my attempts at entertaining my father this time around, I only share such sensitive info offline I’m afraid, though some moments too good not to share sometimes appear on Twitter)?

Meanwhile, and more up my dad’s alley, is Cabella’s. Which is this big hunting, fishing, and outdoor supply shop, as if you couldn’t tell by the following display?


Remember, there are strictly for “hunting”?

A place that has tons and tons of guns needs tons and tons of bullets, right?


Anyhow, no trip back home is complete without a stop at the B&I?

? I’ve mentioned the place, plenty of times already, but once again: it used to be my favorite place on earth growing up. And it used to be jam-packed with game players; I don’t know for certain, but I’m confident that it used to be (and still technically might be) the biggest arcade in Washington State.

Yes, even more so than Gameworks in Seattle; despite being bigger, there’s simply more machines per square foot in the South Tacoma landmark. I also think the numbers give Funspot a run for its money. But today it too is a ghost town in every sense?

B&I’s arcade has (or should I say had) an amazing selection. Too bad everything?s it total disarray. It’s hard to tell which happened first: everything falling apart, due to lack of interest, or people no longer showing up, due to the neglect that the machines exhibit?

Amazingly enough, the fighting game row, above, are filled with machines that still mostly work. Which is a real surprise, given how much abuse such things generally get. One can also find some truly obscure titles?

But totally unheard of games can be found all over the place, transcending all kinds of genres. Seriously, who out there remembers Demon?s World by Catalina? I haven’t, and I consider myself an expert on the subject?

Though once more, the vast majority of machines are all falling apart at the seams. Here we have the original Ninja Gaiden for the arcade, with all the colors in reverse?

Video games aren’t the only things that are busted. You also have pinball machines?

And even the kid’s stuff?

Behind the somewhat operational cabinets you’ll find ones that are completely dead?

I was looking everywhere for that Virtua Racing cab that was split into two, from last time. Instead, I found Galaxy Force, in a similar sad state of affairs?

Still, the place is not without its charm. Like artifacts from the B&I’s most recent attempt at breathing new life into its walls; every few years the owners trying to revitalize things, but it never sticks. Here we have a beautiful rendering of a DDR game if I don?t say so myself?

You’d think this ninja was painted back during the early 90s, due to the Mortal Kombat. But nope, it’s pretty recent?

Pretty much the only machine I halfway care about, and which is semi-operational is Virtua Fighter?

Unfortunately, the screen is starting to go; the image is slightly warped to the right, Plus the stick totally sticks. But it still got it?

Seriously, God bless Sega, the Model 1, and flat shaded polygons?

Anyhow, the entire scene is depressing as hell. The B&I was where many of my most fondest, formative memories as they relate to gaming was forged. Though on that note, yesterday I discovered something else: an old friend of mine from elementary school/junior high/senior high? and whose whereabouts I enquired about, this past Saturday? passed away, that very same day.

I used to go over to this guy’s house all the time as a kid to spend the night, with the latest and greatest NES games in hand. There are so many fond memories, passing the controller back and forth, trying to beat both Zelda 1 & 2 in a single evening. And I believe we succeeded.

He was also the very first kid I knew to get a Genesis, way back before Sonic entered the picture. My first taste was Revenge of Shinobi, btw. I feel weird giving out his name here, and will simply say that he left this earth far too soon and will dearly missed.

Well? back to VERSUS: we’re in the home stretch, in which myself and Jon, plus the rest of the Fangamer crew, must put together all the pieces for this Saturday night. Am hoping for a decent turn out, and with all the pre-show buzz it has been gotten, I believe that will be the case. Including nice mentions in Destructoid, Joystiq, plus Tiny Cart (and more than just once no less)! Oh, and I was kinda/sorta interviewed by Polygon.

[UPDATE] ALBOTAS and 4 Color Rebellion just posted write ups as well. Thanks guys!

One more thing: remember that new job I mentioned last time? Didn’t really say too much because it wasn’t 100%. But now that I’ve received the contracts, and signed them, it’s official: I’m a teacher once more! Or should I say, I’m an adjust professor! For a small liberal arts college in upstate in New York. Again, more info to come. Sorry, gotta split; bus is almost here!

See you in Seattle, see you at PAX Prime, see you at Fangamer VERSUS Attract Mode!

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