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Battle Creek's 'Galaga God' places third at classic video game world championship

One West Michigan man stacks up third in the world for his skills at playing the arcade game Galaga.
Jon Klinkel was first given the nickname "Galaga God" in his teens by staff at Aladdin's Castle at Lakeview Square Mall.(Photo: Natasha Blakely/Battle Creek Enquirer)

It was a weekend of furious matches at Meow Wolf’s Galaga World Championship. Earth’s defenders worked to defeat approaching alien enemies, and Battle Creek’s own “Galaga God” fought hard.

The Galaga World Championship is the first in a series of classic video game tournaments organized by the Santa Fe art collective, Meow Wolf.

On Sunday, after a long day of competing, Jon Klinkel of Battle Creek managed to snatch third place from the world record holder Andrew Laidlaw.

“I’m really happy that I got third place,” Klinkel said. “The top two guys, they’re just really good. It’s unbelievable, the difference between the top half and the bottom half. Not that the bottom half are bad, but these guys are just the best in the world.”

►Related: GALAGA GOD | Local gamer gunning for 'Galaga World Championship'

But despite being happy about placing third, Klinkel isn’t happy with his scores.

“Nobody did well in the actual tournament itself as far as scores go,” he said. “We played as badly as some of the amateur players in the actual tournament, so it was a bit embarrassing, to be honest. Of course the score results aren’t what we usually get.”

For example, Klinkel won third place in the tournament against Laidlaw with a score of 321,240, far below the millions he usually pulls off, after Laidlaw lost early in the match.

“We did terribly badly,” Klinkel said. “It was horrible. I think it mostly nerves for everybody. Different reasons for different people, but it was just tremendous pressure, the prize money, the people watching, just being there knowing you’re playing against the best players in the world.”

The match between first and second place went a little longer and stronger, with Andrew Barrow taking first place from Armando Gonzales with 3,462,820 to Gonzales’ 2,865,090.

“Armando Gonzales, I think he was the one I had the most camaraderie with out of the people I didn’t really know yet,” Klinkel said. “Really, it’s just a good group of people.”

Klinkel has started a Galaga forum with fellow competitors Phil Day and Mark Schult, www.galagaforum.com, where they plan to keep track of the top 100 players in the world who submit their scores and collate links to Galaga events.

Despite the lingering nostalgia and popularity of Galaga and Pac-Man, it isn’t easy to find arcades with them anymore. The nearest options to Battle Creek would be Klassic Arcade in Gobles or Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids. (Photo: Natasha Blakely/Battle Creek Enquirer)

Natasha Blakely is a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer. Contact her at (269) 223-0114 or nblakely@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @blakelynat.

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