Did anyone else participate in the Blockbuster Video World Game Championships?
Here is what I remember most from the 1994 Championships (details may be a bit hazy)…
I recall participating in at least three of these “competitions” at least at a local level, the first taking place in 1994 and featuring the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
Once competitors chose their platform, a time slot was provided to come into the store and sit with a Blockbuster Employee who kept track of the score. In the Royal Palm Beach branch where I competed, there were two TVs set up in the store, with a chair and the dedicated games, which were as follows: SNES: Clay Fighter Tournament Edition, TMNT: Tournament Fighters, and NBA Jam (I’m pretty sure these games were selected on the basis of the designated “Tournament” status proclaimed in their title); Genesis: NBA Jam, Sonic 3, and Virtua Racing, for some reason.
Each game was timed, and at the end of the designated time (5 minutes each game, and one quarter for NBA Jam, I believe? Not too sure on that), the record keeper would write down your accumulated points for each game. On the SNES side, this was the actual in-game score for the two fighting games, and number of points scored in NBA Jam – all were weighted and combined. An in-store leaderboard of the top 10 for that location on each platform was displayed behind the checkout desk, in carefully scribed dry erase marker on a foam-core whiteboard bearing the World Game Championship logo.
GamePro Magazine had some sort of tie in, lending their name and “ProTips” to a print guide for competitors to achieve the highest score possible.
I managed to win the SNES division for my local store, and I even had my picture in the local newspaper, and received a handful of giveaways including a branded metal Pin, T Shirt, Hat, and a rather sizable trophy. I was also given my choice of the competition carts, choosing TMNT: Tournament Fighters, since it was the 90’s and fighting games were so rad, and a few free rentals at the store.
As store SNES Champion, I was invited to the Fort Lauderdale Semi-finals. I made friends with another area store SNES champion (Jason, from Wellington, FL), and my mom drove us both to the Ft. Lauderdale location. Once we arrived at the competition, I was given the chance to compete in a head-to-head match on the SNES port of NBA Jam. A stage was set up with 4 or 5 TV’s and folding chairs for each competitor. No, it did not look like a scene from the Wizard. It was more like the practice session for a high school rendition of the Wizard of Oz. We were told that we would play a full game, and the winning player would move on to the next round.
Naturally, the Chicago Bulls was my preferred team (I think they had the advantage against every other team). My opponent had the same first choice of team, but since he was asked his team selection first and the moderator already locked in his team, I froze. Rather than ask for a coin toss or explain that Chicago was also my first choice, I just Charlotte. My mindset was shaken and this threw off my game so much - I didn’t know who my back up team was, and I was totally unprepared. I ended up not playing my best, convinced that team choice made all the difference and I ended up losing my 4 points.
There ended my eSports career.
I competed in the next year’s event which had a timed run of Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, using a special competition version of the cart that would freeze at time up so the Banana count could be tallied. I did not place that year. The last competition I recall participating in at Blockbuster was on the PlayStation, with Jumping Flash and Street Fighter Alpha as the selections.
Who else had any experience with any of Blockbusters World Game Championships? I’d love to hear your stories.
Sadly, I don’t know where any of the swag ended up. I think my parents might still have the trophy in their shed, but I’m pretty sure everything else is lost to time.
Here is the newspaper photo featuring three of the local store champions (Including my goofy face)