A look at the Galloping Ghost Arcade and the Chicago NRS scene with GGA Wafflez

Happy Sunday to those in the NRS community and FGC.

I wanted to take this week to go back and interview another T.O. in the scene. If you recall, First to Ten’s first interview was with Chyna who helps run a weekly in her town in Tampa, Florida. This week I decided to show you all a man who’s involved in the Chicago local scene who’s’ been around for a long time, GGA Wafflez.

As you all know, many names in NRS’ past have been associated with the Galloping Ghost Arcade. Some who were even associated with the name currently work at NRS such as 16 Bit, Dizzy, PPJ, and SaucyJack. I reached out to Mr. Tommy Wafflez for him to give you all the scoop on the Chicago NRS scene.

I had the pleasure of officially meeting Tom about 2 months ago when I went to my first GGA weekly. I had wanted to go for a while, but schedule had restricted me a lot. But honestly, I am glad I went. Tommy and the other GGA gents like Jeremiah, Max, and Fillpops are all very kind and excitable individuals. They continue to run this weekly in the suburbs and it has a pretty decent turn out as well. It also peaked my interest to interview Tom because I still haven’t gotten to learn much about him even with spending some time down at GGA. First to Ten gives myself and all of you in the scene a chance to learn more about everyone though, so let’s get to it.

1. Tom, thanks for joining us this week. Please start out by telling everyone a little bit about who you are, where you come from, and what you do.

Glad to be here! My name is Tom, but most know me as Wafflez. I’m an original member of Team GGA from Brookfield, IL (Western suburb of Chicago), was actively competing and traveling from 2011-2014, and now run Ghost Battle Series at Galloping Ghost Arcade every Thursday evening.

2. When did you start going to GGA and what made you want to stick around most?

I found out about Galloping Ghost in late 2010, shortly after they had opened. I fell in love with their Street Fighter IV cab, and played it as much as I could when I was there with one of my best friends Fil Pops. This inspired us both to pick up the game on Xbox, buy our first fight sticks, etc. We later transitioned to Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which they had a cabinet for as well. Finally, in April 2011, Mortal Kombat 9 was released. The owner, Doc Mack, decided to put a team of strong local players together for one of his favorite game franchises. The game took off (within the FGC, being at EVO and all…), and our team of sponsored players started grinding it out, as our first tournament was Seasons Beatings later that year in October. I had always been a competitive person when it came to video games. Like many others, I was always dominant or at least strong among my group of friends. I was immersed into a scene where I was nowhere near the top. It was new to me, but I was determined to play everyday, travel where I could, gain as much exposure to the game, to become the best I could possibly be.

3. I know you really loved Mortal Kombat 9. Who did you main and what did you love most about that character?

Yeah, it’s easily one of my favorite games of all time. There is a ton of nostalgia attached to it for me, which is probably why. I mained Smoke. I won’t lie, I started off because he had MASSIVE damage when the game first came out (and even after they patched it 🙂 ). I thought he was a cool ninja. His color, his HAIR, his schtick, his name is Thomas. He was just really cool, had great tools, and I just clicked with him. Not many people played him either, which I like. I definitely used people’s lack of character knowledge against them in tournament often.

For some video of Tom’s Smoke:

GGA Wafflez vs. DR Gross

4. When did GGA begin to change and what caused that change? What do you miss most about those days?

Our scene had a lot of really good players back in the day. At the tail end of MK 9 and into Injustice, everyone on our team (Jeremiah, Dizzy, Fil Pops, Hahn, Saucy Jack, PPJ, MAX, SOONK, MOE, myself) was able to play at a high level, and that helped draw twitch viewers, as well as out of town guests, especially during Chicago based tournaments. One player in particular played a big role in creating the monster scene GGA was, and that was 16 Bit. He is a hype man, and with a strong team to back him up, he was able to create tension between other local scenes, and in the end, create really strong rivalries between regions. People wanted to be where he was, he always had something spicy to say. We would easily get hundreds of viewers for GBS (which started during Injustice: Gods Among Us).

I miss the camaraderie we had built in grinding the game almost every single day in preparation for tournaments. This was in a time where playing online was not optimal, and we would all meet up at the arcade to train. Offline/local scenes were valuable, and we had arguably the best. 2 AM trips to Tony’s, the all day breakfast place across the street from the arcade. Going on road trips to Ohio, Indiana, and all the way to Georgia for tournaments. Talking matchups, the blowups, researching opponents, looking at brackets and figuring out every possible scenario on who we could play. It was all really fun.

team pic 2

Group photo of Team GGA

5. Who would you say was your biggest rival as a player during the peak of the weekly tournaments at GGA? What is your opinion on rivalries?

I am a very competitive person, and generally don’t take losing lightly. I’d say 16 Bit and Fil Pops were some of my biggest rivals locally. Fil, because he is one of my best friends. There’s always pressure when playing him for some reason. He plays weird characters usually, that for some reason always do monster damage. He also likes command grab characters which is a style that is hard for me to play against. When he puts time into a game, he gets really good. He has a win over a Glass Sword I remember. He had come in from Atlanta, and Fil played out of his mind and won (it’s on YouTube go check it out). 16 Bit, because we had always gone toe to toe for the most part. He had more major tournament success than me, but I was able to keep up with him because I knew his play style, and vice-versa. Our matches were usually very close. These rivalries never ended with shit talk though. They were friendly, and after 5 – 10 minutes of salt, everyone is cool and we’re back to just playing the game. Rivalries in general are great though. They are what the fighting game scene was essentially built on. It’s head to head competition. The person on the other side is not your friend for those 10 minutes you’re playing in tournament. They make things interesting, they stir up hype. Everyone wants to see the pop off, the blowups.

6. What are some of the struggles you face with running a weekly tournament?

Attendance is probably the biggest issue with our weekly. We lost a lot of our big players, who had really good pull for the tournament. With a larger average attendance, we’d be able to put more resources into our tournament. Pot bonuses would be a nice thing, though it’s not what this tournament was ever built for. The idea of this tournament is to encourage more nearby players to make it to offline events, support their local scene, and meet other people who have similar interests. I highlight people, because what we try to do is provide a social aspect to video gaming. It’s not just playing faceless players on the internet in ranked sets. We try to bring people together who would have never met each other otherwise. I think we have done that part well, as we have created a small, but strong group of players who come out every week after work or school, to hang out and play the game. It also serves as a means to improve the level of local Injustice 2 competition.

GBS tournament

Photo with Tom playing with others at GGA weekly.

7. What advice do you have for those looking to start a local scene/tournament in their town?

Patience is virtue. Make sure to greet those who are new, and try to be as a friendly as possible (give yourself 10 minutes after losing a match haha). You need to put time into these things, and I’ve been slowly learning, season after season, what I can do to improve. This means things such as match videos, streaming on twitch, promoting it through Facebook, Twitter (something I’ll be working on for next season), Testyourmight.com, etc. I was lucky to take over something which had already started. Going out to your local GameStop fighting game tournaments, or your local monthlies and promoting. Talk to people, gauge interest. Also… CONSISTENCY IS KEY!

8. Do you play any other games in your spare time? Any that you are looking forward to?

I play a gross amount of League of Legends and like to pretend I’m good. I’m looking forward to Vanilla World of Warcraft.

9. What would you say is the best part about being at GGA?

I have been given insane opportunities through GGA. They have been able to provide me with things I would have never dreamed of when I was a sponsored/active player for them. I’ve met a lot of really cool people who are now my friends, traveled to places I wouldn’t have, and have accomplished some great goals I set for myself as a player.

tonys

Tom and a bunch of NRS familiar faces such as Kitana Prime, Noobe, DR Gross eating at GGA local diner, Tony’s.

10. Do you have any plans in the future for your weekly? Also, are there anything you’d like to see specifically?

I want to buy more setups and promote more through Injustice centric websites like Testyoumight. I’d like a little more professional commentary for our viewers. It’s tough being a small, local, casual scene though. I want to see more players come out. I think people think we can’t provide the level of competition they’re looking for. I think we provide pretty good competition for those looking to get involved in the tournament scene. We’re a great stepping stone for that, but provide more than just tournament experience.

Shout out to Doc Mack and the Galloping Ghost Arcade group for all that they do.

And also people can tune into the GGA stream: http://twitch.tv/gallopingghostarcade
Don’t forget Thursdays around 8PM Central time is when the weekly begins there!

You can also stay up to date with GGA and Tommy at the following:
GGA Wafflez Twitter
Galloping Ghost Arcade Twitter

It’s always really interesting to hear the perspective of others in this scene and what they do.  No two players are identical and I think that’s a beautiful part of our scene. This guy started awhile back loving the NRS scene and is still around to date making it so players young and older have a place out here to play each other and have fun.

I hope you all enjoyed this segment.

As always I’m very interested in feedback.  I don’t know what content to keep providing other than what I think wants to be scene without it. If there are certain players you really want to see get the spotlight for this let me know. Next week we will have an artist interview mid week as well as Canada’s own, Biohazard. Please remember as always to tune in next Sunday for that.

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