Calling Keystone II "Mecca" fits. Certainly, this is what the modern, grown-up arcade experience should look like - think Cheers with just a little more liquor and a lot more Street Fighter. But people don't cross the country for a bar. Keystone II, meanwhile, boasts a veritable Who's Who of fighting game players on the guest list: two-time Evolution National Champion John Choi and regular top-three finisher Ricky Ortiz are regulars, as are the occasional Shoryuken.com staffer. Capcom's Senior Community Manager Seth "s-kill" Killian also makes an appearance every now and then. "We have celebrities every Friday - John Choi and a bunch of other hard pipe hitting fools," Albert tells me, "Tons of random people try to get a piece of the action. I usually say yes because I'm a nice guy. It's hard to regulate the amount of people coming in sometimes."
It takes a particular kind of guy to open his doors to random gamers once a week, especially since Street Fighter players are kind of grimy by reputation. (Literally - one of the giveaways at a Capcom Street Fighter Club event was a bar of Street Fighter-branded soap. Good one, Seth.) Have things ever gone wrong? What does his family think?
Albert handles both questions effortlessly. "Every time we get together it's hype and crazy, always tons of fun," he replies, "That's why people show up from every corner of NorCal. I try to avoid bad shit from happening like people getting slapped or getting their eyebrows chewed off, but sometimes it just can't be avoided. Someone calls the cops every so often. Thank goodness the cops have always been nice. They usually just say to not make so much noise with the games or else they'll ticket me - which has never happened." About his family, Albert simply says, "I have a very loving family. I'm very lucky. My wife, Marisol, allows me to indulge in my sickening video game obsession, and my son Kage is also a game fiend."
Occasional run-ins with the police, alcohol-induced trash talking, and small-time money matches: Isn't that really what Street Fighter II is all about?
Pat Miller has been doing this for way too long. Stop by his blog, Token Minorities, for more on race and videogames.