I remember the exact moment I became a fan. It was early 1993. I was 12 years old. My grandparents would often take my brother and I to our mother’s workplace for lunch — a small convenience store in the heart of Yountville, California’s ritzy tourist area. She worked in the delicatessen located in the back, and near the entrance was a Street Fighter II arcade machine. My brother and I were huge SFII fans at the time, so it was a win/win. Naturally, we’d beg our mother for quarters every time we were there. I don’t recall how long it had been there, but sitting next to SFII was Mortal Kombat. I remember being impressed by the graphics, but I had no intentions of playing it, for my quarters were limited and SFII was more than enough to keep me occupied.
That didn’t stop me from gawking, however.
On one fateful day, while glancing over at the MK machine during its attract mode, I see this yellow-clad ninja throw some kind of harpooned weapon of death, which plunged into his opponent’s chest in a glorious display of ultra-violence, followed by a sinister yell. “Get over here!,” he commanded.
That was the moment I knew.
When I got home, I immediately dug through my collection of video game magazines in an attempt to find anything I possibly could about the game. As luck would have it, the December 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly featured a moves list in their Tricks of the Trade section. However, as I would soon find out, the moves list contained several errors. Keep in mind that this was during a time before GameFAQs existed. Most people didn’t even have the internet, let alone a computer. Having neither myself, I had to rely on video game magazines for information, and the information wasn’t always accurate.
Over the course of several months, I made a few friends during my frequent visits to the store. Eli — a local kid around the same age as me — came in to play the game on occasion and would show me the correct way to do some of the moves and Fatalities that were incorrect in EGM. He never stayed long, as he often showed up before his tennis lessons, with a tennis racket in hand. The way I grip an arcade stick to this very day is because of Eli.
Franco — an employee in his early 20s — was another frequent player of the game and would often play a few matches with me during his breaks (and occasionally after store hours), during which I’d share what I had learned from Eli. Franco was the big brother type and was easy to look up to. The way I wore my hat for many years was a direct influence from him.
Brian was another kid who came into the store once or twice. He was a little younger than I and quite friendly. We would eventually meet again at a local bowling alley (and again at the hospital, but that’s another story) during Mortal Kombat II’s heyday.
These guys helped plant the seed that would eventually become my passion for the franchise.
After years of sub-par games and the inevitable death of arcades in America, my loyalty was finally rewarded with the release of Mortal Kombat (2011). Not only was it a return to its roots, but a return to my childhood. Just like that, I was that 12-year-old kid in a convenience store again. I never thought I’d still be playing MK 20 years later, much less running a fan site, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next 20 and the people I meet along the way.
Happy 20th, MK.