The Mystery of the Missing Galaxies

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Greetings, citizens of the universe, and welcome to Video-Tron 2000! My name is Tim, and this is my personal platform to espouse opinions about the same pop culture detritus that any uppity suburban twenty-something would take the time to do a website about. There isn’t a lot you need to know about me that you won’t be able to glean from my articles and I’m sure you also don’t need a big wordy introduction to yet one more starving writer’s nerd blog, so I won’t take up any more of your time here.

My inaugural post comes to you on a hint of mystery and tragedy, if you have strong opinions about this sort of thing: the disappearance of Twin Galaxies!

Photo from Rotten Tomatoes.

Many of you are probably already blaming Billy Mitchell. That’s fine, I did too.

Twin Galaxies, for the handful of you unaware (and if this is the case, boy, is the rest of this article gonna be really uninteresting), stood as the self-proclaimed official keeper of video game world records. Founded as a physical arcade in 1981 after original owner Walter Day traveled around the country collecting high scores for a number of the day’s most popular arcade titles, it served the gaming community as a whole, recording things like high scores and fastest completion times for any games you wanted to submit for.

The process, I understand, wasn’t unlike the Guinness Book of World Records: submit some proof of your achievement, maybe play the game in front of some strangers to verify it, and bam! You’re the best Burger Time player in America!

Picture from Rotten Tomatoes

Yes. Yes, this is EXACTLY what he would look like.

Even following Walter’s retirement in 2010, Twin Galaxies’ ownership changed hands a few times but still served the same basic purpose, keeping track of games from as far back as Donkey Kong and as far forward as the Wii/PS3/360 console generation. And…that’s where the problems began to seep in.

Unverified internet scuttlebutt (the most prominent source of information these days) points to a lot of internal strife following Day’s retirement. A revolving cast of newly hired referees would allegedly be brought in, not given a lot of coaching in their duties, and sent out to watch videos of someone fumbling around at Root Beer Tapper or something, they themselves barred forever from ever trying to set a record. Accusations would fly of higher-ups bumping old record holders to promote their friends and/or corporate interests at the expense of previous record holders, some of which had held their positions for quite some time.

My mom used to be really good at Galaga. And now she'll never have the chance to prove it! (Video-Tron 2000 brought to you by the new hit movie WarGames!)

My mom used to be really good at Galaga. And now she’ll never have the chance to prove it! (Video-Tron 2000 brought to you by the exciting new movieWarGames!)

Again, this may all just be internet sour grapes, as that seems to be the only fruit video game forums can bear. Institutional problems or otherwise, though, one day Twin Galaxies just…vanished.

Days after the third Kong Off competition, a Twin Galaxies/twitch.tv sponsored event that brings the best Donkey Kong players together in what has to be the world’s most delightful fighting tournament, the official Twin Galaxies website went dark. Attempts to visit it initially were redirected back to Twin Galaxies’ parent company’s website, and it has since changed to a GoDaddy.com squatter page, the same GoDaddy.com responsible for those cheaply-made Super Bowl commercials that didn’t seem to be advertising anything in particular.

Donkey Blog, a blog about competitive Donkey Kong whose very existence fills me with joy (seriously, go there and look around), mentions that some kind of falling out happened between Twin Galaxies’ current co-owners Richie Knucklez and Jourdan Adler and their web-hosting service Websignia. Websignia has since gone on to start a new website called gamerlife365.com based upon many of the platforms they had designed for the upcoming Twin Galaxies website relaunch.

Since when has the phrase "some housecleaning" not been intended as sinister?

Since when has the phrase “some housecleaning” not been intended as sinister?

And after that? Darkness. Nobody has been willing to speak up as to what specifically happened, nor has anyone commented on what the potential future of Twin Galaxies may be. The GoDaddy page may only serve to defend the copyright of the name while something is worked out somewhere. The future of Twin Galaxies’ upcoming events, including the proposed Kong Off 4, is a mystery shrouded in online name-calling.

Here’s my question, though, and it admittedly pains me to ask it. Is Twin Galaxies still needed? Due to the fact they didn’t hold the copyright for any of the games they tracked records for, those same records could not be copyrighted themselves. This allowed plenty of other fly-by-night websites to display and track the exact same records, so presumably a legacy copy of the most recent standings at the time of the website’s closure has to be somewhere.

Future records aren’t in any danger, either. Many of the most popular games have branched off into basically their own communities such as Donkey Blog up there, and surely they can serve as their own governing body until another umbrella record keeper can be found.

The Guinness Book people have recently gotten into the act, and with as much of a joke as their yearly game-centric publication used to be (the mediocre 11th-era Doctor Who stealth puzzle game got a world record for First Ever Licensed Stealth-Based Puzzle Game or some shit), they’ve also gotten into the score-keeping business and I doubt Guinness is going anywhere as either a record keeper or an overrated beer.

One could also argue eSports serves a similar function. While I would be shocked to see a sanctioned eSports league pop up for something like Rampage, what difference is there between a bunch of twenty-year-olds giving themselves colorful nicknames while getting fussy about DOTA, and a bunch of guys with feathered hair and mustaches in a smoky basement arcade trying to best each other at Pac-Man? Don’t tell the DOTA kids, but there really isn’t much of one.

Still, even with the Internet’s ability to mobilize and declare a champion when prompted, the idea that Twin Galaxies could die this close to being around for an uninterrupted 35 years is damn impressive. Something, or many smaller somethings, will surely rush in to fill the void. I guess I’m just sad I didn’t get a chance to send them any records for arcade games I was actually good at, like The Real Ghostbusters or Revolution X.

Picture from sydlexia.com. Go there, it's neat!

EAT THE RICH!

Goddammit. I couldn’t get through my first blog post without getting mad about Aerosmith. This is gonna go GREAT.

FURTHER READING:

Donkey Blog, Where Is Twin Galaxies? http://donkeykongblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/where-is-twin-galaxies.html

Classic Arcade Gaming, “Scott Patterson Says So Long To Twin Galaxies” http://www.classicarcadegaming.com/forums/index.php/topic,4884.0.html

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