The first annual Iowa City Fight Club kicks off February 28, giving the area’s best gamers a chance to show off their skills and take home some fat loot. Game Geeks, a video game hobby shop recently opened in the downtown Hall Mall (114 1/2 East College Street, above TCB Pool Hall), is hosting the event.
So, what’s in store? Little Village sat down with Game Geeks’ Cody Pirko, a video game aficionado and self-described “college dropout,” to learn a bit more about the competition.
Little Village: With regard to organization, can you tell us a bit about what has gone into the tournament thus far? What do you have planned?
Cody Pirko: Right now we have a pretty considerable amount of time put into the organization and advertising for the Fight Club. I spent time on the concept and design, and even more on creating and distributing the advertising. We put out a blanket tournament post on all the relevant fight game message boards (Smashboards, Shoryuken, GatheringofGamers, etc.) and made sure to hit social media hard. As far as hardware is concerned, myself and a small group of enthusiasts maintain a decently sized library of systems, games and computers that we will certainly be utilizing. Other than that we really, truly, rely on the great local fight game community; It seems they always show up with the things necessary to play their favorite games.
LV: It’s my understanding that you’ll have a Shadow Dancer (Shinobi 2) cabinet up for grabs if more than 32 people sign up. How did that opportunity come about, and is there anything you’d like to mention about this cabinet specifically?
CP: I bought this cabinet for my personal collection a while ago. It’s really an awesome game and people are still competing for the speed run champs. It’s a side-scrolling Sega ninja game… pretty awesome. The cabinet is great because it has a single stick design that can be used left or right handed. As a southpaw, I appreciate that.
LV: Cabinets are often seen as collectors items. Do you own any cabinets yourself? Is there one in particular that you dream of owning?
CP: Cabinets are definitely collector’s items. I buy and sell them when I can. I would LOVE to have a TMNT: Turtles in Time cabinet, or Chronicles of Mystara.
LV: I attended the Game Geeks grand opening earlier this year and noticed it’s quite a dedicated group. Some attendees even brought fancy, LED-laden equipment from home! Is this a tournament that amateurs should consider joining? What would you say to those still on the fence?
CP: Our patrons are amazing. We rely on our tournament community to not only show up but to help us and themselves out by bringing what they can to ensure a speedy tournament. The more game set-ups we have on hand, the smoother and quicker the tournaments will go. If you really want to hype a game, the best way is to bring it with you. Sometimes we even offer slight discounts to players willing to lug their equipment up those treacherous stairs!
While we do LOVE that some of our more dedicated competitors bring their personal equipment, this is absolutely a tournament that amateurs should enter. Its low cost, low risk, high reward and its a great way for people to get acquainted with the local community. You can just show up off the street and potentially walk away with a full size arcade cabinet.
LV: How would you characterize the competitive scene in Iowa City? Is there one?
CP: There is absolutely a local competitive fight gaming community in and around Iowa City. The scene here is very inviting and inclusive. If you enjoy video games and have a competitive spirit you won’t have any trouble finding other people who feel the same way. I would characterize them as dedicated to their craft but genuinely smart, decent people.
LV: What is it about fighting games that you find so appealing? It seems the genre has seen considerable growth — a revival of sorts — over the last decade or so. Do you think there’s a predominant cause for this?
CP: I think with the introduction of big money, organized, high-coverage events backed by large game companies, fighting games have seen a real resurgence. For example, the hype train leading up to and following the Evo 2013 coverage of Super Smash Bros: Melee, combined with the awesome YouTube bio-documentary chronicling the long history of competitive Smash, has really done wonders to revitalize the game in a competitive setting.
LV: How has the genre changed since its initial growth explosion in the early ’90s? More specifically, what would you say to those who haven’t picked up a fighting game since the 16-bit era?
CP: I would say that we’re still rocking some of your favorite games! Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo and Killer Instinct will be at Fight Club and they both came out in ’94. Some of our best players are the old school gamers, still keeping these new kids in check.
LV: What’s your fighting game of choice? Is there anything about this game that you find especially appealing?
CP: As far as fighting games go, I like the weird ones. Powerstone 2, Mugen, TMNT: Tournament Fighters, Dragoon Might, Shaq-fu… Power Rangers: Fighting Edition… Don’t tell anyone. I play games to have fun so I enjoy games with entertaining, interesting mechanics. Apart from that its definitely not all fighting games. I am pretty hard into retro and PC video games, Magic: The Gathering, and tabletop collecting.
LV: You’re talking to a fellow geek here, so please indulge. What is the nerdiest thing you own? What piece of geek memorabilia are you most proud of?
CP: Well, it’s going be weird, but I have an old first edition copy of The Nine Worlds: Stories from Norse Mythology that I really treasure. I have a store full of retro video games, some rare and/or in-box. I have a Magic: the Gathering collection that is quickly filling up my house. I have a ton of nerd cred items I’ve collected over the years… but my nerdiest, most favorite possession is an old book.
LV: Your group has had a web presence for quite some time. What made you decide to open up Game Geeks in the Hall Mall? Were there any surprises along the way?
CP: I decided to open up in the Hall Mall because I’ve been buying and selling retro games for a while, and I really wanted to have a place that I could not only set-up shop and call my own, but also, obviously, start hosting tournaments. The Hall Mall provides a perfect atmosphere for us to thrive without bogging us down with prohibitive costs. There haven’t been too many surprises so far, knock on wood!
LV: Taking a step back or two, what’s your first and/or fondest video game memory from your childhood?
CP: My favorite childhood memories are almost exclusively in arcades, or other people’s houses. My parents weren’t big on video game and I really got into them vicariously at first. That being said, I spent years worth of my life under the dim lights of a no name arcade playing everything under the sun. Eventually, I began collecting comics, from comics to Magic, and from Magic full circle into video games.
LV: Is there anything else you’d like to mention to potential tournament attendees? What about those interested in getting involved with Game Geeks on a broader level?
CP: To potential tournament attendees I encourage you to spread the word for the games you like to play. Nothing builds hype and helps promote the growth of the community more than interested people talking positively about the things they like. If you want to get involved with Game Geeks on a broader level hit us up on Facebook or just stop into the shop! Gamers can stop by any time during store hours, sit down, and play games.