GOBLES, Mich. — In the early 1980s, Jon Klinkel got tired of playing Odyssey 2 and Atari 2600, two of the most popular arcade games at the time, he said. The pixels were so big he couldn’t tell what the images on the screen were. So when Galaga came out in 1981, it was so "crisp and clean" he was hooked the first time he played it in 1982
“They had it at our local grocery store in Albion,” said Klinkel during an interview Klassic Arcade. “Whenever I could get quarters I’d go to the grocery store and play.”
Klinkel got so good over the years that he played at the Galaga world championship in Sante Fe last weekend. He played for 12 hours and accumulated 15 million points.
“It was pretty wild,” Klinkel said. “They covered the whole cost of the trip. So that was great and then I ended up finishing 3rd place.”
He competed against nine other men from all over the world, including California, New Zealand and Australia. The winner took home $10,000, while he pocketed $2,500.
“We all got so nervous on Sunday,” he said. “It was just crazy. None of us could play really.”
Klinkel said he’d been playing the game — which allows you to control a spaceship and shoot things in the air for points — on and off for years. He played at several arcades in West Michigan including Klassic in Gobles and Aladdins Castle in Battle Creek. However when the arcade trend faded, he stepped away until 2009.
“I found out ‘oh my god’ there’s world records for this stuff,” said Klinkel. “There’s tournaments and there’s all this stuff that I never knew about back then or I would’ve had world record back then.”
So he started playing again, he said, setting multiple records in dozens of arcades. He’s even been donned the Galaga God. And now that he’s an actual champion his new mission is to leave his mark everywhere.
“That’s one of my goals is to put the highest score on every arcade in the country that has Galaga that keeps track of high scores,” he said with a smile.