This weekend the Internationally-renowned arts and entertainment group Meow Wolf is hosting Score Wars in Santa Fe. Its first annual live and live-streamed video gaming event and at this major event, in amongst the gaming records set to be broken is the Galaga World Championship, with the three main contenders arriving from New Zealand, Australia and the USA. This week I spoke with Adam Drucker from Meow Wolf, who is not only highly-passionate about Score Wars and the community he’s within, but it turns out that that Adam “Doseone” Drucker is also quite good at spitting rhymes too if you check out his discography.
Adam – Hi Rod thank you for taking the time, it’s pleasure to digitally meet you.
Villordsutch – And yourself Adam I’m not gonna keep you long and I’ve only got a small amount of questions, I know you’re going to be extremely busy this weekend.
Adam – Yeah we just, err, yesterday we just loaded all the cabinets into the space and it was pretty, pretty fulfilling man. I’m like, I’m really excited to see these guys. We just got out of the way and arranged something where they could really compete and have fun and I think they’re just gonna destroy all these records. I feel so happy it’s gonna be great.
V – I’ve been in a building which has been full of arcade cabinets before and the noise is unbelievable.
A- Oh yeah! I’m a junkie man, I have a very high tolerance for bleeps and bloops and shit you know?
V- You’ll come out with an amazing migraine. I’m telling you.
A- Four days of like 12-hours like I’m excited. I’m ready to be sick of it. because I’m excited right!
V – Right Adam let’s crack on. Can you give me a brief overview about your history in the gaming and event industry?
A – Oh man! Okay so the event part completely I’m fucking freestyling! It’s, my history in gaming is vast you know? I grew up on going to arcades like Blimpy’s and shit. You guys won’t have that out there (the UK) but it was like a shitty sandwich place, that had all these arcade cabinets and I spent my entire…like actually I remember my first time I ever had like money anxiety, was I had five dollars and I wanted to get pizza and play video games and I remember being a little kid who’d be like, “What do I do!?”.
V – Do I survive on food or do I survive on gaming?
A – Yeah exactly and so and then from there I really got absorbed into consoles and then I had like games and I separated for a while. I became a independent musician, I was a battle rapper. I did a ton of albums and then all of a sudden, at the end of that cycle, I’d met all these brilliant independent video game artists and I came back into the fold and started helping to do sound design and composition for independent video games. Then from there I learned a little bit about design – not coding – I’m stupid, but erm I’d really been getting into making indie games ,so I worked on Enter the Gungeon and Gang Beasts and some really other fun stuff.
Then here I am. I came to Meow Wolf to work and they knew I made music for indie games and so they were like, “Hey could you do a Galaga Tournament?” and I was like, “Uh maybe?”. So we just reached out and I met Dwayne Richard and we just tried to do it right. So really it wasn’t that, the event part isn’t that hard man, it’s a it’s a matter of money and doing things the way that your talent wants to be treated if that makes sense.
V – Leading us into the next question there’s a huge following for eSports events we’ve got Rocket League, Hearthstone and League of Legends, to name but a few. You could ridden that wave and skipped off the to the bank with loads of cash, so why did you instead turn to the love of retro gaming, with the use of classic machines?
A- Yeah one of the things I’m very concerned of is like not…You know for me being a part of independent games and coming late and it’s been very successful and the culture is really beautiful and the people that make it. I just learned that you know you have to respect a thing and to be a part of a culture, you have to add something that it doesn’t already have. You can’t just fast follow, or do what the person next to you did for it, it’s like not not all cultures need another super capitalist competition on internet and you really want to add something that wasn’t being done.
So one that was like Galaga, we were “Like oh shit! actually I’ve never…”, I’m a big fan of like Man vs. Snake, King of Kong and when we realised we could do this, it really meant a lot to do something the right way. So like I was saying before, the second I started talking to Dwayne I realised, because I came from battle rap and a lot of those…a lot of those competitions were like rigged you know, you couldn’t win if you were the best, let’s just put it that way.
V – They already had somebody in the wings ready to win. If you were big you were gonna get knocked down a peg or two.
A – Exactly! So either the crowd was gonna misjudge you and they were gonna go with that, or the judges plan to like you know? Let the guy win the whole time. So you know I really appreciate a sterile competition environment. You know, so with this the big thing was just it was twofold. One it was getting all these games together so, me in a place where these guys can run marathons and like have a blast and feel healthy. Not feel like they’re killing himself or the owner of the bar wants to kick them out you know I mean?
So, so that was one thing and then the other one was just technically creating the machines. All the Galaga machines are built by a wonderful man named Callan Hendricks, who Dwayne pointed us to. The big thing with Dwayne told me was like when he’s been to the Kong off and some of the Pac-Man competitions is that, you know they’ll just bring in whatever machines and you’ll be in the middle of a five hour run and you joystick dies! I couldn’t imagine that!
V- It’d kill you on the inside.
A – Dude, I would punch the screen! So what we did was we made all these cabinets, their original boards, but everything else is on the newest, best buttons and joysticks. So that these guys can really like… you know do what best. Then it was just the only way for you know because I’m not in events and I don’t need this to happen any other way but the right way, you know? That was why I could approach it that way and I had a great team around me, so the rest was just spreadsheets and fucking internet.
V – Was there a specific reason you said to the world, “…and first we’re playing Galaga!”? Looking at the amount of speed runs for Mario, along with the fascination of Donkey Kong High Score championship challenges. What was your reason behind this classic choice?
A – Honestly man fuckin Vince! Vince is the CEO of Meow Wolf, beautiful dude, and he used to… So Meow Wolf is this crazy experiential, 20,000 square foot experiential like art environment that you can immerse yourself in. It’s, I sound like I’m lying when I describe it because it’s so hard to describe. It’s a really wonderful thing and it takes all ages and the guy who runs it – Vince – it’s in what used to be a bowling alley and in that bowling alley, he used to go and play Galaga and he was really good and he loved it. So I think he could score a couple hundred thousand points, he’s way better than me, put it like that.
So he loves it and he’s always loved it, so they kind of just randomly brought it up you know? Then it became this thing, where now we’re bringing it back and everyone’s playing Galaga where those guys played Galaga as children, in this bowling alley, in the exact same room, where these dudes he used to play Galaga.
So like something like that for me was just enough to make it a genuine full circle thing, you know it wasn’t like…no one was like, “There’s big money in Galaga!”. So we just, we just want…and also I will say of the classics you know, you just don’t hear people trying to kick the shit out of that game it’s actually people focused on some of the other titles.
V – It’s brilliant to see this coming full-circle. Was the with Meow Wolf’s Score Wars being an International Event is its goal to take the limelight away from like the Wes Copeland’s and Billy Mitchell’s who like haunted the arcade halls of America and aim it the unsung heroes of the world who haven’t got the same exposure in the spotlight?
A- Yeah, yeah hundred percent! Like I’m you know…Billy Mitchell is like from what, I’m not in the business of like defaming Billy Mitchell. I don’t care you know, he has a mullet. He’s doing all the work himself you know. I can’t do anything to that man he’s not doing himself, but I will say from what I have gleaned and learned from being in-touch of the community. He has a dubious reputation at best and his relationship, to fairness and promoting people other than himself, you know is maybe something he didn’t do the best job at it and that is a huge reason why we’re doing this right, and we’re making it about the guys were bringing and we’re talking about their names and these are guys that really work for this shit like.
I had a really cool moment with Dwayne where, it was me being stupid again. This entire thing has been such a learning curve because, you know they’re like I don’t know shit about high-level Galaga play. I had to learn it all and then I get it wrong and these guys are like, “Is this guy stupid?”. Dwayne you know and speaking to him you know he was like, “Look man you not understanding”. It’s like the difference between someone who can score like 10,000 points and a million this is vast and he’s like, “…and the difference between a person you can score million and 3 million that’s five people”.
You know and I started to realise like these fucking guys are elite! Some of that barrier to entry is that people maybe aren’t playing Galaga with all their heart anymore, but in reality that shit is extremely difficult it separates you know the men for the boys the girls from the gals, you know I think it’s like it’s pretty amazing. That’s one thing I wish, I wish there were more women available for us to bring out to be in this competition. It’s definitely a boys club that’s okay, but I was really hoping we would just get some awesome girl out of nowhere.
V – Just turn up and go, “I’ll take this trophy thank you”.
A – I think it would have been great, but we I’m actually really helped like you know cuz we found the three champs by just surfing the net and then the response has been great. The people we got to fill out the brackets they’re, everyone’s great Galaga and totally loves it. I’m so pleased.
V- What’s the overall plan for Score Wars? Is this a monthly event with an annual Galaga Championship or is this set to be a yearly event with a game to be chosen running upto to the Championships announcement? Also whilst were talking about the future of Score Wars what game would you really like to see up next?
A – I want to make this is like dynamic and inclusive of all game cultures as possible. I sound like a hippie right now, I’m not but it’s true about this event. I’m really trying to like have it be a window to the world for people, so you know. We’re streaming it via XSplit, so we are gonna make an annual event and next year my goal is to focus on the world’s first roguelike champion. I don’t know if you’re a fan of like Spelunky or Binding of Isaac?
V – Yup, I know Roguelike games…
A – Okay so then Enter the Gungeon one of the games I worked on is a huge roguelike. I’m a fan the way those people play those fucking games is INSANE! And the devs, the devs who make those games are you know, to be honest half of them I already know from my Indie work and I really want to do something where. For instance like working with Bandai Namco you know, I can’t pull a friendstring and make the entire thing be closer knit and be you know closer to the fire of the community that is playing these games, but with indie games I can really do that. So I’m going to take that opportunity to really try and make something different and special and really deal with all these awesome streamers, who are just as dedicated as all of our awesome ex-child star classic champions that were bringing in for Score Wars.
Then I’m gonna like toggle, you know, between games that deserve to be played and destroyed and setting world records and various games. It’s like, it’s great man I didn’t really think you know I’m not, I probably won’t do another event but this event somehow speaks to me and it feels really good to organise for the people that are doing it, because it’s you know exactly going back to that first question you had. If I avoid game that are being beaten to the ground like Rocket League or H1Z1 or whatever our stuff is, then we’re doing something completely original that these people that love these games need you know?
V – Yes. Going back to you mentioning streaming this coming weekends Score Wars is going to be streamed by XSplit over Twitch. What can people tuning in expect to see? Will they get a glimpse of the event in action, will they see what goes on it the background, or will it be solid Galaga battles?
A- We have gone full monty. I don’t even know what that means. We really tried to make something special on so you know coming again from games. I got a like PAX and E3 you know and all that stuff, I’ve seen so many well produced streams and I have a lot of friends at Twitch (Jon Carnage). So we have an amazing little bouquet of hosts that we’re bringing out. They are all Twitch hosts and an XSplit host Chris Slight, all of us are going to rearrange a really full programming schedule, where basically Saturday the main event there is an amateur tournament and amateurs are gonna be signing up on Thursday and Friday and playing to qualify and then they’re gonna play to the kill screen in brackets.
Sadly, I think with the amateurs and then we’re going to see the kill screen, but they’re still gonna play it and then the winner of that wins a prize and then simultaneously on Saturday will be focusing on all the brilliant people we brought out so we have Abner Ashman who is the Ms. Pac-Man and Robotron King, we have Don Hayes was a Centipede King, Pat Laffaye Frogger champ, Dwayne Richard who is playing Bubble and Robotron which he has high scores in both and then we have the awesome ever-present McVeigh so Tim McVeigh and Tom Asaki are coming out to break their Nibbler records. Tim is talking about a 51 hour run, I got him everything he needs to do it yeah that was what we were toying around with well you know I think it’s all in the game God’s hands whether it goes 50 hours you know, but we’re really excited.
So basically what you’ll see on Saturday is each of those guys will come on and watch as well as our Galaga champs that we unearthed:- Phil Day, Andrew Barrow and Andrew Laidlaw. They will come on and watch the amateur tournament with us and they’ll inform us about Galaga, they’ll tell us what they do, we’ll talk to them and then they’ll go off and start a run in the respective game that they kick ass at and we’ll be cutting from you know, Pat Laffaye on a five-hour Frogger run back to all these brackets are tournament.
So it’ll be very healthy and then we have tons of special content and Meow Wolf videos and we’re also trying to show what the Meow Wolf is like, so to refresh the palate a little sorbet for like a serious amount of fucking watching Galaga you know. We’re gonna cut to these other things, without of course beating you over the head with Meow Wolf or whatever. So that and then Sunday is the big pro tournament and basically Thursday and Friday when we’re not streaming, the pros are doing marathon runs in Galaga. Which is another world record and their high scores will populate the brackets for the pro tournament, and then they’re gonna play and we’re gonna be cutting away on Sunday a lot less because it’s really high level Galaga and we want to watch that with a bit more focus you know, yeah.
So that’s what Sunday will be like. Then we’re gonna have all of our classic champs back on the couch, plus a bunch of the Meow Wolf people that are really cool and we’ll be doing interviews and watching Galaga and then of course, going into the space and then the special treat is from my indie game world. We’ve arranged the amazing collective from Albuquerque is going to do a host a game jam, we’re gonna host a game jam that’s global and the best Jam games are gonna be vetted and then we’re gonna have these amazing classic cabinet players play these broken crazy fucked up Galaga’s. So I’m really excited to like show them, you know cuz I think for a lot of them they’re not exposed to the fact that in this day and age like a bunch of game devs, sit in a room and they make video game from scratch.
So of course those video games you’re not very polished but they are a blast so we’re gonna loop them to give them something interesting and they’ll be hanging in and playing these games and it should be a really nice bridge between worlds, while still just getting to see these guys do what they’re great at.
V- That is a packed stream!?
A – So that was the hardest part of my job, was like arranging all this shit and having this like vision in my head of how it goes and then putting it all into a spreadsheet that people that aren’t crazy can read.
V – I bet you didn’t think that years ago when you were doing a rap battle, you’d be one day planning a spreadsheet for a massive Galaga Championship?
A – I tell you what though no one likes a spreadsheet, but certain things really need a fucking spreadsheet. No universe should be without a spreadsheet man, it’s nobody’s best friend but so useful.
V – Yes you don’t know what you need planning your life until you’re planning something your life right? Last question, Adam today if someone’s gonna stand in front of a Galaga cab do you think you’ll get your name on a highscore table?
A – ME! I wish no! I you know I can get on the board when there’s like 80 slots on a classic like Root Beer Tapper or Burger Time, like I can get right there at the bottom. I gotta say man, watching these dudes play it’s mind-blowing. It’s like the amount of muscle memory meets pattern recognition, like I’m not that guy. I’m not cut out to be the champ.
V- There’s a lot going on in their memories that isn’t going on in mine.
A – Oh my god yeah! Basically you know, people are built differently. I love I just the propensity you know, watch a lot of like awesome games done quick as well like such a huge fan. Like there’s this thing where, I know we in independent games designers they go through months and months of changing the video games subtly to make the play feel good. You know with respect to, “I move the controller and I feel like I’m the little guy in the game” you know? And they make it more human and make it more natural and then there’s people that play these games so fucking good they play them frame perfect, and they play them like a computer! So like, what happens is these games are designed to feel great and then these people become so good at that feel that they start playing the actual code and frames. Dude! I can’t and again it’s the same thing as these champs were bringing out, not in a million years am I that guy. So good, I’d love to recognise things that I am not – in a positive way – and like appreciate that shit, so I think that’s really what this is all about. It’s like bringing these guys in and like you know, there’s a lot of kids, young people, old people, all kinds of people at Meow Wolf and I hope it inspires like… I hope some people see this and… the great thing is this going out on the Internet, I hope people see this and are like…
V- That’s fantastic
A – Yeah, but it wakes the challenger up in them you know. They’re like, “Holy Shit! That looks difficult enough I want to try it.”, because that’s how it starts for everything you know you see something for the first time yeah.
V – I remember I went to a recent Expo my friend adores Galaga. We queued up to go on this one Galaga, there’s a massive queue for him and when he finally gets on it and within three minutes he was dead. He lost his lives and he just walks away happy, happy that he got to play Galaga on the cab.
A- Yeah man I’m really excited to see that. Any people and just like you know these plus these other games that I’ve never seen they brought in Bubbles, we’ve got a game called Pigskin that Callan Hendricks brought which is like; do you know Arch Rivals?
A – Arch Rivals was like a basketball game where you punch each other but they brought a Pigskin and it’s like that with football.
V – I just never seen any of these games.
A – We’re really excited to see them.
Villordsutch and Flickering Myth would like to thanks Adam at Meow Wolf for giving his time up for the interview at Kris at SwipeRightPR for arranging it.