As I’ve said before, I like retro video games. I like them so much that I do more than buy old cartridges, systems and controllers — I travel to compete against others.
My game of choice is Tecmo Super Bowl for the original Nintendo, but I have begun to work on my skills in other games I didn’t have growing up that are pretty big at tournaments around the country — R.B.I. Baseball, Dr. Mario, Tetris, NHL ’94 and more.
This past weekend I went to Cincinnati, the Queen City, for the second straight year for the Midwest Tecmo tournament. Four brothers — Chris, Matt, Jimmy and Joey Vogt run it, with their parents, aunts, wives and girlfriends helping out by selling raffle tickets.
Former Cincinnati Bengals NFL star David Fulcher hangs out with competitors all day, signing autographs, mingling with the crowd and playing a live-streamed game that’s raffled off.
This year I took my entire family on the journey. We left early on a Friday morning but missed the Chicago morning rush of traffic. The construction in Indiana didn’t seem to have changed from last year, which caused headaches on the way down.
We made three stops and detoured the interstate for a 30-minute stretch to avoid bottlenecks.
Instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed at the Winton Woods campground. But instead of staying in a tent, I rented a deluxe cabin for the same price as a hotel room.
And it. Was. Awesome.
A queen master bedroom, a living room with a pullout couch and satellite TV, WiFi, a full kitchen and full bathroom and a two-room loft for the kids. Outside there was a full deck with a fire pit, parking, a playground for the kids and miles of walking trails through the woods and around the lakes.
I thought I showed up late to the R.B.I. Tournament on Friday, but set up was behind and they shuffled me into the tournament. I played on the livestream and promptly got pummeled. I am not good at R.B.I.
The next morning the family and I ate at Bob Evans (“Down on the farm”). My wife lived in Ohio for a short time a decade ago and she was looking forward to eating some Bob Evans breakfast again. The kids ate more that morning than I have seen them eat in years.
Next I went back to the venue — Rick’s Tavern in Fairfield — and hung out with many of the competitors. One of my favorite things about traveling the country is the friendships you make, and catching up with some of those people again down the road.
There was Nicolino from Chicago (via New Jersey), Diaz from Lebanon, Ohio, Jordan from Cleveland, Kevin from Columbus, Mort and Lou from Buffalo and Nate from Green Bay — plus so many more.
In group play I went 2-2, defeating Nicolino and another player. In my two losses I was thrashed — first against Matty Vogt, one of the five best Tecmo Super Bowl players in the world (there are actual rankings, and he has the titles and runners-up to prove it). Matt and his Lions defeated my Bengals 35-5. It was rough, but early.
I knocked off Nicolino as the Dolphins, forcing his Kansas City Chiefs into four turnovers. Later I was beat by the Buccaneers while playing with the Broncos. In my final group play game, I won the coin toss and called Falcons-Jets. Again, this game is from 1991, and you have to remember the rosters from the 1990-91 time line in order to know who is good and who isn’t.
In a tiered system, both the Jets and the Falcons are in the bottom end. The Jets have Al Toon on offense, and some serviceable other players, but lack good quarterbacks. Defensively, the Jets have Eric McMillan, a great DB and a couple worthy LBs. The Falcons have electric Andre Rison on offense and the speedy Deion Sanders on defense — and that’s about it.
My opponent picked the Jets and I won by fending off his last second Hail Mary 10 yards shy of the end zone.
But not all things are equal. I was slotted as the 18-seed in the single-elimination bracket and needed to win in Round 1 in order to face the undeniable No. 1 player in the world: codename JoeyGats. I had a loose strategy to take on Joey, who now lives in Green Bay. But I needed to get there first.
My single elimination opponent called the same Jets-Falcons matchup and I took the Falcons — worst case scenario, I still have Rison and I can lob the ball 100 yards on every play and hope he comes down with it.
What I thought was the worst case scenario turned out to be just a slight misfortune of a scenario. I threw an interception on my second play and my opponent had to go less than 20 yards to score the first touchdown of the game. I threw another interception but held him to a punt, only to fumble at my own 3. A quick score put me down 14-0. My very next play I went for the touchdown to Rison and got it. I forced another punt but again turned the ball over. The Jets defense had turned into a bunch of ball-hawks and Chris Miller was not playing well and his backup had the status of “bad,” so I was stuck with Miller.
I lost the game 28-14. I held my opponent to just 74 yards of offense (and a late interception with a minute left to give me the rarest of hope for a comeback). My Falcons turned the ball over four times, but I had 337 yards of offense. Rison had four catches for 301 yards and both touchdowns. He was stopped 10 yards short of a third touchdown on the game’s final play.
JoeyGats went on to win the tournament again for the second straight year. He has won more than a dozen tournaments, including the last three of the Madison events, which brought in more than 250 players from around the world.
To break up our family’s drive home the next day, we stopped in Hobart, Indiana to play at a water park and eat at Outback Steakhouse. We reached the front door at 11:07 p.m.
The trip was long, and tiresome. Next year is up in the air if we all go back, or if I just go back. But it’s definitely a trip I look forward to. Before then, however, a better adventure awaits.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and just opened a fresh box of SimCity for Super Nintendo. His town has 59,000 people in it 92 years into the game, and he’s not sure if that’s good, bad or average. Adam can be reached at email@example.com.