Disclaimer 1: this a first draft of a piece I wrote a while back that for now I can’t be fucked with finishing. Attack it all you want, I could do with a reason to make it better.
Disclaimer 2: I’m not Californian, or American, I’m a white Scot. If something the characters say or do seems dumb, tell me.
The tangerine glow of the evening was scraped across the Californian sky. Even at this hour the heat was intense. Most of the shops on the main street of town were either closed or closing. Down a side street, a commercial outlet still buzzed with light.
Two men in their twenties were standing face to face inches from each other, their contained fury against each other only just short of spilling over. A crowd made up of a dozen ethnicities around them jeered and hollered.
‘You’re a fucking scrub’ said one to the other. I’d body you free.’ The other stepped forward.
‘You wanna go? You want to fucking go? Let’s do this shit, real talk.’ A man pushed his way through the crowd and separated the the two.
‘Hey hey hey’ he said. Let’s do this for real guys. Come on, let’s see some money. Who likes my boy Dark Magic for ten? Anybody? Okay, step forward man, let’s see that dollar. Okay, anybody like Shin-Stan for ten? Okay, pass it over, let’s do this shit.'
The bookie continued like this for a few minutes until his hands held a large wad of notes and nobody else came forward. ‘Alright,’ he said, ‘we got a game. Let’s go,’ he shouted, ‘let’s go.’ The two men pushed their way through the crowd towards the back of the room.
At the back of the room several men were already huddled around one of the cabinets that hosted the format in which the egos would be settled. It was an obscure anime fighting game imported from Japan. The two men stepped up, and somebody inserted a quarter into the machine. Their hands danced across the joysticks as they selected their avatars and were quicky flung into the match.
[INDENT=1]Packed around the screen the crowd them on. Their hands danced a rapid seemingly[/INDENT]
random dance across the buttons, clattering across the wooden surface of the cabinet as their characters weaved back and forth on the screen, trying to hold invisible lines. One of them landed a clean hit, and one part of the crowd went silent. The other exploded into a frenzy of shouts and calls, many of the members of the pack jumping up and shouting abuse at the foe.
‘OH SHIT SON, EAT THAT FUCKING MIXUP’
‘YO THIS NIGGA’S FREE’
‘THIS BITCH IS FUCKED, PACK IT UP’
The first round ended with one of the avatars being knocked out. If an outsider had walked into the arcade at this moment they might have been stunned by the animal calls and portrayals of violence in what was surely a child’s game. For me it was just another evening with my boys down town, except I had a ten year old boy with me when I walked in the door.
I had gotten stuck with my sister’s son because she figured that as I currently didn’t have a job and she did and she was paying the rent, I didn’t have anything better to do, which I did. Just because what I did didn’t make any money didn’t make it unimportant. Well to me, anyways. I was sat in our living room one day grinding out new *Crescent Moon *combos. I had been sat there for four hours before Christi came in from work.
‘Jay I need you to look after Joe tonight, I’ve got a date’ she said. I didn’t look away from the screen and kept rolling through the same motions on my arcade stick.
‘Aw, another one? Can’t you keep a man? I’m supposed to be at the arcade tonight.’
‘Well just take him with you or something, games are supposed to be for kids.’ I gave her a look.
‘I really don’t think I should take Joe to the arcade, it’s not exactly a kid-friendly place’. And then she got all up on her high horse and started ranting about how she hadn’t been out in a bunch of weeks and was getting depressed about her work so I said okay, I’d look after the boy. I got a call around six from one of the guys I played regularly with asking if I was going to be there, so I said yes and just took the kid with me.
He was a quiet kid, who just liked watching TV and reading comic books. Joe liked games like Tony Hawks and *Medal of Honor and he didn’t understand why the graphics in Crescent Moon *were so bad. I didn’t even argue with him. He didn’t seem fond of the idea of going to the arcade but his mom had spent ten minutes shouting at him about how he wasn’t grateful for all the hard work she put in so he submitted.
As we walked the five blocks to the downtown arcade I asked him how school was, and he said it was okay and he liked art. We didn’t talk about much else. When we got there, we were greeted with the sight of Shin-Stan and Dark Magic’s match for one hundred dollars. In a race to ten games, Dark Magic won eight, with two perfect rounds. Shin Stan didn’t say much afterwards as Dark Magic popped off at him, calling him every name under the sun.
‘I told you, I fucking told you,’ Dark Magic shouted, ‘You scrub. Your Zaus is fucking weak. Lola is number one, real fucking talk.’ Lola was the character he played. Zaus was manned by Shin. We walked in as Dark Magic began his tirade against Shin Stan, and immediately I knew this was a bad idea. I was bringing a ten year old boy into this world. But I have to stress at this point fighting games are really not that bad. Yeah sure, guys do get loud, fucking loud, but I genuinely enjoyed going to that arcade.
As the crowd peeled away from the single cabinet and spread out across the various others, I pushed through it holding Joe’s hand and greeted several of the regulars. I caught the eye of Idaho, Zipcat, DonMessWithMe and a dozen other guys who all greeted me as Nucleus. They were all here to play various games, mostly Capcom games and the odd ArcSys title. But mostly people played Crescent Moon.
It really was just a dumb anime game with stupid characters. But god was it addictive. Apparently there were only ten cabinets in the entirety of the US. Gizmo’s Arcade had five of them. Seeing as it was the only decent new game we had gotten recently, we played the shit out of it. I played as a character named Cassius. I didn’t know the story of the game and I did not care.
I stepped up to one of the cabinets for *Crescent Moon *and played against a guy I hadn’t seen there before. He wasn’t good. He apologized the whole time for his bad play. I only grunted when he lost and went to the back of the queue. I don’t have time for scrubs. I managed to hold my place on the machine for quite a while as Joe stood close by me dwarfed by the crowds and watched.
‘You’re pretty good’ he said.
‘Yep. Best Cassius in the US’ I said. I probably was. I’d only heard rumors of some asian kid on the east coast being decent with him, but I didn’t care about that. I only cared about beating the men in front of me.
‘Can I try?’ said Joe eventually. I had been playing for half an hour and he had been growing impatient. I gave him a heap of quarters out of my pocket.
‘Stand in the queue, wait your turn.’ When it was his turn he put the quarter in and moved the joystick around in his hand.
‘Who should I pick?’ he said.
‘Well,’ I began, ‘people like different characters. Cassius is good, Lola is good, Scott is… no, don’t pick him’. He had hovered the cursor over foreboding dark knight Henrik. ‘Henrik is ass’ I said. ‘Nobody plays him.’ he looked up at me in confusion. ‘But he looks so cool’ he said, a slight whine to his voice.
‘Look,’ I said, just pick one of the better characters. No point in limiting yourself. Pick Strauss, he’s good.’ He shrugged his shoulders and did so.
At first he just kind of flailed around on the joystick, but as we played I spoke to him, giving him hints and tips here and there. He picked things up quickly. He didn’t close to beating me as I didn’t go easy on him, but when he walked to the back of the queue he wasn’t salty about his loss. A lot of the guys I played with would shout and swear and blame the stick when they lost. He didn’t.
Half an hour into my win streak in walked Makaveli, the champ. Makaveli had beaten the best *Crescent Moon *player on the east coast making him the de facto best player in the whole of the west. And he knew it. I heard him before I saw him.
At six foot five he didn’t really fit the asian stereotype, and his slanted eyes didn’t match the brash american mouth from which the constant assurances of his skill poured. His ranting from the front of the arcade reached me from the back as he berated several players as he walked past.
‘What the fuck’ I heard him say. Who’s the kid?’
‘He’s with Nucleus’ somebody said.
‘Well little man better be bringing the goods, I don’t go easy on anybody.’ This put me off my game a bit, I didn’t need some dickwipe bullying my nephew. I lost the match and went over to them.
‘Sup Nuke,’ said Makaveli. ‘Still ass?’
‘I’ve never been ass, you know it’ I said.
‘Who’s the kid?’
‘This is my nephew, Joe.’
‘He any good?’
‘He just started playing.’
‘So he’s ass, like you.’ he turned away from us and got in line. Ten minutes later he had the cabinet under his control. Me and Joe got in line to play against him, and he beat me easily using Lola.
‘You gotta drop that Cassius man,’ he said to me. ‘That’s a scrub character.’ I didn’t say anything. I knew Cassius was good.
When Joe stepped up, Makaveli glanced at him let out a grunt of a laugh. He hit random select and let the computer pick a character for him. I don’t remember who he got, but he beat the shit out of Joe’s Cassius despite the crowd around us booing him playfully. ‘Leave the kid alone’ I heard somebody shout. Makaveli shook his head.
When Joe lost he didn’t say anything. He looked a bit pissed and didn’t look at me.
‘Hey, there are other games,’ I said. ‘Wanna play something else?’
‘Yeah, alright’ he shrugged. I felt bad he had played Makaveli now. It was just a bad thing to happen to a young kid that should be something fun. We went and played some racing game or other and he was smiling after a bit. I felt better about myself. Half hour later we went home, the queue for Crescent Moon still there, Makaveli having given up the machine and resigning himself to insulting everybody else.
‘See you later scrubs’ he shouted as we left.