The drive from Portland to Eagle, Idaho takes around 7 hours. It’s pretty much a straight shot down I-84 so for the most part the traveling isn’t bad… with the pass through the Blue Mountains being a major exception. The last time I drove over the Blue Mountains I got stuck in a white-out snow storm with no 4-wheel drive. This time didn’t go quite as poorly, but it was still extremely dark and pissing rain the whole time. I couldn’t see shit and every time I had to pass a semi it was like going through a car wash. I was nervous because I had precious cargo on board -- the one and only LordBBH – but I took it slow and eventually we made it without dying too hard.
Grinkers was easy enough to find, though at first take it was not what I expected. With a name like Grinkers Grand Palace I was expecting some over-the-top Vegas-casino-like façade, but instead this legendary arcade sits unassumingly in the corner of a strip mall. From the outside you’d never guess to the gloriousness within and at first glance I remember BBH commenting, “How big is this place again?” Welp, turns out it’s plenty big, it’s just built like Snoopy’s dog house.
We walked through the doors and suddenly a huge space grew before us. BBH and I were immediately taken aback by the sheer volume of games, and we proceeded to run around the place like kids in a candy store. The games list
isn’t up-to-date because Grinkers recently expanded their floor to house a whopping 250 games. It may have been the biggest collection I’ve seen outside a convention. Rare games too. Grinkers had both an EDOT and an environmental Missile Command, the latter being something I didn’t even know existed.
I played a bunch of games, drank some dollar beer, shot the breeze with some caggots, and after closing the place down I joined nine of my fellow Portlandians at our Airbnb house just down the road.
Yep. We crammed ten of us into one house. It wasn’t perfect of course, but I’m no princess (despite what you may have heard) and I have no qualms sleeping on the floor. My only problem was that I forgot my ear buds so I had to listen to a lot of snoring. I didn’t sleep much but oh-fucking-well, I didn’t come to Eagle, Idaho for a spa resort, I came to party hard and crush games.
The tournament started the next day around 1 or 2. I think I woke up around 10, so with time to kill I ate a leisurely breakfast and tried to guess at the tournament games list. The night before there had been certain cabinets with John’s Arcade stickers on them scattered throughout the arcade. John from John’s Arcade was running the tournament, so it seemed reasonable to conclude those stickers were marking tournament games. The list I came up with for the main tournament would have been pretty good for me – some freebies and some obscure titles I could have grinded as well as anyone – but when Aurcade released the official list just before kickoff, I learned the lineup I had surmised was entirely incorrect.
The tournament game lists and standings can be viewed here
I still don’t know why certain games had been stickered. Maybe they were supposed to be in at some point, but things got changed at the last second? Maybe John did it to mess with people? I don’t know, but the last second “change” did alter my interest in the main tournament. Still plenty of good stuff in the final lineup, of course, but I’m not talented or grindy enough that I could afford to play in more than one tournament. I had to choose…
Main tournament pros: several games with which I was already familiar.
Main tournament cons: more games and presumably more competitors which would lead to more queuing and more scurrying around (the tournament games were not isolated to any one part of the arcade, they were spread throughout).
Taito challenge pros: Zoo Keeper.
Taito challenge cons: Elevator Action; and I’d have to spend at least an entire day learning Rastan to put up any sort of worthwhile score.
Black n White cons: I’d literally never played any of the games.
Black n White pros: wait, I’ve literally never played any of these games!
Once I realized the only con for the BnW tournament was actually a pro, I got to work.
Turned out the BnW challenge was actually heavily contested. With only five games in the tournament every title was under continuous use and queues were unavoidable. Mostly these queues were not a nuisance, and in fact proved a great way to chat up and share strats with my competitors. However, there’s always those few who never read the arcade etiquette handbook…
[rant] When you are done with your credit, TURN THE FUCK AROUND and make sure no one is waiting for next game. DO NOT pop another quarter and hog the machine, ESPECIALLY in a tournament setting.[end rant]
Though in the end I had more than my fill of the BnW titles so what little extra time I had to wait on credit feeders was no big deal. I lead day one wire to wire, and lead most of day two until I quit playing with three or four hours left of tournament time. I would have continued playing and tried to finish strong were it not for two major complications: one, FlyHec and his wonderful wife gave me some whiskey, at which point I became more interested in setting the highscore for drinking; and two, Boothill is crap. I tried grinding on Boothill but to no avail, and because of the percentage-based scoring system Aurcade uses I was getting merc’d on that game. Some dude scored a 14, which is probably near perfect, and I simply couldn’t figure out the game’s system, relegating me to a score of 9 and tournament percentage of 64. Not good.
The other BnW titles were cool. Sea Wolf is fun except it doesn’t save anything but the high score, making it a rather strange tournament pick as competitors had to take pictures of their scores before they disappeared. Seems legit. Frogs is a pile, but it’s a fun pile and a good tournament game – I only wish I had figured out the end of game scoring bonus during the actual tournament (someone had to tell me later), but hey that’s how it goes sometimes when you’re playing a game for the first time. Skydiver is a really neat cab
where you get to pull a ripcord. The game’s scoring system is somewhat random, with players needing to trigger a bonus that is dictated by things beyond their control, yet better players will always survive longer and so Skydiver remains a passable tournament game. And Blue Shark was the cream of the crop. Good tournament game, fun, and I got to laugh at some guy claiming to be the world record holder who was complaining about the controls the whole time. The controls were off, but…
[rant #2] DON’T blame the controls for your shortcomings when everyone beating your scores is playing on the same cab. And DON’T presume your Aurcade high score from a previous tournament is somehow the world record nor that it gives you a free pass to be cocky and condescending. NO ONE is impressed! Your “world record” score was tied during the tournament and has long been bested by multiple MARPers. SUCK IT![end rant #2]
So when it was all said and done, I got third, or did I…
[rant #3] Just kidding
DannyS [end rant #3]
I totally didn’t deserve third place. The standings got screwed up and a couple dudes who should’ve finished ahead of me got hosed. I recognized this as soon as final standings were posted but at that point the certificates had already been made and the award ceremonies were underway. There was nothing I could do other than give away my prize to the person I believed should have received third, which I did, though because said prize was a Burgertime t-shirt which is likely cursed, I fear I may have unfairly won again. But here’s the thing: I’m not going to be critical of a free tournament. I had an absolute blast as did the two fellas who got bumped down. We all drank beers together after the tournament and no one had any hard feelings.
Job well done Grinkers! Job well done John’s Arcade and crew! Job well done Aurcade!
Grinkfest was the shit and I highly recommend everyone save the date for next year. I know I will, despite the drive home being even shittier than the drive out…
For no good reason Scoundrl and I decided staying up all night boozing was the best way to prepare for the long trip home. I was fucking wrecked on Sunday and I had to make multiple stops to rest my eyes and suck down caffeine. BBH, if you read this, thanks again for your patience, sir – you’re a champ, both as a gamer and a friend.
When I finally got home Sunday night I hit the sack almost immediately and proceeded to sleep 14 hours without so much as a blink. I woke up rested and eager for more.