Family Fun Arcade, Where the Street Fighters Go

Ernesto Gonzalez

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By Ernesto Gonzalez

The crowd gathers around the two warriors.  The competitors  relax their arms and get comfortable before the fight.  As soon as the announcer says fight , the two warriors  unleash a flurry of punches, kicks, uppercuts and dive kicks.  Only one of them comes out on top and the other hangs his head in shame as the next opponent puts his quarters into the machine. Another match in Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition begins at Family Fun Arcade, located in Granda Hills on Devonshire Street and Balboa Boulevard.

Before the Internet, arcades were the place to go for people to prove their  skills against others in videogames. As home consoles started to out pace arcade machines and the Internet got faster, arcades began to decline and get shutdown.  They have disappeared from most places, except for Los Angeles where arcades like Family Fun have continued to thrive, because of the many fighting game fans.

Walking into Family Fun Arcade is like going back to the early 90’s during the height of “Street Fighter 2”, “Mortal Kombat”, and other fighting games.  The small dark room is lit up by the screens of the many machines lining the walls and split the tiny room in two.  The abundance of the various Street Fighter machines show the lineage of both fighting games and the fighting game scene in Los Angeles.  The arcade is rounded out by racing, puzzle, shooting and music games and an air hockey table.

The arcade is open all week, but one of  the main attractions are the various tournaments held on weekends.  People will come from all over to compete.

“People get really passionate about the games,” said Dae Lee, 23.

Lee works behind the counter at Family Fun, serving sodas and other snacks while watching the competitions unfolding in front of him.  Lee started playing fighting games in 2003 with Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.  He would just play for fun with his brother, but he kept wanting to  improve thier game.

John Dangerous, 31, said he started playing “Street Fighter 2″ at a pizza parlor as a boy.  From then on he started going to different arcades and eventually flew to Japan and play at their arcades as well.

“I flew to Japan because I knew a guy named KSK who owned an arcade called More Amusement,” said Dangerous.  “We were staying at a friend’s house who had a dog that would shed all over the place and we couldn’t stand it, so I asked KSK if we could sleep at his arcade instead.  We were really desperate.  My friend really needed to get away from that dog, so we slept in the closet of the arcade.”

Some players at Family Fun drove at least an hour just to get there and compete at a recent tournament for “Super Street Fighter 4”.  Kenneth “Hugo 101” Pope, 22, and Jose “DJ Vest” Dominguez had come all the way from Pico Rivera, but gas was not an issue for them,  both players were sponsored by Inform Studios Sony.

“They basically pay expenses for us when we travel,” said Dominguez.  “We just have to show up and play well.”

While no one has really made a career on just playing videogames, many players have been sponsored by various companies and are flown across the nation to play in large scale events.  The competitive fighting game scene is still considered small,but more events are being  streamed live online and video game companies like Arc Systems, Mad Catz, and Capcom are showing support for these tournaments.  But it’s the arcades that still have the best communities according to some players

“I love the arcades because there is always something new to learn,” said Pope. “I learn something daily whenever I go. I have been playing (“Super Street Fighter 4″) and learning all the changes to my character Bison.”

Carlos Andrade, 18, was spending his summer in Los Angeles and is from Florida.  He says that the fighting game scene in Florida is nowhere near as big as Los Angeles.

“There is so much competition and many pros here,” said Andrade.  “ We have one pro player in Florida, Flashmetroid.”