#2 on planet Earth. Crosshairs on the crown.
It took a few weeks, but Ed Rhee’s little secret started hitting the bocce grapevine, elevating him to rockstar status. He doesn’t brag about it. “Outside of wearing the Galaga t-shirt from time to time, I don’t broadcast my skills. I just start playing and then people at the arcade bars slowly start coming to the realization that this dude is not getting off the machine for a looong time. Inevitably, a conversation strikes up and I tell them the back story and my chase for the record. In general, most of my friends know I’m good at old school games, especially Galaga, but being on the front of the Red Eye two years ago pretty much cemented that.”
Ed found his bocce calling serendipitously as him and Bocculism teammate Julie McGuire rolled into Chop Shop. “[We were] searching for Lagunitas Citrusinensis, which was one of our favorite summer beers of 2015 […] that fateful Tuesday was the open house before the league was starting, and Alicia did a fantastic job of charming the pants off us. And of course, the game itself has turned out to be extremely fun. Needless to say, I’m addicted to bocce now, and we had an awesome experience as a first time team. A lot of us are proud drinkers and purveyors of drinking-related games, so we took to the game immediately. I can safely say we showed the most improvement of any team, so we’re looking forward to the next league(s).”
For those that aren’t hip to the arcade scene, Galaga is the game you may have misread as “Galaxa” or “Galatica”. It is regarded as a true piece of gaming history. Released in September, 1981, Galaga is rated 19th best video game all time by Game Informer, only ranking behind such historical heavyweights as Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, Golden Eye 007, and Tetris. F***ing Tetris.
The objective of Galaga is to score as many points as possible by destroying insect-like enemies. The player controls a starfighter that can move left and right along the bottom of the playfield. Galaga’s influence in pop culture has made it’s way into movies, television and music. Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers scolds a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for playing Galaga, then later defeats the enemy aliens in a very Galaga-like way. “Lost” writers would play on their breaks in the writer’s room and affectionately named a submarine in the show after the game. Most recently, in Adam Sandler’s masterpiece Pixels, the Galaga craft acts as the mothership for the alien invaders. The game’s theme is even sampled in Drake’s banger “All Me” featuring Big Sean and 2 Chainz.
How many points behind the #1 spot is Ed? He sits in second place with a high score of 3,983,550. Andrew Laidlaw of Kirkland, WA currently has the world record at 4,525,150. “I was totally unaware of where my score was until I saw the seminal movie King of Kong. The documentary inspired me to start playing Galaga again just to see how good I was, and this was around 2011/12. The emporium arcade bar opened in 2012 which obviously became my de facto training ground.”
As far as Rhee knows, him, Laidlaw, and the man who once held the world record at 3,275,720, Phil Day, are leaps and bounds above the rest of the world. “I’ve only met 2 other people ever who have broken 1M, but I have to imagine there are a handful of other masters lurking out there.”
Ed explains that there are both similarities and stark differences between competing in video gaming and in bocce. “I think being patient, calm, and collected helps tremendously in both arcade gaming and bocce. Repetition and consistency are hugely important whether it’s standing in front of an arcade cabinet for hours, nailing a casino, or scoring a bocce to win the frame.” The differences lie in the team dynamic versus playing solo. “When you’re a gamer, you tend to live a lonely life, and it’s usually not by choice (laughs). Naturally, being on a team offers up the opportunity to share in your successes with others and create a real sense of camaraderie over the course of a 7 week season.”
“However, you need to have chosen your team wisely, or have lucked out, because it only takes one frame to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. When you’re competing with the computer or against your own high score, you carry the mantle of success or wear the crown of disappointment on your head alone. That pain is magnified exponentially when you have to begrudgingly face the downtrodden faces of your teammates, not to mention potentially dodging cans of PBR or scalding hot shots.”
The event is not a short one and takes hours to achieve. “4.5-5 hours. No breaks. Just gotta hold it”. He is planning for the late summer to make his next go for the world record. “Prob August…really depends on how much practice I get in…bocce won’t be helping with that.” Be that as it may, the distraction will also serve as the celebration when the time comes. “At this point, I think the only way to truly celebrate achieving the record is with a rager of a bocce ball party.”