Disclaimer 1: this a first draft of a piece I wrote a while back that for now I can’t be fucked with finishing. Attack it all you want, I could do with a reason to make it better.

Disclaimer 2: I’m not Californian, or American, I’m a white Scot. If something the characters say or do seems dumb, tell me.

Part 1

The tangerine glow of the evening was scraped across the Californian sky. Even at this hour the heat was intense. Most of the shops on the main street of town were either closed or closing. Down a side street, a commercial outlet still buzzed with light.
Two men in their twenties were standing face to face inches from each other, their contained fury against each other only just short of spilling over. A crowd made up of a dozen ethnicities around them jeered and hollered.
‘You’re a fucking scrub’ said one to the other. I’d body you free.’ The other stepped forward.
‘You wanna go? You want to fucking go? Let’s do this shit, real talk.’ A man pushed his way through the crowd and separated the the two.
‘Hey hey hey’ he said. Let’s do this for real guys. Come on, let’s see some money. Who likes my boy Dark Magic for ten? Anybody? Okay, step forward man, let’s see that dollar. Okay, anybody like Shin-Stan for ten? Okay, pass it over, let’s do this shit.'
The bookie continued like this for a few minutes until his hands held a large wad of notes and nobody else came forward. ‘Alright,’ he said, ‘we got a game. Let’s go,’ he shouted, ‘let’s go.’ The two men pushed their way through the crowd towards the back of the room.
At the back of the room several men were already huddled around one of the cabinets that hosted the format in which the egos would be settled. It was an obscure anime fighting game imported from Japan. The two men stepped up, and somebody inserted a quarter into the machine. Their hands danced across the joysticks as they selected their avatars and were quicky flung into the match.
[INDENT=1]Packed around the screen the crowd them on. Their hands danced a rapid seemingly[/INDENT]
random dance across the buttons, clattering across the wooden surface of the cabinet as their characters weaved back and forth on the screen, trying to hold invisible lines. One of them landed a clean hit, and one part of the crowd went silent. The other exploded into a frenzy of shouts and calls, many of the members of the pack jumping up and shouting abuse at the foe.


The first round ended with one of the avatars being knocked out. If an outsider had walked into the arcade at this moment they might have been stunned by the animal calls and portrayals of violence in what was surely a child’s game. For me it was just another evening with my boys down town, except I had a ten year old boy with me when I walked in the door.

I had gotten stuck with my sister’s son because she figured that as I currently didn’t have a job and she did and she was paying the rent, I didn’t have anything better to do, which I did. Just because what I did didn’t make any money didn’t make it unimportant. Well to me, anyways. I was sat in our living room one day grinding out new *Crescent Moon *combos. I had been sat there for four hours before Christi came in from work.
‘Jay I need you to look after Joe tonight, I’ve got a date’ she said. I didn’t look away from the screen and kept rolling through the same motions on my arcade stick.
‘Aw, another one? Can’t you keep a man? I’m supposed to be at the arcade tonight.’
‘Well just take him with you or something, games are supposed to be for kids.’ I gave her a look.
‘I really don’t think I should take Joe to the arcade, it’s not exactly a kid-friendly place’. And then she got all up on her high horse and started ranting about how she hadn’t been out in a bunch of weeks and was getting depressed about her work so I said okay, I’d look after the boy. I got a call around six from one of the guys I played regularly with asking if I was going to be there, so I said yes and just took the kid with me.
He was a quiet kid, who just liked watching TV and reading comic books. Joe liked games like Tony Hawks and *Medal of Honor and he didn’t understand why the graphics in Crescent Moon *were so bad. I didn’t even argue with him. He didn’t seem fond of the idea of going to the arcade but his mom had spent ten minutes shouting at him about how he wasn’t grateful for all the hard work she put in so he submitted.
As we walked the five blocks to the downtown arcade I asked him how school was, and he said it was okay and he liked art. We didn’t talk about much else. When we got there, we were greeted with the sight of Shin-Stan and Dark Magic’s match for one hundred dollars. In a race to ten games, Dark Magic won eight, with two perfect rounds. Shin Stan didn’t say much afterwards as Dark Magic popped off at him, calling him every name under the sun.
‘I told you, I fucking told you,’ Dark Magic shouted, ‘You scrub. Your Zaus is fucking weak. Lola is number one, real fucking talk.’ Lola was the character he played. Zaus was manned by Shin. We walked in as Dark Magic began his tirade against Shin Stan, and immediately I knew this was a bad idea. I was bringing a ten year old boy into this world. But I have to stress at this point fighting games are really not that bad. Yeah sure, guys do get loud, fucking loud, but I genuinely enjoyed going to that arcade.
As the crowd peeled away from the single cabinet and spread out across the various others, I pushed through it holding Joe’s hand and greeted several of the regulars. I caught the eye of Idaho, Zipcat, DonMessWithMe and a dozen other guys who all greeted me as Nucleus. They were all here to play various games, mostly Capcom games and the odd ArcSys title. But mostly people played Crescent Moon.
It really was just a dumb anime game with stupid characters. But god was it addictive. Apparently there were only ten cabinets in the entirety of the US. Gizmo’s Arcade had five of them. Seeing as it was the only decent new game we had gotten recently, we played the shit out of it. I played as a character named Cassius. I didn’t know the story of the game and I did not care.
I stepped up to one of the cabinets for *Crescent Moon *and played against a guy I hadn’t seen there before. He wasn’t good. He apologized the whole time for his bad play. I only grunted when he lost and went to the back of the queue. I don’t have time for scrubs. I managed to hold my place on the machine for quite a while as Joe stood close by me dwarfed by the crowds and watched.
‘You’re pretty good’ he said.
‘Yep. Best Cassius in the US’ I said. I probably was. I’d only heard rumors of some asian kid on the east coast being decent with him, but I didn’t care about that. I only cared about beating the men in front of me.
‘Can I try?’ said Joe eventually. I had been playing for half an hour and he had been growing impatient. I gave him a heap of quarters out of my pocket.
‘Stand in the queue, wait your turn.’ When it was his turn he put the quarter in and moved the joystick around in his hand.
‘Who should I pick?’ he said.
‘Well,’ I began, ‘people like different characters. Cassius is good, Lola is good, Scott is… no, don’t pick him’. He had hovered the cursor over foreboding dark knight Henrik. ‘Henrik is ass’ I said. ‘Nobody plays him.’ he looked up at me in confusion. ‘But he looks so cool’ he said, a slight whine to his voice.
‘Look,’ I said, just pick one of the better characters. No point in limiting yourself. Pick Strauss, he’s good.’ He shrugged his shoulders and did so.
At first he just kind of flailed around on the joystick, but as we played I spoke to him, giving him hints and tips here and there. He picked things up quickly. He didn’t close to beating me as I didn’t go easy on him, but when he walked to the back of the queue he wasn’t salty about his loss. A lot of the guys I played with would shout and swear and blame the stick when they lost. He didn’t.
Half an hour into my win streak in walked Makaveli, the champ. Makaveli had beaten the best *Crescent Moon *player on the east coast making him the de facto best player in the whole of the west. And he knew it. I heard him before I saw him.
At six foot five he didn’t really fit the asian stereotype, and his slanted eyes didn’t match the brash american mouth from which the constant assurances of his skill poured. His ranting from the front of the arcade reached me from the back as he berated several players as he walked past.
‘What the fuck’ I heard him say. Who’s the kid?’
‘He’s with Nucleus’ somebody said.
‘Well little man better be bringing the goods, I don’t go easy on anybody.’ This put me off my game a bit, I didn’t need some dickwipe bullying my nephew. I lost the match and went over to them.
‘Sup Nuke,’ said Makaveli. ‘Still ass?’
‘I’ve never been ass, you know it’ I said.
‘Who’s the kid?’
‘This is my nephew, Joe.’
‘He any good?’
‘He just started playing.’
‘So he’s ass, like you.’ he turned away from us and got in line. Ten minutes later he had the cabinet under his control. Me and Joe got in line to play against him, and he beat me easily using Lola.
‘You gotta drop that Cassius man,’ he said to me. ‘That’s a scrub character.’ I didn’t say anything. I knew Cassius was good.
When Joe stepped up, Makaveli glanced at him let out a grunt of a laugh. He hit random select and let the computer pick a character for him. I don’t remember who he got, but he beat the shit out of Joe’s Cassius despite the crowd around us booing him playfully. ‘Leave the kid alone’ I heard somebody shout. Makaveli shook his head.
When Joe lost he didn’t say anything. He looked a bit pissed and didn’t look at me.
‘Hey, there are other games,’ I said. ‘Wanna play something else?’
‘Yeah, alright’ he shrugged. I felt bad he had played Makaveli now. It was just a bad thing to happen to a young kid that should be something fun. We went and played some racing game or other and he was smiling after a bit. I felt better about myself. Half hour later we went home, the queue for Crescent Moon still there, Makaveli having given up the machine and resigning himself to insulting everybody else.
‘See you later scrubs’ he shouted as we left.

11 views? I’m impressed.

Part 2

A few days later I was in training mode in the living room as usual when Joe came in from school and went straight to his room. He usually came straight to the front of the house. I didn’t think anything of it and kept digging the same movements into my muscle memory. I was going to beat Makaveli. I wasn’t up for being spoken to in the way I was all the time.
Joe came through after half an hour. I didn’t look up from the screen when he sat on the couch next to me.
‘Hey man,’ I said. ‘What do you want for dinner?’
‘I’m not really hungry’ he said, quietly.
‘That’s cool man but if I don’t make you something your mom’s gonna be mad pissed at me and -’ I glanced at him and realized his face was bruised. I paused the game.
‘Yo, what happened to your face?’
‘Sure doesn’t look like nothing, somebody beat you up?’
‘Who was it then?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know? How can you not know? What did they look like?’
‘I don’t know.’ he turned away from me. I knew I wasn’t going to get anything out of him.
‘Alright’ I said, ‘you don’t have to talk about it. But I should probably tell your mom I did something about it like phoned the school.’ Joe nodded his head. ‘Listen. Do you wanna play some games?’ He nodded his head again, and we forgot about the marks on his face.
We played for several hours and he started to get the basics down. I decided to go in-depth about things and he picked things up very quickly. It was weird, I had never seen somebody understand it all so fast. I taught him how what all of his buttons did. I taught him which buttons he should press where, and why. I taught him how to approach safely and how to deal decent damage. I taught him simple combos and blockstrings for pressure. I taught him footsies and anti airs, option selects and buffering techniques. I taught him when to end combos early to reset damage scaling. And still he didn’t stop taking it all in. I was impressed. Our games became closer and closer until he beat me. I told myself I was going easy on him, so I played harder. He kept up. After a while I told him I was going to put something on for dinner, so he hit training mode and tried out all of the combos I had taught him. He did them all. Several of those had taken me months to perfect.

When we went to the arcade the following week, Joe beat a ton of people. I couldn’t believe it, my ten year old nephew was rolling through men that had been playing for years. He had no fear; it just didn’t occur to him that he should be nervous about playing the game, so he withheld trepidation playing against people twice his age. That was until Makaveli again turned up, cursing and shouting across the room and bumping people out of the queue. This time the game was a lot closer. Up to this point, I figured that Joe must have just been lucky. But when Makaveli shut his mouth I knew Joe was making him sweat. Joe’s spacing of his attacks was on point, and Makaveli had to abandon his reckless rushdown style in favor of playing more conservatively. When Makaveli won, he popped off.
‘How do you like that you little scrub’ he ranted, ‘you trying to fuck with a real man?’ I stepped in.
‘Hey, John. Chill. He’s just a kid.’
‘I don’t give a fuck if he’s just a kid, he comes here he better expect to hang with the men.’ Joe didn’t say anything, he just walked over to me and rejoined the queue.
‘He’s only saying that because you scared him’ I said to Joe.
‘I know, I can beat him’ said Joe. Somebody overheard him, and began laughing.
‘Hey’ the player said, ‘this kid says he can beat Makaveli!’
‘What did he say?’ Makaveli slammed the buttons harder, mid-match in his fury. When he won he came over to us.
‘You think you can beat me?’ he said to Joe. ‘You want to put some G’s down on that?’
‘John,’ said the player, ‘you can’t money match a ten year-old.’
‘If the little man isn’t scared he can play’ said Makaveli.
‘Whoa, hang on. You’re not money-matching my nephew’ I said, stepping in.
‘Okay’ said Joe.

And so we began training for his money match with a man nearly three times his age. I didn’t tell his mom. She didn’t like me taking it seriously, I didn’t like to dwell on how she would find her ten year old son playing it seriously too. She had recently thrown a stack of University application forms at me, and I had trawled through them halfheartedly before I killed the dream of myself becoming a nuclear physicist again and went back to grinding combos. I don’t have time to commit myself to two things I’m passionate about, and fighting games just come first.
I started going into depth with Joe about how he could win this match. I explained that Makaveli’s character, Lola, had the speed advantage over Cassius, but Cassius could control more space and keep her locked down. This was key to winning the match and I stressed this to Joe as much as I could. He understood, but kept wanting to rush her down harder. He played about with the burly Henrik some more. ‘I really like him’ he said. ‘I love his powerbomb attack.’
‘I know you do’ I said to him ‘but he ain’t got the tools for the job. He can’t catch Lola, she’s too fast. He can’t land the powerbomb.’
‘But if he did land it, it would probably win him the game.’
‘Yeah, but that’s a big “if”. He gets a killer mixup off of it afterward, but he just can’t get that first hit’. By a mixup, I meant that he would force his opponent to play a guessing game that was heavily in his favor. It was lethal but too hard to start consistently. ‘Stick to Cassius,’ I said, ‘He can win.’ Joe nodded his head slightly.

May as well post the final part.

Two weeks later after a ton of training, the match was due to go down. Me and Joe got to the arcade early before the match was due to go down and grinded out a ton of games on the cabinet against a bunch of other players, most of who Joe beat. His Cassius was on point that day. I knew he could do this.
Makaveli turned up with his boys an hour later, and walked up to the machine without saying a word. Everybody in the arcade gathered around to watch.
‘You ready?’ he said, his face a perfect mask of stillness.
‘Yeah’ said Joe. Makaveli nodded. Insert coins, hit start button, character select. Men around me shouting, calling for everybody to get ready. I feel the hairs on my arms stand up. The smoke and haze of my surroundings fades away, the screen is all I can see.
In the match in which the winner was decided by whoever won ten games first, Makaveli too the early lead. His Lola kept getting around Joe’s zoning, and she buzzed around the screen, hitting and running constantly. Joe was not phased however, and pulled it back in the third game for an easy win. I realized as the fourth game began people around me were laughing and backing away, and I was shouting at the top of my lungs. Makaveli got his shit together. He won three games straight, making the score 5-1. I had gone quiet and so had everybody else. It was then that Joe in return stepped up his game, and his spacing became cleaner and his combos hit harder. He hardly blinked underneath the pressure which would have made most other players fold. I couldn’t help thinking about the bruises he had come home with several times. I guess he didn’t see the game as a big deal, because to him it wasn’t.
They stood equal at five to five fifteen minutes later. Makaveli relaxed his hand on the joystick, and looked down at the plywood, deep in thought. He looked back up, slapped his hand on the buttons and went on. Makaveli started doing things I had never seen before; his mixups became unstoppable, he perfectly read each of Joe’s attacks and countered them cleanly. Lola has a move that players had dubbed useless, a slow moving projectile attack that did low damage, but Makaveli started using it and made it work. Despite this, Joe hung on, and soon the score sat at 9-8 to Makaveli.
It was then Joe’s moment to look down at the cabinet and contemplate his situation. He stood with the game on the character select screen for several minutes.
‘Come on little man, let’s finish this’ said Makaveli without looking at him. Joe then looked up, and moved his cursor away from Cassius. And picked Henrik. I shouted ‘No,’ once. People around me were saying he had given up. I put my head in my hands.
For the first round of the eighteenth game, Makaveli flew around the screen keeping away from Joe’s avatar the entire time. The ninety-nine seconds on the game’s clock soon fell to sixty, then thirty. Lola was fine, then Makaveli made one mistake. Moving forwards slightly, he hesitated for a second before using an attack, and Henrik was on top of him. Slashing with his giant greataxe, he knocked off half of Lola’s health in a moment. When Makaveli tried to block the next attack, he sealed his own fate.

The powerbomb.

As Henrik lifted Lola high into the air and smashed her into the ground, my mind went blank with shock. The ground behind me flew into a frenzy. Nobody had ever seen it used in a competitive game, and it had just won Joe the round. The next round followed the exact same; Makaveli ran away for nearly the whole round only to be swatted down at the last moment.
Last game. Last game. Henrik was legit. I believed.
The first round of the last game went again to Joe. He was on game point, only having to win one more round. But Makaveli started playing smarter, and started to be offensive against Henrik. He won the round, and it was one apiece for the entire match. In the last round Joe landed a solid hit with Henrik and was set to win the whole thing, when Makaveli cleared his mind and landed his own combo. With both characters on very little life, strategy went out of the window, both players fishing for one last blow to win the match. The crowd around me had reached fever pitch and was just a roar with high pitched squeals of disbelief going off.
Makaveli scored the hit. He had won. He punched the buttons in victory, and took a deep breath. He didn’t say a word as he walked away from the cabinet to collect his money. Joe still stood there with his head down. I went up to him as the crowd dispersed.
‘You nearly had him’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ he replied.
A bunch of guys came up to him and congratulated him on his play but he didn’t talk much. We went home soon afterwards.

The next day I had work at eleven, so I got up around nine-thirty and headed out. When I got there I went straight behind the counter and changed into my shirt and put my hairnet on.
‘Hey Mark’ said my boss from his office. ‘You watch the game the other night?’
‘Er, no man, I had things going on.’
‘That’s too bad, it was a good one.’ he said some things about ‘the game’ and how well the players had played. I didn’t pay attention but nodded my head in appreciation. I went out to the front and logged on to the till.
‘Next please’ I said. The first customer came up to me. They ordered a large chicken fillet with fries. I went to my workmate on the oven and told them what they wanted. I then took the customer’s money. This continued for the next ten hours.

I didn’t see much of Joe in the next week, I had work and he had school. His mom told me how well he had started doing, working so hard and impressing all of his teachers. She couldn’t believe how intelligent her son was. I said I couldn’t believe it either.
I kept going to the arcade but whenever I asked him if he wanted to come he always said he had things to do. I just nodded and headed out. But something odd had happened at the arcade. There was going to be a tournament held at a nearby hall and I insisted Joe came along so he did.
When we got there, the tournament was bigger than anything I had seen. Players from all over the country had turned up to it, and I heard that the prize pot was in the hundreds, if not the thousands. There was a ton of Crescent Moon setups, and I pointed something out to Joe.
At about every second setup, there was a Henrik player, and they were for the most part doing well. At one Makaveli was swearing and shouting, salty at being beaten so consistently now. The other player was laughing. ‘Why don’t you play him yourself?’ he said.
‘Fuck that noise.’ Makaveli said.
‘You were right,’ I said to Joe. He smiled.

There was then a score of murmuring as a group of players walked into the hall.
‘Shit,’ said the player next to me.

The Japanese had arrived.

This was a nice read man. Good stuff.