“We are in between your mom’s basement and a Major League Gaming facility.”
Like most things, it all started in a bar. Well, an arcade bar to be exact.
Meet Blake Compton, a competitive gamer who founded his passion project after stumbling into a peculiar arcade cabinet, Killer Queen, at Arcade Super Awesome. The 10-player platformer with a cult following combines mechanics from the original Super Mario Brothers with the ’80s arcade game Joust. (You might remember this as the one where you play as a robotic ostrich.)
The game is played five-on-five, and has a variety of strange, seemingly arbitrary winning conditions; some include harvesting berries or riding a snail to victory. Despite its 2016 release, the indie game salutes the sheik 16-bit aesthetic of the retro gaming’s past.
Compton wasn’t very good his first time playing, encouraging him to show up to ASA every Wednesday for their Killer Queen League Nights, in turn, finding a community dedicated to this cult gaming phenomenon. As his skills were honed week after week, he began traveling to tournaments with his new crew.
“I really fell in love with the traveling aspect…but we sucked,” he admitted with a smile. “We didn’t have a big scene or a lot of people playing, so the only way we were able to grow was to get our own cabinets.”
This is no easy feat. Imagine what a duel screened, two-ton arcade cabinet that comfortably fits 10 people looks like. Where would they put it? That’s when the wheels for Close Quarters Social Gaming Club started to turn.
“I am a natural organizer. I get involved with something and I like to make it bigger than it is. After League Nights, we would go back to my house, group session after group session, beer over beer, and figure out what would work and not work.”
The solution? To create an inclusive, self-sustaining, membership-based gaming club. With the help of his landlord—David Celeste of Hatch Co.—Compton secured a small building smack dab in the Franklinton Arts District, putting Compton’s dream firmly into fruition. Inside the nondescript white brick building, you can find the beloved Killer Queen cabinet as well as other retro consoles scattered among themed rooms, from N64 to Xbox 360, complete with comfy couches and extra controllers.
“I wanted to focus on creating a community of people who want to be here on a day to day. If you want come one time and pay five bucks for the day that’s cool. If you want to organize your group to come and have a couple hours to hang with your friends and do your thing, that’s cool, too. Or if you want to become a full member—do it.”
It’s that flexibility that has made Close Quarters a success, their group reaching just over 100 members and casual players in the month since it’s been open. For Compton, it wasn’t about generating a hefty profit, but the ability to create a community of competitive and casual gamers who can all congregate in a fun and unique space.
“If this is successful, we want people ranked in Ohio and ranked in the nation that practice here. On the same level, I want those people to mentor and create a culture that is inviting. We are trying to build a culture where the casual and seasoned gamer plays together. Our members are members from every walk of life, from super professional jobs to not employed at all. They are all really passionate and community driven people. A lot of them are organizers—organizing pinball leagues at PINS Mechanical, Street Fighter Tournaments at 16-Bit, or other types of competitive gaming elsewhere.”
To fit the bill of a space located in an arts district, Close Quarters doubles as a makeshift gallery during their open house on Franklinton Fridays, hosting gaming themed pieces from local artists. Their first first collaborative call for artists is for the Franklinton Friday in October—Friday the 13—and the theme is monsters and villains.
But it gets better. Close Quarters has recently been awarded a George Bellows Grant from the city, allowing them to transform that nondescript exterior into a fully articulated, gamer themed mural. Best of all, their landlord, Celeste, agreed to match the funds.
“There will be a player select screen on the building with distinct characters and a silhouette where you can select yourself. The mural will be divided into levels, each is going to look increasingly more difficult with the easiest towards the entrance, insinuating no matter what skill level you are at, you are welcome here.”
For more information on how to get involved with Close Quarters Social Gaming Club, visit socialgamingclub.com.