Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue…Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

–Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

I was going to post pictures from Ground Kontrol last night, but they all came out crappy because all I had was my iPad and the dark/light contrasts were really harsh. Sorry, cipater, they didn’t even have the Splatterhouse cabinet available to play.

By far the most active and energetic spot in the entire place was around the Vs. Pac-Man cabinet, whose official name, apparently is Pac-Man Battle Royale. This picture of its dangling marquee is the only one of the night that came out well (and comes with bonus Ground Kontrol logo in the background):

This game was always, always filled. I think there was one time that I saw one spot empty. The premise behind the game, as with Pac-Man itself, is ingenious in its simplicity: four players compete to see who is the best Pac-Man, and you do that by eating and out-surviving the other players. Power pills let you grow large, enabling you not only to eat ghosts, but non-enlarged players. When dots in the maze run low, a fruit or food item appears and, when eaten, refreshes the maze–including new power pills–and speeds up the pace. The last Pac-Man standing–who hasn’t been eaten by another Pac or a ghost, is the winner of that round, and after five rounds (at least as it’s set at Ground Kontrol), a total winner is declared. In the event of tied number of rounds won, the ratio of other players/ghosts/fruits eaten vs. you being eaten is used for a tiebreaker. There is otherwise no benefit to eating ghosts, and even eating fruit does not guarantee you a good placement near the power pills that spawn.

It’s easy to see why the game is super popular; anyone can pick it up and immediately start going after other players, without knowing your opponents. The only button is the start button, so controls couldn’t be simpler. The range of appeal was awesome to see. I played against women, men, half-drunk college kids and more-than-half-drunk adults. The whoops and hollers of those who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat could be heard throughout the arcade all night. If you’re eliminated in a round, it’s not for long, since I don’t think I saw a single round go longer than one minute. That’s also the exact reason I would probably never play this game in an arcade apart from the $5 free play night: matches are five minutes or less, and even if the machine was set at (an unlikely) quarter per play, that’s still $3 an hour, no matter how good you are. Still, it’s fun, and if you end up in a site that has one of these, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.