Happiness is a Super-Turbo

SKL Arcades & Amusements icon-external-link-12x12 came out today to give my broken down Super-Turbo icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 arcade machine a sorely needed tune-up.

I have wanted an arcade version of Street Fighter II since I was a kid, and have probably checked Craig’s List and eBay listings off and on for more than ten years. I finally broke down and bought one last September from a kind but conflicted gentleman in Sacramento; his girlfriend was making him get rid of it. She had clearly put her foot down in the most convincing of ways—in that special way only a woman is capable of—and he was going to give it to me for an even $1000.

We had a very pleasant visit, but there was a recurring expression of pain in his face as we were talking, and I noticed that he became increasingly unnerved as we approached the transaction-phase of our meeting. This pain was in no ways contrived, and since I am not without empathy, I gave him $1200: an extra $200. This was still a good deal for me, and it took a little bit of the edge off the evening.

I am going to digress for a moment so I can also share that this gentleman had Stephen King novels strewn about the living room, and collectible comic books adorning the walls. This lead me to ask if he was a Stephen King fan and he responded, “I am now.” Understanding his meaning, I then asked a rhetorical question: “Is part of the deal that she also read some of your comic books?” He paused for a moment, his eyes temporarily transforming into windows that revealed the compounded depths of a man’s soul when it reaches this particular crossroad in life and must fumble a decision—no response was given.

At least it was Stephen King and not William Faulkner. He will be okay, and there is a good chance that some of the comic books will survive.

The colors in the cabinet’s CRT monitor were a little bit off, and the screen jiggled from time to time, but it was in excellent shape overall. I also received an additional board for Super Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12, the previous iteration of the game. About three months ago, the power supply burned out which rendered it unplayable, but a new $40 replacement part installed by a pair of skillful hands from SKL got the game running again in no time. Most of the display issues were also fixed through fairly simple adjustments and recalibrations. The screen-jiggle persists, however, as the monitor PCB will need new capacitors for this to be corrected. This is a relatively minor visual problem and a decent amount of time will be necessary to perform the repair, so it will be a job for another day.

We live in an era of ultra-HD displays, but a healthy and color-rich CRT monitor can still work wonderfully for gaming. I also found out that the cabinet was produced by Data East icon-external-link-12x12 circa 1991 and it likely housed Captain America and the Avengers icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 when it was produced.

The original battery was still in the game board, meaning that it was pushing 24 years in age! This is pretty amazing when considering that these things are supposed to be replaced every five or so years. When the battery fizzles out, the game board fizzles out with it—forever. This bizarre phenomenon is infamous in arcade gaming circles and came to be known as the dreadful suicide battery icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12.

Given the cabinet’s heritage, and the fact that it uses the CPS-2 icon-external-link-12x12 game boards, it might be appropriate for me to pick up a copy of Marvel vs Capcom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 at some point in the future. CPS-2 uses what are essentially giant cartridges and this allowed a Capcom arcade system to be transformed from one game into another without much difficulty. Other CPS-2 titles include Super Street Fighter II (mentioned above), X-Men: Children of the Atom, Dungeons & Dragons, X-Men vs Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and the entire Street Fighter Alpha series.

This arcade machine has been and continues to be an instrument of joy—in its previous form (“Avengers assemble!”), in its present form (“Hadoken!), and in any additional forms in-between that have been lost to time.

Keep On Singing

Tag Walls, Punch Fascists icon-external-link-12x12 (track 15 from the Memories of Tokyo-to LP by 2 Mello icon-external-link-12x12 )

2 Mello's "Memories of Tokyo-to" album cover. [Formatted]

Rock the Beat!! icon-external-link-12x12 (track 12 from the Memories of Tokyo-to LP)
Ba-da-Ba icon-external-link-12x12 (track 17 from the Memories of Tokyo-to LP)

A Nurturing Society

Excerpt from the book Masters of Doom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by David Kushner icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

David Kushner's "Masters of Doom" book cover. [Formatted]

     Like a lot of parents in 1993, Bill Andersen knew exactly what his nine-year-old son wanted for Christmas: Mortal Kombat. The home version of the violent arcade fighting game was the hottest thing going, eclipsing even Street Fighter II with over 6.5 million sales. Andersen lamented about the game to his boss, an ambitious Democratic senator from Connecticut named Joseph Lieberman. Senator Lieberman listened intently to his chief of staff. He wanted to see the game for himself.
     Mortal Kombat defied his imagination. Secret moves let players rip the spines from their opponents in gushes of blood on screen. More distressing to the senator, gamers seemed to prefer the brutality; the more graphically gory version of Mortal Kombat for the Sega Genesis home video game system was outselling the blood-free version for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System three to one. The success of the Sega version had dealt a staggering blow to Nintendo, which had demanded that the developer of the game, Acclaim, remove the controversial “death moves” to adhere to the company’s family values. By choosing to release the blood-and-guts version, Sega became the new must-have system, racking up nearly 15 million units in sales. Nintendo’s squeaky clean perch, for the first time in the industry’s history, was gone.
     And this wasn’t the only such game. Senator Lieberman came across Night Trap, a big-budget title for the new Sega system that included live-action footage of scantily clad sorority girls—including one portrayed by Dana Plato, former child star on the TV show Diff’rent Strokes—being attacked by vampires. Violent films like Reservoir Dogs and Terminator 2 had conquered Hollywood; now an edgier, more aggressive video game age seemed to be dawning too. On December 1, 1993, Senator Lieberman called a press conference to blow the whistle.
     Beside him sat Democratic senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, chairperson of the Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice and chair of the Subcommittee on Government Regulation and Information. Senator Lieberman was also joined by a somber Captain Kangaroo, the children’s television host Bob Keeshan. Kohl said, “The days of Lincoln Logs and Matchbox cars” had been replaced by “video games complete with screams of pain [that] are enough to give adults nightmares.” Keeshan warned of “the lessons learned by a child as an active participant in violence-oriented video games… lessons the thinking parent would shun like a plague. Indeed it could become a plague upon their house.” He urged game developers to “understand their role in a nurturing society.”
     Senator Lieberman took it as a call to arms. “After watching these violent video games,” he said, “I personally believe it is irresponsible for some in the video game industry to produce them. I wish we could ban them.”
     This wasn’t the first time that America’s political and moral establishment had tried to save youth from their own burgeoning culture. Shortly after the Civil War, religious leaders assailed pulp novels as “Satan’s efficient agents to advance his kingdom by destroying the young.” In the twenties, motion pictures were viewed as the new corrupter of children, inspiring sensational media-effects research that would be cited for decades. In the fifties, Elvis was shown only from the waist up on television; MAD magazine’s publisher, William Gaines, was brought before Congress. In the seventies, Dungeons and Dragons, with all its demons and sorcery, became associated with Satanism, particularly after a player enacting the game disappeared under the steam tunnels of a Michigan university. In the eighties, heavy metal artists like Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were sued for allegedly invoking young listeners to commit suicide. In the nineties, video games were the new rock ‘n’ roll—dangerous and uncontrolled.
     This sentiment was a long time coming. The roots were in the thirties, when pinball arcades were thought to be havens for hoodlums and gamblers. New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia placed a ban on pinball that lasted until the mid-seventies. By then the controversial arcade game Death Race, which featured players driving over pedestrianlike stick figures, had made headlines. As the golden age of arcade and home video games exploded into a $6 billion industry in the early eighties, concerns over the potential ill effects on children exploded.
     In 1982 the national Parent Teacher Association issued a statement decrying game arcades. “The PTA is concerned over the increasing number of video game sites which may have an adverse effect on many of the young people who frequent such establishments… Initial studies have shown that game sites are often in close proximity to schools. In many cases there is not adequate control of access by school-age children during school hours, which compounds the problem of school absenteeism and truancy. Where little or no supervision exists, drug-selling, drug use, drinking, gambling, increased gang activities and other such behaviors may be seen.”
     Cities including Mesquite, Texas; Bradley, Illinois; and Snellville, Georgia, began to restrict or ban access to arcades. “Children are putting their book fees, lunch money, and all the quarters they can get their hands on into these machines,” said Bradley’s mayor in 1982 after he saw “hundreds of teenagers smoking marijuana in a video arcade in a nearby town.” Though the Supreme Court overturned the bans following the Mesquite incident, countries including Malaysia, the Philipines, Singapore, and Indonesia not only banned video games but shut down arcades.
     The media began to stoke the flames with headlines like “Video Games—Fun or Serious Threat?” in U.S. News & World Report and “Video game Fever—Peril or Payoff for the Computer Generation” in Children’s Health. “The video game craze,” said the newscaster Robert MacNeil on PBS, “is it warping young minds or educating them for the future?”
     Scientists, academics, and various pundits struggled to come up with the answers. C. Everett Koop, the U.S. surgeon general, fired a sensational salvo when he stated that video games were causing “aberrations in childhood behavior.” Children are into the games body and soul—everything is zapping the enemy. Children get to the point where they see another child being molested by a third child, they just sit back.”
     Newsweek reported on others following suit: “Dr. Nicholas Pott, who treats two such patients at a clinic at North General-Joint Disease Hospital in New York, says disturbed youths may dodge reality and human contacts as well as meteorites. The clinic director, Dr. Hal Fishkin, objects to the repeated kill-or-be-killed theme. ‘We don’t need more fodder for the violence mill,’ he says. Others worry about subliminal messages that the medium may transmit. ‘The more you can titillate your emotions, the less tolerant and patient you are going to be for things that don’t deliver as fast,’ says Fred Williams, professor of communications at the University of Southern California.”
     Despite the assertions, not all academics found substantiation for the damaging effects of video games. “There is no evidence to indicate that the games encourage social isolation, anger, antisocial behavior, and compulsivity,” concluded the Journal of Psychology. Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, praised video games’ ability to provide encouragement to emotionally disturbed or retarded children. “A lot of kids who are good at this are not good at other things,” she said. “This mastery experience is very important.” But when the video game industry bloated and crashed in 1983, so did the rhetoric—for the time being.
     Ten years later, on the morning of Thursday, December 9, 1993, Senator Lieberman reignited the cause with the first federal hearings on violent video games. The hearings were filled with impassioned statements by expert witnesses who decried the new scourge. Dr. Eugene Provenzo, a professor who authored a book called Video Kids: Making Sense of Nintendo, proclaimed that “video games are overwhelmingly violent, sexist, and racist.” Robert Chase, president of the National Education Association, suggested that games incite real-life violence. “Because they are active rather than passive, [video games] can do more than desensitize impressionable children to violence,” he said. “They actually encourage violence as the resolution of the first resort by rewarding participants for killing one’s opponents in the most grisly ways imaginable.”
     Later, Howard Lincoln, the executive vice president of Nintendo of America, and William White, vice president of marketing and communications for Sega of America, took their brawl over Mortal Kombat to the stage. Lincoln portrayed Nintendo as the martyred defender of family values. White argued that the industry was simply growing up, with more and more games being played by people over the age of eighteen. Lincoln bristled at that notion. “I can’t sit here and allow you to be told that somehow the video game business has been transformed today from children to adults,” he said to the panel. “It hasn’t been.”
     After much debate and media fanfare, the hearings ended at 1:52 P.M. on December 9. Senator Lieberman declared that the video game industry had one year to develop some kind of voluntary ratings system or the government would step in with its own council. He would call a follow-up meeting in February to determine how the publishers and developers were coming along. The gamers had been warned. It was time to change their ways.
     The next day, id Software released Doom.

Music of the World (Warriors)

U.S.S.R./Zangief Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 and Capcom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Super Street Fighter II promotional artwork. [Formatted]

Japan/Ryu Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )
U.S.A./Balrog Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )