What?s up fellas. For the past year or so I?ve been in and out of SRK catching the SFIV hype and browsing around the CvS2 forums. My exposure to SRK and its? community started small with me using the site to look up CvS2 combos and to check on what upcoming fighting games were coming out. It went from checking the website every week, to me checking it out every day, to me downloading Gooteck?s podcasts and Alphaism Radio so I could listen to it at work. SRK was crack, except instead of being an addictive substance that would lead me to a downward spiral, it was a website with a devoted fanbase of players that could possibly lead me to a downward spiral and might possibly sell crack.
What SRK, Gootecks and the community have reignited in me is my excitement for fighting games and and the scene. I started reminiscing about playing Street Fighter while I was growing up and decided to start a blog about some of the fighting game experiences of my youth. The following is the first three entries in my blog, of which I plan on writing a lot more in. I would also like to hear stories from SRK members, their experiences growing up and the golden age of the arcade scene.
Some information about myself: My name is Khoa Nguyen (yes, I am Vietnamese) and am 22 years old. I grew up in South Sacramento and moved back there to live after going to UC Davis for college. During my college years, I was the Director of the UC Davis Asian American Film Festival and was involved with a lot of campus organizations. I would like to someday use my event and planning experience to help run tournaments/events. I currently work full time as an Office Technician for the CA Dept. of Corrections , Office of Workforce Planning in Sacramento. I first started getting into the fighting game scene seriously when I picked up CvS2 a year ago, but still need to improve my game on that. I have SF4 (Xbox) and my gamertag is the same as my handle (vStrife).
The first three posts of my blog, which can be visited at vstrife.wordpress.com:
a hungry kid
As a kid growing up, my family was somewhat poor (?somewhat? being synonymous with ?very?) and we didn?t have very much to do for entertainment. On the weekends, my family would often get together with my cousins, relatives, and parent?s friends? houses so that we could hang out with family and so that my brother and I could hang out with my cousins. Around that age (I think I was around 7), my weekends consisted of running around with my cousins/relatives and playing ?hide and go seek?, four square, making paper ninja stars and occasionally watching Disney movies that our parents would rent to keep all of the kids entertained for a cheap price (about $1.99 back then to keep a group of maybe 15 kids entertained).
When they weren?t watching movies with us, the older kids were in a separate room playing videogames. Because there was only one Super Nintendo which my older cousin owned and because there were about 7/8 older kids, I never got to touch videogames much when I was around that age. I felt lucky when I was actually allowed to watch them play, a privilege I often earned from hanging out with my older sister and ditching the other kids so I can get a glimpse of what the older kids were doing. Since there were so many kids, Street Fighter II was the game they played most because it allowed for two players and because it was easy for everyone to get a turn. I remember watching them play and wanting more than anything in the world for a chance to get my hands on a controller. I was a smart kid and felt gratitude for being allowed to watch. I was afraid if that I asked to play, I would get kicked out of the older kids? room and become banned (this is what happened to my cousin). So what seemed like years (it was probably more like 2 weeks) I waited, and watched, and waited??
my first bite
The first time I actually got to play was during one of those weekend family get together at my cousin?s house again (his parents hosted a lot of parties and they had the biggest house at the time, a two story). The older kids took a break from playing so that they could go eat pizza or something, so my brother and I took the SNES controllers and pressed start to get to the character select screen. I remember Blanka looking the most interesting out of the characters (probably because he was green and looked like a monster) and picked him. My brother picked Vega (Claw) and proceeded to hand my ass to me the first round by clawing me to death. I lost that match (the first of very many in my life) and then chose Bison. After messing around for a couple of matches, the older kids came back and claimed the SNES from us.
This is where my fascination started. One of the other kids picked Blanka and started to do electricity and Blanka balls while the other kid spammed Bison?s psycho crusher. My socks were rocked. These guys were doing special moves that I had no idea how to do and could not execute while I was playing. I had seen them play many times before, but after playing the game myself for a couple of rounds it seemed like a completely different game. The other kids who weren?t playing were getting excited and talking a lot of trash while waiting for their turns to play. I remember thinking at that moment, ?I want to get good at this game and beat my cousins so they would let me play with them?. That?s when it started.
Every year when I was growing up, I would always look forward to Vietnamese New Year (aka Tet). For those of you that don?t know, Tet is the celebration of New Year based on the lunar calendar. During the holiday, children receive red envelopes with money inside from their elders for good fortune. This was the only time of the year that I was able to generate some income and go out to buy what I wanted. So for the 11 months before Tet, I would think about which game I wanted to get and waited until the holiday to actually get it. I didn?t get any games for Christmas, my parents usually went out and bought something I needed (usually clothes, one time I got socks) instead of toys because they didn?t think I needed fighting games to survive (they were wrong).
Street Fighter Alpha 2 was released December 20th, 1996 on the SNES, a few months before Tet. I saw the ad for it in a GamePro magazine and needed napkins from all the drool that I produced on reaction. I didn?t figure out until a couple years ago that this version was ?graphically decompressed?, but it?s not like I would?ve cared when I was a kid, I just wanted to do shinku hadokens all day. The cartridge itself was actually really expensive ($69.99 in 1997, which would probably be somewhere close to $100.00 accounting for inflation) and I only had $50 from Tet. My parents filled the gap and I came home the luckiest kid alive that day.
When I first started playing, all I did was go through the instruction booklet and try to do every characters super movies and specials. I remember it took me a couple of days just to execute everyone?s moves, Charlie?s Somersault Justice being the most difficult because my 6th grade brain couldn?t comprehend the downback, downforward, dowback, upforward charge. My playstyle back then was that I didn?t have one, I just mashed shoryuken/hadoken all day and tried to do my special when I got it. I played the game for the longest I played any game (about three or four years) and sold it to Gamestop in 2000 so that I could get that crappy port of Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter for my PS1. This is a decision that I have regretted everyday of life (slight exaggeration).
the arcades of my youth
As a kid, I remember watching more arcade Street Fighter than actually playing it. Going to the arcades, my parents usually only gave me a couple of dollars to spend. Even then, I was smart enough to know that I didn?t want to waste my money getting my ass handed to me by the locals. Growing up in South Sacramento in the 90s, there were three places that I went to go watch Street Fighter.
The first place I remember was Camelot Park, a mini-golf arcade that seemed like heaven to me. I remember going there with my dad and brother for what was probably my seventh birthday and having the time of my life. There were also a lot of gangsters that hung out there and supposedly caused a lot of trouble. Camelot Park closed down a couple of years after it opened due to a high rate of gang activity. What supposedly tipped the iceberg was a fatal shooting where a couple of kids got critically injured and one died.
The most popular place I remember after Camelot Park was the Florin Mall ?Tilt?. When my sisters used to go shopping, this is where they dropped me off to spend the day. This is where I first saw many of the games that marked my childhood (Super Turbo, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Children of the Atom, Tekken, etc.). One of my fondest memories is my cousin and his friend getting kicked out of the arcade for dropping f-bombs while playing X-Men vs. Street Fighter. The crowds here were always rowdy and loud on the weekends and I was always in the back trying to catch a good view of matches.
What happened to Florin Mall Tilt throughout the years is probably similar to what happened to a lot of arcades. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 seemed like the peak of the arcade with the most people ever packed inside. After that, it seemed the arcade stopped getting new games and the machines started getting run down. It may have also suffered because of the declining quality of the mall itself. The Sacramento Bee describes the mall as ?..once the jewel of Sacramento’s retail scene before rising crime in the area and the defection of two of its three anchor stores tarnished its image."
The place I went to most as a kid was a Lamppost Pizza restaurant that had about three arcade cabinets in a hallway (I wouldn?t even call it a room) that was a couple of miles near my house. I remember walking there on weekends for miles with a group of people in our neighborhood (friends, friends? brothers, friends? brothers? cousins, etc.) to play Street Fighter vs. X-Men and watch the local comp. The walk was exactly three miles from my childhood home (I just googled it) and I remember having a lot of fun walking home and talking about what we saw after a day?s worth of games. There was also a time I remember when someone tried to jack my bike from me when I was a little bit older. Ahh, good times.
A special note about X-Men vs. Street Fighter: When I first saw X-Men vs. Street Fighter, it seemed like a nerd dream that was too good to be true. No game has ever excited me as much as when I first saw XvSF. Not then, not now and probably not ever. I simply had never seen anything like it. It wasn?t only the fact that I could pair up my Ryu with Gambit, it was also the mechanics of game and the flashiness of it all. Ryu?s Super Hadouken was full screen and looked like it was something out of Dragonball Z (of which I was a fan of at the time too). I ate it all up.
more to come…