1994 Blockbuster Video World Game Championship: The Middle

Continuing the story of Joe and his video game tournament journey…

The regional tournament for the tri-state area took place in New York City at the South Street Seaport (it may be called the Javits Center now… I dunno, I haven’t been in southern Manhattan for a while.) The format of the tournament was straight-forward: single elimination NBA Jam tournament (playing only 2 quarters, if I remember correctly). I don’t remember exactly how many players there were, but it was a big number, at least 100.

I lucked out and drew a first-round bye, so I get a free pass into round 2. This is both good and bad: it’s good that I advance into the next round, but round 1 wouldn’t be done for about 1 hour. This lead to the family and I being bored out of our minds. There weren’t a lot of kid-friendly stores in the South Street Seaport (that I can remember anyway). Finally, after wandering around for a bit and getting nothing accomplished, round 2 started and I faced my opponent. Full Disclosure: I sucked at NBA Jam. I had no idea which team I should play as (the defualt choice was always the Knicks), nor did I have a strategy for winning (chase the guy with turbo, get the ball, shoot the ball, rinse and repeat). All I remember from the match was that the emcee of the event (who was from the Z-100 Z Morning Zoo… it may have been Elvis Duran) complimenting me on a string of defensive plays I was making; even at age 11, I knew not to acknowledge it and just concentrate on the game (that, and I saw someone in round 1 got distracted from similar comments and lost his match because of it. Stupid Elvis Duran!) Even with the nod from the radio personality, I took the loss and left NYC proud that I made it that far.

Now, the story could’ve ended right there and I wouldn’t be any less proud of my accomplishment, except the story doesn’t end there, otherwise this entry would be “The End” and not “The Middle”.

About 3-4 weeks later, we get a large envelope from Blockbuster Video addressed to me. (I swear I brought back The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare!) The envelope had lots and lots of colored papers with official-looking letterhead and business-like-language, all of which was intimidating for a young boy. The cover letter explained that I was offered entry into the tournament world finals as a wild card. (I’m guessing this was because of my local tournament score.) I was told that the tournament finals would be taking place in Fort Lauderdale (the city where Blockbuster’s headquarters are located) August 19-21 1994. All transportation would be arranged, and I was required to bring a parent with me. Included in the big stack o’ papers was the format of the finals: each system had (some number) games to play, each having its own conditions and scoring rubric. The specs explicitly provided every possible variable game setting, i.e. controller configuration, time for the round, number of lives, starting level and many bonuses and scoring conditions.

Looking back, I’m thinking this was just a ploy for me to rent 9 or so games in a 4 week period. After all, video games are serious business, and preparation was duly required for this endeavor.

Next entry: The finals: Joe eats fancy lasagna, meets a GamePro magazine editor and someone that’s not Sean Astin. He also plays some video games, or something.
The entry after that: The appendix: Scanned PDF’s of all my stuff.

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