Ever heard of King of Fighter? If you were an avid arcade gamer in the 90s/early 2000s this title would be recognizable. It’s an old Japanese arcade game in the fighting genre. An old favourite actually.
Back when I was a full time stay-at-home guy (lol), I used to hang out around the spaza shops (kind of like a small-scale convenience store) on the daily. These usually featured 50c coin operated arcade games and a pool table or 2 on occasion, which was the very reason for my loitering.
I was particularly good at 3 of these fighting games, “Art of fighting”, “Street Fighter” and “King of fighters”. I had friends in the gaming circle and all of our days revolved around humiliating someone by challenging them and utterly destroying their characters (in the game). We were a small bunch that received screams of dismay and despair whenever we’d rock up at the spaza because the guys knew there was trouble. This fed right into our pride lol. Nobody would want to play when we’re around. Sometimes we’d hold on to our 50cents until one of the potential victims were convinced that we didn’t have any money to play with. Once they’d feed the game, earning a credit, we’d proceed to challenge them with ours.
Just like the legendary Pacman, KOF was one of those famous games you’re almost bound to find in any store. The community of gamers grew. Sometimes we’d move around the neighbouring suburbs to see if any of their stores had the game. Kids in the neighbourhood were quick to direct us. Once we were there, we’d make a name for ourselves and leave.
We did this in Ext. 29…a suburb walking distance away from ours at the time. Well, tbh, everything was walking distance because we were forced to walk lol. We were broke but always had just enough to give ourselves a good time with gaming. The gaming kids in Ext.29 befriended us. They were also nerdy like we were at the time and also huge KOF fans, so we connected easily.
Their passion for gaming drove them to start an e-sports organization for gamers like them. They called it Plan-G – B4 all else fails.
Plan-G launched a full on KOF competition; the first ever in our community and the first gaming competition I’ve ever participated in. The game had a new version coming out each year and is usually named after the year of its launch. The most popular ones were KOF ’98 & KOF 2002.
The first competition was for the ’98 version and happened in 2008 at an old community centre in Bethelsdorp. I remember the excitement on the days building up to the comp. The anticipation of winning or at least placing somewhere at the top was gripping. We had make-shift pc controllers made out of old PlayStation Console ports soldered onto old printer and IDE cables. Lol. Come to think of it, we were quite the innovators back then. It was a fully functional conversion.
On the day of the competition, we took our creation along and were ready to cause havoc. I placed somewhere at the top but lost against a friend who was also a beast at the time.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by the founder of Plan-G to a 10th celebration of THAT competition. I said yes without hesitation, knowing that all the old players would be there and we’d get to hang out like old times. It being approximately 8 years since I last played, I was confident that I was going to lose. That’s just too much rust to shake off.
When I saw the game, the nostalgia hit me almost immediately. All the moves and the rush of the challenges reminded me of the days I’d stand around at the spaza of choice until I got hungry enough to go home lol.
It was fun and this time, I made it to the final round and actually won!
Now, this story is about that and the fact that Plan-G still stands today and the community of gamers has grown immensely. They have their own corporate identity and the facilities and resources are much more advanced than what we had back then. X-Box 1s and LAN stations with gaming chairs, Controller boxes, neon-lighting, the works. To say it was encouraging to see how their persistence paid off is stating the least.
What was your favourite pastime back before you were sold into adulting? LOL! Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading up until the end. For your awesomeness, here’s a bonus video. A true display of geekiness after winning a the final match.