At the beginning of April, Meow Wolf crowned the Galaga World Champion at Score Wars in Santa Fe. The three main competitors for this ultimate event where Andrew Barrow from New Zealand, Phil Day from Australia and Andrew Laidlaw from the USA. The ultimate champion was – in the end – Andrew Barrow who walked away with a $10,000 cash prize and the title of the Galaga World Champion. Villordsutch managed to catch up with them after the championship event to pose a few questions to them…
Andrew Laidlaw: By invitation honestly… I was just playing the game I enjoyed and my scores got me invited to various events.
Phil Day: I found myself in competitive gaming somewhat by accident. I was living in a small town in Australia. In 2009, for something to do, I thought I’d go for the world record on Galaga. I bought a machine in February, and by September that year I had the world record. By Christmas I had sold the machine with no intention of ever playing again, until I received an email from Meow Wolf inviting me to Santa Fe.
Andrew Barrow: I have always been a competitive person. Classic Arcade Games (CAGs) set the standard when it comes to competitiveness. It’s just you versus machine and they are made to take your money within a matter of minutes.
These games look simple on the outside, but are some of the most complex games ever made when it comes to learning and mastering its nuances. You can spend years playing one game and not significantly improve. They are brutal, and they are perfect.
V: What goes into preparing yourselves for a world championship competition like Score Wars? Is it hours of Mame play or do you sit in front of the original board and play that way, to make sure you’re perfect to the exact frame?
AL: Well for me I have never played M.A.M.E so I just rack up hours on an original cabinet. I had sold the cabinet I set the world record on before I got the Score Wars invitation to participate in the Meow Wolf competition, fortunately a local arcade owner was willing to help by loaning me one from his private collection to practice on. The deal was I had to return it better off that I took it. So this week I’ll be sanding and repainting it!!
PD: Having not played a full game of Galaga for the better part of eight years, I thought I’d better practice. I was able to get my old machine back and play a game each day for two months prior to Score Wars.
AB: To be competitive at one of these events you have to have already mastered the game. I have played Galaga a lot that I didn’t play a single credit a month prior to the event. It is not a game you can master easily, but when you have it is quite easy to pick it back up even after a long layover. I feel if I play too much I will burn out very easily. Not playing was part of my strategy.
V: Having been placed in the global spotlight for Score Wars, you must admit, is a fairly big thing. Did you feel that being in the gaze of the world is distracting to your play, or was this just another day for you at the joystick and fire button?
AL: Going into this I would have thought the attention and pressure would have ruined my ability to concentrate. I know it had an effect on my practicing, but when it came time to perform it seemed to leave me. I was very pleased with my first two matches especially my semi-final round against Andrew Barrow. I noticed great players posting very low scores up front due to the pressure, so I realized controlling that would be the key to success. My third place disaster was not a stress thing just one of those games you wish you could start over!!
AB: I surprised myself by being very relaxed at the tournament. There was something about being surrounded by so many cabinets and so many great players that made it relaxing. I am generally an at-home player on MAME (keyboard) but the transition to a cabinet with an audience wasn’t too arduous. I felt a little nerves in the first round of the finals but that was over very quickly and so I was able to relax up and just have a good time.
V: You were representing your individual countries in Santa Fe this weekend, was there anything you’d personally brought to fly the flag for your hometown?
AL: This does not apply to me….. (Andrew Laidlaw is from the USA).
PD: I didn’t really bring anything (I certainly didn’t bring much competition). I did watch how each competitor played, and asked them about their personal goals regarding Galaga.
AB: Unfortunately I didn’t bring anything from New Zealand over. Reading this now I really wish I did. I did wear some merch from Netherworld Arcade/Bar in Brisbane, Australia. They have been instrumental in supporting myself and CAG’ing as a hobby, they definitely deserved the shoutout. I had a TON of support in the Twitch chat when the stream was on, including many friends and family from here in NZ.
V: With a number of High-Score record holders in attendance at Score Wars, were there any old friends and rivals who you were hoping to run into? Were there any of the up-and-coming players that you were particularly looking forward to seeing in action?
AL: Actually as many record holders as there were I was meeting most of them for the first time. They all were amazing people with different stories as to how they got where they’re at and for me each story was exciting to here.
PD: I’ve know Andrew Laidlaw since 2009. I’ve also know Jon Klinkel for many years. I was excited to hear Jon McAllister had turned his attention to Galaga. But I was mostly looking forward to see Armando Gonzalez and Andrew Barrow play. If any player is going to pose a threat to Andrew Laidlaw’s long skill and long standing world record, it was going to be these two players.
AB: Of course I really looked forward to meeting the past champions (Phil Day, Andrew Laidlaw) and some of the legends of the hobby (Johnny Mac, Don Hayes, Hector Fly, Dwayne Richard, Abdner Ashman, Tim McVey, Tom Asaki to name a few). But the best thing for me was meeting someone I’d been talking to back and forth on Youtube; Armando Gonzales. We got on so well and both share the same love for the game, it was really special. He had been putting up some outrageously high scores and it was great to finally meet the man behind the videos. I’m sure we will maintain our friendship and push each other (and the game) to new heights.
V: You were obviously at Score Wars to rock Galaga, but was there any other classic game cabinets there that you hoped you wouldn’t find yourself in front of?
AL: Well I think all classic gamers wish they were good at Robotron. A game that is undoubtedly one of the toughest of all time! And while there was one there I’m glad nobody saw me on it!!
PD: Defender. As I boy, I wanted to play Defender – it looked and sounded so cool. But it was so difficult to play; chewed through the few coins I’d have at the arcade.
AB: There wasn’t many other games there I wanted to play, however Bubbles was a lot of fun given that the joystick is very unique and can’t be emulated well. Robotron is another game that is much much better on an original cabinet with original controls.
V: And to finish off, if you could have done a victory lap at the end of the weekend on another classic game other than Galaga, what would you have headed straight to?
AL: Is there really another game besides Galaga?
PD: Robotron. (I’m pretty sure I played more games of Robotron than Galaga at Score Wars). I believe Robotron is the first masterpiece of video games – not just arcade games – but all video games. It’s pure gaming. A perfect balance of controls, strategy, and skill.
AB: It really depends on my mood but at the moment I love Donkey Kong 3. It’s very similar to Galaga so I guess that’s what the appeal is. It’s not very well known though despite the name.
Flickering Myth and Villordsutch would like to thank Andrew Laidlaw, Phil Day and Andrew Barrow for taking time out for this interview, also to Meow Wolf and Kris at SwipeRightPR for arranging the interview. For more information on Meow Wolf visit their main website here.