Blood, sweat, and tears. What do all of these things have in common? They are what is required to make it to the professional gaming level. Some players make it to the top, representing their country against the world. Others never get the chance to be in the spotlight. Sadly, life gets in the way of many gamers dream. This isn’t the end, however. What if I told you there’s a way you can experience the thrills of intense fighting moments without spending every second training? Introducing your new favorite venue: Free Play Arcade.
Free Play has many different locations, but the one I frequent is in Arlington, TX. Each spot has something in common with another. An event known as Tuesday Fight Night. As the name suggests, every Tuesday an event is held based on a different game. I’m sure you’re already thinking to yourself, “but I’ll just get demolished, what’s the point?”. That’s where my favorite part of the tournaments come into play. Brackets are fundamentally fair, as they team up newcomers with veterans of the venue.
This gives anyone a fair chance to taste that sweet victory you so desire. There’s no money involved (besides the entry fee of $10 to the location), just pure competition with a sweet belt to match. It’s an experience unlike any other I’ve felt before. On my first visit to Free Play Arcade, I participated in the Mortal Kombat II tournament. I ended up placing third due to my partner Ray Upshaw, a veteran of a year to the spot. I was relatively new to fighting games at this point, so I was mostly a deadweight. Ray did his best to carry me, and I will always appreciate the advice he gave me. I asked him if he enjoyed coming to the venue, and he had this to say-
“You’ve gotta keep it spicy. I dressed up like a cow once. You gotta keep things interesting.”
On November 13th, I went to Free Play Arcade to take another shot for the belt. The game was Fist Of The North Star, and I was determined to win. Without any prior knowledge of the game, I jumped into my first match of the night. Deciding to go back on my fallback options, I went for the only woman in the game named Mamiya. Quickly my behind was getting handed to me on a silver platter, but a secret weapon got discovered. One of my moves is a Yo-Yo with a massive amount of range. Using this to my advantage, the first match became mine. That’s when Ray sat next to me.
Fear instantly set in. I knew just how good Ray is at fighting games due to the MKII tourney. How was I going to beat such a veteran of Free Play Arcade? Getting demolished was in my future, but I was determined to get something done. Within the first few seconds, he knocked my health down to half. Taking a deep breath, my hands started to move on their own. I somehow put Ray into an endless stream of Yo-Yo combos, bringing the first round to a close victory for myself.
The next round didn’t go as well. Almost immediately we reached round three. My nerves were going insane. The crowd around us were going nuts. This is the kind of feeling Free Play Arcade excels at. A professional stage, fighting a match people care about. I was the underdog, and with the crowd cheering behind us I ended up beating Ray. Our fist bump closed the match, and I walked away with my first ever two opponent sweep. Coming from someone who just a few weeks ago got demolished, it was beyond a rewarding experience. This is what you can expect from Free Play Arcade.
With the night still being young, I knew I had a long way to go if I wanted to win it all. The losers bracket began, but tragedy struck the poor arcade machine. The controls seemed to break mid-match, putting a sour damper on everyone’s mood. Quickly, Matt Johnson (the venues technician and my partner) sprung into action. Within moments he had the game running again, much to the excitement of all participants. Next game up was mine, and it was going to be a doozy.
Edward Bui was to be my next opponent, a previous winner of Tuesday Fight Night. The madman wanted to put on a good show, so he chose to make it a mirror match. There was never a louder crowd for Yo-Yo’s until this point in history. It was a close bout, but once again I reigned the better Mamiya. I could see myself standing with Chris (the community leader), pronouncing my victory of the night. All I had to do was beat my greatest opponent yet. He sat beside me, and once again dread settled in.
It was none other than Jeremy “The Golden Standard” Golden, a four-time champion of Tuesday Night Fight. I knew I had to bring it my all if I even wanted to stand a chance. With my teammate cheering me on, we loaded into the game. The first round started off well, but Jeremy began to read me like a book. I never really stood a chance. My loss was quick, yet dignified for someone of my skill level. I held on to hope that Matt could keep our winners bracket dream alive. Spoiler warning, we were heading straight towards the loser bracket.
With the stench of my failure fresh on my nose, we prepared for our next match. I thought things couldn’t get any better once I saw my next opponent. Warren Costanzo was his name, and he had some history (at least in my mind). He was my first opponent from my first ever Tuesday Night Fight event. I remember the words he told me before we began.
“I’m going to perfect you.”
I never tried so hard in my life to beat someone before. One of the first thing I said to him mid-match was “guess I learned how to block!”. It was a quick bout, and a handshake ended our one-sided rivalry. My next opponent was the expected winner of the night, Arthur Williams. To many, Arthur is one of the best players people have ever seen. I got a good taste of what they meant when I got demolished by his lasers of death. I couldn’t take the heat, so I got out of that kitchen.
Sadly, both Matt and I couldn’t handle Arthur’s team. Ending off our night in third once more, the finals match began. It was Jeremy “Golden Standard” versus Arthur Williams. I’m not sure what occurred during their match, but a rematch had to be held due to controls. It was maybe one of the closest fights I’ve ever seen in my life. Everyone was on the edge of their seats, ready to crown the next champion. The man who stood above all others at the end was none other than the Golden Standard himself.
I was able to interview them once the match was over. Jeremy was beyond ready to pronounce himself as a now five-time champion, with Edward becoming a two time himself. When asked who was their hardest opponents, both responded with the “Killer B’s”. The only time they felt really threatened was the forced bracket reset, but Jeremy assured me he knew he was going to win. Both men had this to say about winning,
“I tried my best and it feels good” – Jeremy “Golden Standard” Golden
“I love the game, and my goal was to show everyone what it can really looks like.” – Edward Bui
With the night coming to a close, everyone said their goodbyes and headed their separate ways. But for these men, it really isn’t every truly farewell. Each will be back to practice, trash-talk, and improve with each other for months to come. Free Play Arcade above all showcases sportsmanship, friendship, and a drive to be the very best. If you were to visit any location to play the best games, I recommend the venue above all else. Next week Tuesday Fight Night will be held in Richardson, TX. It will be a huge event, with professional players coming to play Street Fighter. I will be there with everyone else cheering on and writing over the events.
I want to thank Chris Delp and everyone at Free Play Arcade for having me. It’s truly a joy working and talking with them. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, visit them! Their website can be found here. You can also watch every Tuesday Night Fight on their Twitch!