Back during my sophomore year at UCLA, I spent my time between classes in one of 3 places:
- Chomping away at snacks and edibles from the ‘coop’ (a local on campus eatery)
- Flirting with this one girl that was always in my Engineering courses
- Playing Cyberball 2072
Cyberball 2072 was the most awesome quarter eater ever created. Entire tournaments were created on campus and between colleges. UCLA vs UC Irvine vs USC vs Long Beach State vs UC Riverside vs Cal State Northridge vs… you get the picture. Top prizes were $500 for the people that won tournaments.
I won several tournaments and although, I was easily the best player in the arcade most of the time, I will admit that I was NOT the best at UCLA. There was always this one guy that was better – a guy named Justin whom I’d beaten maaaaaybe twice in my whole life. He was pretty much <sigh> better than me at every video game in the arcade. (except for Sega Afterburner)
In any case, Cyberball was so much fun for me, it was like a dream. Being only 5’3", I was never going to be play football, even though I knew the entire UCLA Football team roster up and down, and had a fifth of the playbook memorized by heart. I played every day for at least an hour or two.
Later in the late 90’s, after I’d had some success in my career, I actually bought a full upright Cyberball 2072 video game cabinet for $1000. It sat at Microsoft in the kitchen area for over 4 years before one of the monitors fried. I eventually sold it for $100 to a kid who refurbished video games. He still has it to this day from what I understand.
XBOX? CYBERBALL? WHAT’S THE CONNECTION?
What does Xbox Live Marketplace have to do with this? Well, the released Cyberball 2072 on Xbox 360. That’s right. The real game. It’s IDENTICAL to the original. Trust me – I know every one of the 250 plays like the back of my hand and I can recognize the opposing teams play just by glancing at the formation and the movement of the backfield.
After playing 4 games, I’m ranked #6 in the world on Xbox Live when playing Cyberball single player. Look me up: BlueMax. I have a score of something like 138… and that’s weak because I’m rusty. Top score is 150 and In my prime I used to get 180. (BTW: By 180, I mean the margin of victory over the opposition is 180 points. As in 180 to 0.) Admittedly, even though it’s just as small old game, I’m a little tickled. I’ve never been ranked on the front page of any of the Xbox Live rankings before.
TWO QUICK STORIES ABOUT CYBERBALL
I once walked into an arcade in San Jose, CA and started to play Cyberball. Little did I know it was inhabited by a local gang. Oops.
A large Mexican from the gang walked up to me while I was playing and said, "You think you can beat me?" Not knowing any better, I said, "Maybe." Before I knew it, 12 or so gang members surrounded me, this one fellow, and the video game. Bad mojo. They started laughing and saying stuff like, "Beat the @#$% out of him…", "Clean the floor with this chump…"
We played, and he was good. Really good. In fact, I lost to him by 2 points. I remember being bent about it because I was pretty sure that on any given day, I could beat him just as well. The funny thing was that the game was such a see saw battle, that the ‘audience’ actually had fun. It was like watching a real football game where the lead was retaken over and over again with great play after great play.
When the dust settled, and he’d gotten the last touchdown, I stopped and turn to him and shook his hand and told him, "You’re a great player. Good game." He said, "Damn right… but you’re pretty good too. Closest game I’ve had in a very long time." Folks were slapping him on the back, whoopin’ and hollerin’.
I walked out with all limbed attached.
Then there was this one time where a kid was playing at another arcade. The arcade owner had been talking to me telling me that this kid had been taking other kid’s money in bets on Cyberball.
So I just walked up and started playing on the same Cyberball machine – opposite screens. Now if you’ve ever played the game, you know that if someone drops a coin on the machine on the opposite side, the player already playing has the option of "accepting the challenge" and starting a head-to-head match with you. Well, this kid decided to challenge me without saying a word. A few seconds later, he said:
"Hey. Wanna put some money on this game?"
I said, "What?"
He said, "Money. M-O-N-E-Y. Wanna bet on the game? $10. Unless you don’t think you can win."
I cocked my head with a smile on my face and said, "Awright. It’s your money."
At half time the score was 55-0. I picked him off 5 times during the first half and most of his players were smoking and in disrepair already. He just shook his head and gave me the $10 right there. He didn’t even want to finish the rest of the game. As he wandered away, I told him. "Hey. Just remember… there’s always someone better, kid."