I’ve always had a fascination with hearing people from the golden age of arcades talk about growing up next to the low buzz of CRT monitors and coin-op rivalries. Penny Arcade recently posted this excellent editorial about our good old pal, Seth Killian— and aside from giving us a great sense of what help makes the man tick, it’s also an excellent history lesson.
Killian traveled to distant arcades during summer and spring break in his college years. Part of these trips was to keep an online reputation for high-level play. Part of it, he admitted with a laugh, was to make money betting on games. The “sort of” gambling turned into actual gambling. “I just loved the action. When gamblers talk like that, I know exactly what they’re talking about. I wanted to win, but the fact that this was happening at all was the thing of it. Gamblers just want to have their money in the game, even if they lose.”
I grew up with my own smoky arcade/hangout in my neighborhood, where it was known that you could also buy cheap pot around back, among other things. I asked Killian if he ever feared for his safety. He didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah. That was not uncommon. I witnessed fights. There was a knife incident at one of the arcades I played at, although I wasn’t there. A lot of players have these kinds of stories, because there’s no question that for as much as I spent time telling my mother that arcades just had a bad reputation, it wasn’t the case. They really were shady places.” He had to ride his bike or find a ride into Chicago to play, since video games were illegal in his town.
There was money to be made in the arcades, sure, but there was also the very real threat of being punched in the face for your efforts.
I don’t want to spoil the whole thing. The article covers a lot of ground of how Seth got introduced to the scene and hooked into the competition of it all. It’s an incredibly good read that everybody should spare a second or two to take a look at. For Seth it’s probably chunk of ancient history. For a good lot of us, it’s the equivalent of sitting around a campfire swapping ghost stories.
You can find the rest over at Penny Arcade. Highly recommended.
Source: Penny Arcade, tip via Miyomei