|Posted by Rob Maerz on September 17, 2015 at 9:50 AM|
Originally published in Classic Video Gamer magazine
The greatest classic video gamers in the world today travelled from all corners of the United States and descended upon Richie Knucklez Arcade in Flemington, NJ for three days of competition beginning March 19, 2010. CVG has exclusive coverage of this prestigious and competitive tournament organized by Mark Alpiger which featured 42 competitors including notables Donald Hayes, Jason Cram, David Race, David Nelson, Ken House, John McAllister and host Richie Knucklez.
“Classic games are where video games started. You have to bring it back to the roots and give credit where credit’s due,” said contestant JoJo Simoncelli, a Web Developer from nearby Manville, NJ. With teammate Michael Vacca, they are the current Double Dragon world record holders. This was Simoncelli’s second straight year competing in CAGDC at Richie Knucklez Arcade and had competed previously at Fun Spot.
“Richie Knucklez is a great guy and he’s bringing it back for everybody. Although a bit smaller, to me it’s just as great as Fun Spot. You have to know your roots: if you want to be good at these modern games you have to be good at something old, too.”
Richie Knucklez Arcade is a showroom that also hosts birthday parties and is a part-time arcade. On Friday nights, the arcade is open for “Flashback Fridays” where the public can pay an admission fee for unlimited play on these museum quality cabinets.
“This will be the second year in a row that we did a tournament with Mark Alpiger for Classic Arcade Gaming (dot com),” said the 41 year old Knucklez. “We did our first tournament with Twin Galaxies about a year prior and it was a huge success. However, Twin Galaxies wanted to focus more on consoles and they wanted me to bring in the newer games. The whole idea of this place is classics and it was starting to dilute my vision. They wanted me to do Wii Punchout and Metallica Guitar Hero contests. I was on the fence, I was about to do it and at the last minute decided to not dilute the vision and stay true to the 80’s classics.”
“I decided that I wanted to start doing classic contests. Jimmy Linderman, who is a contestant here, put me in touch with Mark Alpiger and this will be our second year.”
Knucklez prefers the classic arcade over modern gaming for its social aspect. ”I’m a social person and I like to talk and meet people. Playing at home, sitting there, smelling your own sweat and drinking Red Bulls – that’s not me. Being out in public, meeting people and having fun – now, that’s me.”
One of the highlights of the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon when local J.J. Cahill reached the kill screen on Crazy Kong.
“I started playing Crazy Kong in MAME about a month or two ago,” said Cahill. “My best on MAME was 479,000 which I got a few days ago. Coming here was the first time I got to play on a real Crazy Kong machine and on the second day I got a kill screen.”
Ben Falls would also reach the kill screen on Crazy Kong later in the tournament.
Louisville, Kentucky’s Mark Alpiger, event organizer and co-star of the film “King of Kong” commented on this unique feat:
”Things like that are relatively rare even if it’s because the game has been poorly programmed, which is what you normally have when you reach a kill screen or a screen that you cannot progress past. Whether it’s the split screen on Pac-Man, kill screen on Donkey Kong or in this case Crazy Kong which is a legally licensed version of Donkey Kong for release outside of the U.S. The rarity of this particular game, Crazy Kong, is because it was licensed to sell overseas and there are not many dedicated versions that were designed with the original parts, the original artwork and etc. So, because of that rarity there are not many players able to do it. Anyone reaching the end of any game is rare.”
“Anything that is unusual, rare or one of a kind and with this being the first documented case of someone reaching the kill screen on Crazy Kong it means a lot,” added Alpiger. “We can use that in promotion and congratulate the players because this is about the players. They feel good, they want to go for more records and it challenges each other to try to break other scores. And of course that is what is happening here with Hank Chien on Donkey Kong.”
Hank Chien, the current “King of Kong”, was onsite in an attempt to break his own Donkey Kong world record.
“I am attempting to break my own record because I feel like I have not maximized my potential on this game yet,” said Chien, whose record attempts were being filmed on Saturday and Sunday. “Unfortunately, I didn't accomplish my goal this weekend although I did not expect to break it so quickly.”
“Ultimately, I cannot blame anyone except myself. I think it was a lot of small things put together. Ironically, I have fallen out of practice a little with all the attention that I am getting. Also, I'm not used to playing live with all the noises and distractions surrounding me.”
“I did have a couple of games that had very good potential but came up short. I am point pressing a lot harder now so the amount of risk involved is a lot higher. As the scores get pushed up higher, there will be more luck involved. Specifically, on one game on Saturday, I made a lot of careless timing mistakes due to being out of shape. For example, I missed a "back" jump over a barrel which I am nearly perfect on when in peak form and I also lost track of which direction the conveyer was rolling on one board which cost me another life.”
“In the one game I had on Sunday, which had potential, the machine was just fighting me the whole way through. I also had a lot of bad barrel combinations in that game which didn't help. The current world record is high, but very beatable by several players. I don't think I will hold the world record forever, but at least I want to make it challenging to beat.”
Richie Knucklez believes that the tournament, although competitive, remains a friendly atmosphere.
“Mark (Alpiger) linked us to all the best gamers in the world. The first tournament was a huge success as we sold out all 40 spots. This is our second tournament and we sold out again. Everyone here knows each other and to me while money is fine, it’s more about making friends and having a good time. The mood in this place is ‘I want to win, but I’m here to have a good time.’”
“I’m just hoping John McAllister doesn’t beat my Bosconian score. Every time I see him over there I get the jitters,” said contestant Steve Wagner, whose high score of 340,000 on Bosconian prevailed.
“This year's tourney was very closely contested,” said tournament champion and multi-record holder Donald Hayes. “I knew Dave Nelson and Jason Cram were going to end up being near the top. I also figured Jimmy Linderman would be up there because he had mentioned on the forums before the event that there were a number of games he was good at and a couple of those he kept secret so it was an unknown for the rest of us. I had a couple of those secret games myself too, like Gyruss and Journey, so I think that's part of what helped push me to the top. And I can't leave out Ben Falls who flew in under the radar to take second place.”
“As far as games where the pressure was on, I think Hyper Sports was the big one for me,” added Hayes. “It was played a lot on Friday and Saturday and I finally managed to get the three perfects on the skeet event which raised my score up over the 100K level. I don't think anyone else managed to do the three perfects during the event. One game that drove me nuts was Mario Bros. I practiced on it heavily before the tournament and did manage 369K but fell short of reaching Jimmy's level on it.”