Todd Blatt first played Killer Queen at MAGFest in 2017. He’d heard about it from a friend who played in San Francisco. Upon playing it himself, he was hooked.
So when this year’s edition came around, he brought his friend Clarkson along to the big Maryland video game fest to see the 5 v. 5 arcade game in action. They each ended up playing for about 20 hours over four days.
“I kept finding myself learning little tidbits as I played more and more,” Clarkson, who goes by his last name, told us via email. “The other team would win in a different way and I found that I would adapt to different play-styles depending not only on who I was playing against, but who I was playing with as well. That was really exciting and wasn’t something I had gotten from a video game in a long time.”
Blatt and Clarkson wanted to keep playing, but didn’t want to keep making the trip to D.C., where the nearest cabinet is located. So they got together with some other friends and set out to bring it to Baltimore.
After crowdfunding on Kickstarter, selling merch (T-shirts, keychains, bracelets) and visiting local bars to scout locations, the cabinets that house the game were recently installed alongside the pinball machines at Holy Frijoles in Hampden. It’s quickly attracting a community, with its own Facebook group and regular play on Tuesday, as well as more casual happy hours throughout the week on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. A league is also coming in May.
We're at Magfest. Tournament at 5pm and field game at 7:30! pic.twitter.com/qiODdINrbq
— Killer Queen Arcade (@KillerQueenGame) January 6, 2018
The Brooklyn-made game developed by Joshua DeBonis and Nik Mikros involves two teams, each led by a queen, facing off to be the first to bring the giant snail god home, fill their hive with nectar or kill the enemy queen three times.
As we witnessed on a recent Friday night, it draws a crowd.
So what makes the game stand out among others? For one, it’s a modern game with a retro look. Plus, it’s a rarity to have 10 players. In fact, the game’s website says it is the only 10-player arcade strategy game. It’s also pretty simple on its face. The game divides the 10 players up into two teams – blue and gold. Each team has 46 inches of screen in front of them, and only one button and a joystick. The teamwork aspect helps.
“Communication and map awareness is one of the most important things in Killer Queen, and even a newcomer can contribute and be essential to a win without having to learn all the geeky details about the game,” Blatt said. “For those of use who really care about getting good, there’s a very high skill ceiling so there’s always room to improve.”
And it draws a crowd.
“There’s a large spectator aspect to the game. When you’re not playing, you want to watch what’s going on, see the excitement, and see what you can learn,” Clarkson said.
Blatt said they also bought TV screens and streaming equipment so games can be carried live on Twitch.
“Killer Queen relies on its players for the game to thrive. We’re making sure there’s always a positive vibe of inclusiveness by being readily available to assist with any questions that arise,” Clarkson said.