Brian Ho (brianho) wrote,
Brian Ho
brianho

brianho plays the classics

Chad pointed out that my previous update was number 573.  It's fitting that Bemani was the subject of that entry.  If you understand why that's fitting, you are a nerd.  Good for you.

NOTE: I started writing this a month ago and never got around to finishing it until now.  There is likely a reduction of detail as it goes on because I forgot everything by the time I finished the entry!  The dates covered are May 28-31.  The month of June was apparently not meant to be for me and LJ.

This entry will also be about video games.  However, the games are decidedly not Bemani.  Last weekend I planned a trip for myself, Chad, and Zach to attend the 11th Annual International Classic Video Game Tournament at Funspot in Weirs Beach, NH.

Recently, Chad had encouraged me to watch the documentaries Chasing Ghosts and The King of Kong about the classic video game era and the community today.  The Funspot arcade appeared in both documentaries and really appealed to me as a place I'd like to visit.  After doing a little research, I discovered that the classic video game tournament was scheduled for the end of May.

I figured that if I was going to go to the trouble of going out there for a visit, I might as well do so during the tournament for my best chance of meeting interesting people and seeing excellent game play in addtion to just getting to see the place and play the games myself.  I was able to get Chad and Zach on board with the idea of going, so I made all the arrangements.

We flew out late morning on Thursday.  The new Indianapolis airport is quite nice.  I had been there before to drop someone off, but this was my first time actually flying out of there.  It does seem to be a marked improvement over the old airport.  In addition to being bright and airy, everything seemed to flow properly as we were able to make it from the parking lot on a shuttle, through security, to our gate, and onto the plane with a minimum of difficulty.

We had a connecting flight in Detroit to take us on to Manchester, NH.  After about an hour layover, we ended up waiting almost another hour on the plane before taking off.  I actually slept through most of it, but there was apparently some kind of engine trouble that needed to be resolved prior to take off.  At any rate, we were only late into NH by about half the time that we sat on the ground in Detroit, so it wasn't too terribly bad.

From there, we rented a car to make the 40 or so mile drive from Manchester out to Weirs Beach.  I got turned around a couple of times which made the trip take about an hour, but we arrived safely at the Bay Top Motel where we would be staying.  From there, it was off to Funspot.


This picture is actually from Saturday as the weather was cloudy and rainy on Thursday and most of Friday.

It was mid-to-late afternoon by the time we arrived.  It wasn't too terribly busy being a Thursday, but we got ourselves signed into the tournament and received a giant cup of 175 tokens each with our entries.  That first day I think we mostly hung out in the main game room that contains hundreds of games and also serves as the American Classic Arcade Museum.  The museum preserves games from the classic gaming era, which they define as 1987 and before.  But unlike many museums, you're not forbidden from touching the "exhibits".



Funspot bills itself as the "Largest Arcade in the World".  At least within my experience, I would not disagree.  It was definitely a walk down memory lane for me as I grew up playing many of these games.  It's been decades since I've seen many of them and just about as long since I've seen so many games in a single location.  All three of us spent a good deal of time playing old favorites and trying out some of the gems we had missed the first time around.

Of course there was also that tournament going on as well.  My initial thought during the planning phase was simply to be there during the tournament and not compete.  However, after reading the rules, it seemed like it would actually be a lot of fun and we all decided to enter.  Besides, the 175 tokens included with the $30 entry fee was a pretty darn good deal anyway.

There were 15 games selected for the tournament:
1) Lock'n Chase
2) Crazy Climber
3) Moon War
4) Lunar Rescue
5) Rally-X
6) Bump'n Jump
7) Congo Bongo
8 Cheeky Mouse
9) Red Alert
10) Grand Champion
11) Deluxe Space Invaders
12) Video Pinball
13) Commando
14) Pengo
15) Radical Radial

Of these games, I had played 8 prior to the event.  2 more I had at least heard of before.  The rest I had never seen before.

For the tournament, everyone would play all of the games.  The highest scoring player for each game would receive a score of 100%.  Every other player would receive a score of the percentage of the highest score.  Then, all 15 percentages would be added together to get each player's final score--with a maximum score of 1500%.

I knew there would be some amazing talent at the event that could put up scores I'd have no hope of touching.  But, under these rules, it seemed like one could be reasonably competitive in an overall sense by being well-rounded and not just get completely owned by the top players in each game.  While I still didn't expect to actually win anything, I hoped to be able to turn in a respectable performance and finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.

On day 2 (Friday), we ate at Friendly's where Chad and I (and the rest of the group that went to Tokyo Game Action for Bowlmani Festival back in 2007) had some surprisingly good clam chowder.  Surprising because Friendly's is a restaurant like a Shoney's.  I don't really expect anything at a restaurant like that to be exceptionally anything.  So when I had that clam chowder and it was remarkably better than most clam chowder I've had, it stood out.  I suppose the baseline for clam chowder is higher in the east coast/New England area than it is here, so their mediocre chowder may simply be better than what I'm used to.  It was still good on this trip.

I spent much more time playing the tournament games on Friday.  I found myself really getting into the competitive spirit and playing the games repeatedly in an attempt to improve my scores.  I had a lot of fun with some of them.  Others I found so frustrating or terrible that I just posted a score and moved on in disgust.

At some point during the day I think I quit assigning any sort of value to the tokens and started burning through them at an alarming rate.  As is the nature of many of those classic games, it's not entirely unusual for a game to only last 30-60 seconds...at which point I would just chuck another token in and try again.


During the day we also got to meet Walter Day.  If you've seen either of the two documentaries I mentioned above, you understand why that's a big deal.  He's a really nice guy.  I don't think I've ever been so excited to have my picture taken with a guy I didn't really know before.  His celebrity status (at least within that community) combined with the fact that he was actually pleasant and personable made me happy to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Day 3 started with a trip to Patrick's Pub & Eatery--a local restaurant recommended by one of the employees at Funspot.  It turned out to be quite the recommendation!  Both the food and service were top notch.  Chad and I had a seafood chowder that made the clam chowder at Friendly's taste like bath water.  Seriously...it was that good!  I think I'd have to rank it as the best chowder I've ever had.  I declare eating there to be mandatory for any future visits to Weirs Beach.

I made Zach turn bright red with embarrassment with a well-timed gay joke.  He had spent an hour or so on the phone with Brandon the night before.  Chad had assumed he had been talking to Melody, but was learning through conversation that was not the case.  I noticed that our server was approaching our table, so I declared that he had been talking to his boyfriend all that time last night.  When it was obvious that she had to have heard the remark, Zach was visibly embarrassed.  Hilarity.  I am evil.  It was a classic moment.

The third day at the tournament went very much like the day before splitting time between tournament games, other games, and meeting some of the colorful characters in attendance.  I started really obsessing about certain games in the tournament as I started learning or finding techniques that made me (at least feel) somewhat more competitive.  But just when I thought I was starting to do really well at a particular game, I'd see someone play or see someone's score that completely blew me away.  However, rather than being disheartened, I just kept right on playing.

I think I was really spurred on by the fact that standings through the first two days of the tournament were posted for all of us to see.  As I looked across the standings for the various games, I saw that I was generally in the middle of the pack of most of them which made me feel pretty good.  Then I noticed that I was actually listed at the top of one of the lists with a score that was absolutely destroying all of the competition.  I was surprised...and puzzled--especially when I saw what game it was.  It was Red Alert--this rather frustrating and horrible game that I had basically just played a couple of times just to get it done.

As I looked at the score, I quickly realized it was an error.  An extra number had been added in the middle of the score making my three-thousand-something score into THIRTY-thousand-something.  I quickly brought this error to the attention of the organizers who appreciated my honesty.  But quite frankly, the next highest score was something like 12,000, so it wouldn't have taken long for people to suspect a score that was more than double the competition.

After accounting for the error, I estimated I was somewhere around 20th overall among the 160 total entrants.  Of course there was still the rest of the day and a whole other day to go yet, but it still felt pretty good to be reasonably competitive knowing that there was some pretty stiff competition out there.  Unfortunately, to this day I still do not know the full results of the tournament (they haven't been posted so far as I know), but I would suspect that I fell to somewhere in the middle of the pack.

As day 3 drew to a close, we had to prepare for a relatively early morning flight home the next day.  Unfortunately, we would not be able to stay for the entire event.  In hindsight, I think it probably would have been better to have arrived later and stayed to the end.  Oh well...so noted for next time! :)

We sought out Walter Day to say goodbye and also because we heard that they would be giving out gifts to the participants on the final day.  We let him know that we were not going to be around for the last day and he made sure that we received both a commemorative poster that had been signed by many of the attendees--both known and unknown--as well as a bottle of hot sauce provided by Billy Mitchell.  We understand that both items are something of a tradition for this event.

Alas, on day 4 we got up early, checked out of the hotel, and made the drive back to the airport for a relatively routine trip home.  I just have a couple of notes from that experience that I want to document here.

#1 - The TSA is as worthless as I assumed.  As you may know, there is a limit on the amount of liquids that you can take on a plane in your carry-on bag.  I took a bottle of face moisturizer that was too large at 4 oz.  It was almost empty and I didn't have a better container for it, so I figured I wouldn't care if they confiscated it.  I followed all the other rules about putting all the liquid containers in a plastic bag for inspection.

The bottle went straight through Indianapolis without the slightest mention.  It wasn't until the return trip that one of the inspectors in New Hampshire flagged it at which point I just had her throw it away.  In fact, all of the inspections in NH were much more strict from them opening up my laptop to examine it and swab it for explosives to the check-in attendant harassing some lady whose ID didn't quite match the name on her ticket due to the use of an initial.  He even went so far as to call a supervisor down to make a decision on what to do with her.  I wasn't there long enough to see the result.

My point in relating this story is simply that I already find these inspections to be more show than substance.  Much like locking one's doors, they simply serve to "keep the honest people honest."  If people really want to screw with a plane, I have little faith that these measures are going to stop them.  And now I have personally experienced inconsistencies in the process that make me doubt its effectiveness even further.  I think they only thing the TSA seems to be really good at is making the experience of flying more miserable than it has to be.

#2 - On the last leg of our flight home from Detroit to Indianapolis, Chad sat next to a girl flying to Indianapolis for an internship.  This particular plane was somewhat smaller and rather nice.  It was probably the quietest I have ever been on.  As a result, I could hear that they were talking almost the entire flight even though they were several rows back from me.  I couldn't understand most of what they were saying, but I could tell it was them.

Anyway, by the end of the flight, Chad had failed to get the girl's phone number...or even her name, for that matter!  I mean, she seemed quite nice and she was coming to an unfamiliar city that Chad happens to now live in.  I'm not saying anything major would or should come from this, but it seemed like the makings of at least a pleasant friendship...or a Facebook add...or something!  But alas, no amount of coercion on mine or Zach's part seemed to convince Chad to at least form some kind of connection beyond that hour on the plane.  Part of my coercion was a threat to blog about his failure...so now I have done so. Chad fails at being single. :)
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