For a seventeen year old boy, the mystery and temptation of girls is everything. With wild heart racing and hands trembling he approaches her – the object of his affections for so long, but now the raging passions that lurk within the darkest recesses of his soul have become too much to tolerate, so now is the moment he must overcome his quaking confidence and confess his feelings. She spies him approaching and turns to smile, the unfathomable depths of her beauty disorientates him further and it takes a few moments for him to realise he has stopped breathing! Now is the moment, his heart beating so loudly in his ears it sounds like it might rupture if he doesn’t vent those dizzying emotions soon.
“Iwouldreallylikeitifyouwouldgooutwithme.” He frantically spits out the words like machine gun fire, fearing if they stick in his throat they might be lost there forever. Her jaw drops a little, her beautiful hazel eyes widen and her smile spreads to illuminate her entire face further. It is clear she had been thinking of him – and thinking of him in the same manner he thinks of her!
But suddenly a dark storm cloud passes between them and that face of delight is shattered by doubt and she peers at him, pity all that remains on an angel’s face transformed into stone.
“I would...” She confesses, allowing hope to cruelly writhe inside him before the metaphorical axe falls. “... But you’d have to stop that Nintendo thing.”
That Nintendo thing was the Mega Drive Championships.
That seventeen year-old was...Long have the Mega Drive Championships lived under the shadow of nerdy misconception and contempt. The reasonably renowned Sega Slayer featured a section on his website criticising us 'European nerds' for playing 'ancient Mega Drive games', during the early days we were told frequently that the Playstation was a much more respectable console... but perhaps we’re jumping too far ahead in the story...
8th January 2011
Ah what a way to spend an hour (or two)
Streets of Rage 2, Mania, with one life!
It was 2001. The world had survived the terror of the millennium bug and was ready to believe in technology again. The Sega Dreamcast has ushered the world into 128-bit technology and was about to be commercially torn to tatters by the Playstation 2, Gamecube and X-Box. Meanwhile, in a quiet suburb of Nottingham, England, two college students were skiving their mandatory P.S.E. lesson. Normally during these self given free periods, they would squander their time on various video games; Cro Mag Rally (Mac), Goldeneye (N64), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive) and Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive: Mania, 1-life). Today, however, was different. This frosty Friday in late December one of them was about to speak a sentence that would change
the world, video gaming, the universe, potatoes, the United Kingdom, bridges, scissors, retro gaming forever:
“Shall we have a race to see which one of us is best on Sonic 2?”
These fateful words would become the proverbial foetus of Mega Drive Championshippery.
Looking back now there was something of destiny in the air of Tuesday 8th January 2001. Three men worked their way towards their rendezvous at college. The concept of a race on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had evolved over the Christmas period and now a ‘triangular tournament’ on Sonic 2 and World Cup Italia ’90 was planned. It wasn’t until the event itself began that it was decided to include Golden Axe: So, after two weeks of planning, what was to become the First Mega Drive Championship started. It was all so surreal, in an era where Mega Drive Tournaments are comparatively large events, held in hired venues, with members drawn in from across England, with other competitions held across the world, on 8th January 2001, in a small suburban bedroom, three teenagers sat on the floor, in front of a tiny 12 inch television, to play nine-fixtures and determine which of them would be the Champion of Mega Drive. World Cup Italia ’90 roared onto the television screen – a legacy had just been born.
While the early tournaments coped with a glut of external criticism, this was nothing compared to the fundamental flaws internally. Initially everything had started well. The Second Tournament was marketed as ‘longer and more erotic’ and numerous games were suggested as additions, however, without any form of leadership the three members procrastinated and made a colossal error by only allowing minor adjustments from the First Tournament. Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and World Cup Italia ’90 became Golden Axe 2, Pete Sampras Tennis, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and World Cup Italia ’90, but in the short-term the incremental increase from three to five members, by the Third Tournament, kept the competition enjoyable. But the good times were not here to last and 16-bit fun quickly began to fade.
the four, unchanging, unending, unquenchable games from 2nd - 6th Mega Drive Championships
Golden Axe 2, Pete Sampras Tennis, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and World Cup Italia '90
Sweat adorned the faces of Doc Shakib, Lord Dilks and Mr Smith, as the former two fought on Golden Axe 2 to determine the Fourth Tournament title. For fifteen minutes the battle raged. This was arguably the greatest game the tournaments have ever produced, however, it shines like a beacon from the darkness around it. As the Fourth Mega Drive Championships drew to a close there was less magic in the air. Playing the same four predictable titles was exasperated by a system that required a unanimous agreement for any alterations. Each member could see change was required, but nobody wished to surrender their advantages, for is it not better to win a boring competition than lose in an exciting one? Individual desires to win resulted in a phenomenal frequency of tournaments and, with each Mega Drive Championship consisting of three to four legs, meetings were occurring less than fourteen days apart. Golden Axe 2, Pete Sampras Tennis, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, World Cup Italia ’90, Golden Axe 2, Pete Sampras Tennis, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, World Cup Italia ’90, blurred into one endless boring mass. Something had to give to prevent the entire Mega Drive Championships from hurtling towards destruction, but nobody had the power to stop it.
“Friends, Romans, countrymen. Thank you for letting me join and letting me leave. I’ve had four loses and will be back next time to give Baron Von Hooton my spoon. I’d like to thank everybody here, my fans, Slowhand, Sega and the person who made this clock.” - Captain Maltby
Since Captain Maltby’s arrival at the Second Mega Drive Championship he had been a [metaphorical] whipping boy. He was bored of Pete Sampras Tennis, disliked Sonic the Hedgehog 2, hated Golden Axe 2 and loathed World Cup Italia ’90 so quitting the competitions was inevitable. Ironically, by the end of the Sixth Tournament, Baron Von Hooton, the man Captain Maltby claimed he would give the losers spoon to, was also absent. Just three men limped across the finish line of the Sixth Tournament: the original three who took part in the First Mega Drive Championship. The concept of forfeits, which had emerged at the Fifth, completely decimated the Sixth. Of the twenty-four fixtures only thirteen were actually contested, the results of the other eleven being deemed so predictable the rigmarole of playing the game was not necessary. The Sixth Tournament was bad-tempered, boring and all the remaining members considered quitting. It seemed like nothing could save these ailing competitions.
The first anniversary passed and the tournaments had survived (just) but even the threat of extinction was not enough to persuade members to surrender their individual advantages, however, faced with oblivion a compromise was reached. A draw system would be implemented, the four tournament games would be retained, but additional titles added. No attempts were made to address the fundamental problems of protectionism or unanimity voting, but for a while the tournaments trundled on as they had before, which, considering the alternative, was a big improvement.
The Ninth Tournament saw the first serious attempt to take the competition beyond their college boy roots with the establishment of a Second Division and a Knockout competition, but more importantly the system of unanimity decisions was abolished. This unworkable, selfish system that resisted change was partly diluted at the Eighth Championship, however, the small democracy that emerged as a result of the Second Division turned out to be only a minor improvement, as politicking and polarization prevented greater progress. The Ninth marked something of a golden age. The few new games kept the competition interesting, the threat of relegation hung over those Division One members unlikely to win the title, and fresh challengers waited in the lower league. Newcomer, Sir Jackaman, was the tournament darling – with passionate talk and skilled gameplay he had dominated Division Two and, in a 3-0 triumph on European Club Soccer, also claimed the inaugural knockout title. He was elated and next time around would battle the elite for the ultimate prize of Mega Drive Champion. Never before had one member risen so quickly, shrouded in adulation and expectation. The decline was even steeper. Two tournaments later and Sir Jackaman was gone, as was the foundation to turn the tournaments into a serious event. The future seemed like an inexorable drift into failure.
Members of the Ninth Mega Drive Championship
the tournaments were expanded to two divisions
Lord Dilks and Princess Charlene met in early January 2004 to contest the knockout final of the Eleventh Tournament. The game of Pete Sampras Tennis, however, was merely a formality and the forthcoming 6-0 drubbing was predictable. The league competition had concluded over six-months earlier. The entire Eleventh Mega Drive Championship only occurred as the result of a compromise between the divided democratic factions. The Tenth Tournament had seen an exodus of members and replacing them with ‘tournament standard’ people was proving impossible. Without enough participants to fill the nearly vacant Division Two, it seemed the tournaments would be lost in limbo. The compromise contained sweeteners for all everybody but the crux of the matter was a continuation of the competitions with an amalgamation of the two divisions and an alteration to the game selection system into its current format. The tournament landscape had changed dramatically, Mr Smith won all eight of his fixtures securing the first 100%, while former favourite Sir Jackaman was expelled following frequent failures to attend. The Tournament Knockout was discontinued for its impracticality.
Predictability had long been the bane of the Mega Drive Championships, however, the collapse of Division Two, the Knockout and the departure of all the new members was a bitter pill to swallow. The competition had begun life as a fun way for a group of friends to gather during their evenings at college, but by 2004 it seemed stagnant and outdated. Threats of disbanding the tournaments had been around since the Sixth Mega Drive Championship, the Eleventh Tournament, with the involvement of Professor Mizutani, ensured the competition survived for another bout, but Professor Mizutani’s subsequent withdrawal meant the Twelfth Tournament was the same tired four members meeting to go over the formalities of a dull and decaying competition, where the final standings mirrored those of the predictable Eighth Championship, two-years earlier. Nothing was working - there was no appeal or purpose, so, with a sombre acceptance it was decided to bring the curtain down upon Mega Drive Championshippery and end the four-year adventure.
And then there were none -
Lord Dilks won the 'final' tournament
Standing upon the brink of oblivion the pressures of a previous competitions faded: The Thirteenth Mega Drive Championship was just plain fun! The draw system added the Eleventh Tournament threw out an enjoyable array of games, the fixture list was shortened to keep the event fast-paced and - the biggest surprise of all - Captain Maltby returned to the fold to say farewell. With laughter, good humour, good game and good coffee, the Mega Drive Championships ended with their glory restored. The tournament had lasted for less than ninety-minutes and the abrupt end seemed premature – oh to run one more lap on Virtua Racing, or to dance the duel of Street Fighter 2, if only there was another sprint across the Emerald Hill, but there would be none. Lord Dilks lifted the tournament trophy for one final time and the Mega Drive Championships were consigned to history...
Team Ireland and Team England
the 2007 Anglo-Irish Mega Drive Tournament
The plane touched down on the Lisbon tarmac, from a fresh autumnal England afternoon to a medicinally warm Portuguese evening. It was 2009 and on board were the first Englishmen to travel overseas to participate in a Mega Drive competition. Still lamenting the failure of their ‘speedy boarding’ the conversation switched to the looming tournament being held in two-days time.
“If we don’t win we’ll blame it on the weather.” Mr Smith declared.
“We’ll say we haven’t acclimatised.” Doc Shakib added.
The European Mega Drive Championships were the biggest achievement for the series of competitions that in January 2005 were put to the sword. The whole notion of International Mega Drive Tournaments came when a group of Irishmen expressed a wish to battle the English league elite. While the competition remained tense and close for the first half, in the second the tide turned to the Irish and they won the first International Mega Drive Championships comfortably. The profile of the tournaments was increased considerably following the Anglo-Irish bout. People who had previously treated the contests with disdain now acted as if the English defeat was a personal insult. “You must beat them next year” many demanded. 8-bit gaming had revered the Nintendo World Championship on the NES, but never before had 16-bit gaming reached such a lofty high. Now the task was to build upon the successes of the Anglo-Irish Mega Drive Tournament.
Two-years later and Team England were once again at the wrong end of an International mauling. This time, in Lisbon, Doc Shakib, Fireman Sam and Mr Smith sat as a sideshow of the Anipop festival. England had started the competition relatively well, however, their Portuguese hosts soon started to stretch out a lead at the top of the table and by the three-quarter way point, a decisive victory for Germany on NHL ’96 finished off England’s ‘threat’ and they sank into last place. Team Portugal won the 2009 European Mega Drive Championship so comprehensively that there were thirteen fixtures remaining when they became mathematically impassable. “It was a close match...” Dário Pelixo summarized “... between England and Germany. We kicked your arses.”
Team Portugal and supporters
2009 European Mega Drive Champions
Mega Drive Championships had been taking place in Portugal for four-years when the country was pronounced European Champions on their home soil. It had all started in January 2005 when16-bit fanatic, Alberto Campos, who had been collecting Mega Drive games for numerous years, reached the 300 mark in his impressive horde. In order to mark this milestone he decided to organise a tournament. Gathering his friends to the beautiful, historic, town of Sintra, for over thirteen hours, twenty individuals battled into the early hours of the morning to determine the Champion. Such fun was had by all the competitors it was decided to repeat the event six-months later. Mega Drive Championshippery had come to Portugal.
Meanwhile, in England, the curtain had fallen and for the first time in four-years there was a void. While the Mega Drive Championships had continued, no matter how dismal the tournaments were, there was a shared brotherhood between the long enduring participants. So it seemed quite emotional as the five members said their final farewells and disappeared into the cool night. Yet this was not the end, it was an interim during which the best part of the old system was preserved and these foundations were developed. The Fourteenth Mega Drive Championship marked an end of the flawed democratic process and time-consuming politicking and allowed the issues and not the arguments to be addressed. Changes, that would never have been imagined one tournament ago, were implemented: Division Two and the Knockout were revived and a new competition, the Challenge Trophy, was created. The game pools were given their first shake up since the Eleventh Championship and even the scoring system was altered. The new venue, new trophies and expansion of members to their largest amount to date (eight) showed the intention was to move the competitions away from their amateur origins and into a new realm, while retaining all the passion, enjoyment and coffee associated with early Championships.
The sound of feet crashed rhythmically upon the floor: bang, bang, clap. Bang, bang, clap, to the beat of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Earl Holbrook had just scored his third goal against Professor King on Wayne Gretzky Hockey. This was the Knockout Semi-Final at the Seventeenth Mega Drive Championship and one of Professor King or Earl Holbrook would be debuting in the final, Earl Holbrook was that one step closer. The crowd were jubilant, however, this was not through any particular loyalty for Earl Holbrook, or in celebration of a gripping semi-final, this was a group of spectators passing the time to a tedious and turgid encounter. What was a terrible game dragged on for almost twenty minutes, as the crowd endured the worst game in tournament history in good spirits. When the final claxon sounded there was a resounding cheer. Professor King, defeated, tore the game from the console and simulated throwing it across the room. This tragedy was the penultimate game before the most incredible transformation of the tournaments. One final game remained before the Mega Drive Championships went International: The Knockout Final. Doc Shakib Vs Earl Holbrook on the abysmal WWF Super Wrestlemania – a game removed the Division Two game pool due to a ‘lack of enjoyability’ was not anticipated to be a good encounter... it was! The audience were still on form and Hulk Hogan Vs Irwin R Schyster (affectionately dubbed the ‘shite master’) was an excellent conclusion to the Seventeenth Championship. Once the celebration of awarding trophies ended, the caffeine stoked members drifted from the Memorial Hall. Where before there had been an orgy of 16-bit awesome, now all was still and silent. The next time a Mega Drive would be booted in this arena would be in a clash between nations – International Mega Drive Championshippery was looming.
When Ireland beat England in the 2007 Anglo-Irish Mega Drive Tournament, it was hoped that 2008 would unite the domestic English and Portuguese leagues and the International competition would evolve into a ‘tri-nations’ tournaments. On Sunday the 26th October 2008, England and Portugal united for a tri-nations Mega Drive Championship, however, the defending champions, Ireland, did not return for a re-match. Instead three fearless Germans made up the trio of countries. The local newspapers had picked up on the event and were hyping up the fixture of England Vs Germany on World Cup Italia ’90, as a chance for the English to gain revenge over the Germans for elimination at the football World Cup eighteen years earlier. Vengeance was not forthcoming. While Lord Dilks had succeeded in overturning a half-time deficit of 4-0, in spectacular style, at the 2007 Tournament, to win 6-4, 2008 saw Germany crush England 7-0. Team England, who had floundered in 2007, were cut completely adrift in 2008 and the battle for the Mega Drive Championship was fought between teams Germany and Portugal. Everything boiled down to the final game: Portugal Vs Germany – Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition. A win for Portugal would secure the title, a win for Germany would force the competition into a tiebreak. The decisive victory went to Dário Pelixo and Team Portugal.
Dário Pelixo Vs Tobias Berg - Street Fighter 2
2008 European Championship title decider
Brazil had joined the Mega Drive Championships family in 2008, a spur of the Do Além series of video game competitions. That year, the seed of Mega Drive Championshippery was sewn in Germany. Returning to the Fatherland from the European Tournament, having been within a whisker of claiming the title for themselves, the three legends of 2008 were intent on establishing their own domestic competition. On 11th July 2009 Germany pulled in eight participants from across the country to battle for the honour of the inaugural German Mega Drive Championship, but with the added spice of a place in Team Germany for the 2009 European Mega Drive Championship allocated for the best three players. Germany has since held two further domestic tournaments, building upon their strong foundation. The biggest test for the German organisers came in 2010 when the onus fell upon them to host the European Mega Drive Championship. This was a task they excelled at. Endorsed by Sega, in 2010 four nations met in Nuremberg to contest the greatest prize on earth. While the tremendous efforts of the hosts cannot be denied, the European competition, for the first time, felt far too predictable... Portugal once again were the convincing winners, the Germans finished in second and the English last.
To celebrate the ten-year milestone, the European Mega Drive Championships shall return to England for 2011. While the current contests are not without challenges, the future looks better than ever before. In 2001 the English Mega Drive Championships struggled onwards under the burden of predictability, in 2011 we shall address similar issues with the European tournaments. Long-term the focus still remains on growth, both internationally and domestically, and if continue on the course that has served us well for the first decade then there is no good reason why pride, passion and Pete Sampras cannot continue for another ten-years.