A WAR THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, SUMMER OF 1995 :
The irony of
this situation should not be lost to history. Shortly before I purchased
my first coin-op machine for The Dungeon, I had actually applied for a
job with Delta Music! I was looking to do something else with
my life at this point in history and felt that my future with Creole Lanes
was at a stand still. After being passed up for promotion to the
manager's position (not once but twice) to people I actually had to train
for the desk position at Creole Lanes (reportedly because of my young age),
I was looking to get a job in my field of choice; which was electronics.
Many of my classmates from my Electronics class at Votech were already
employees of Delta Music at the time, so I felt I certainly had a good
chance of being hired by that company as well. Although I was not
the best student when it came to testing (the teacher hated me so much
he failed me on an open book test, conveincing me to leave the school after
three years of study from 1991-1994), I was always the top of my class
when it came to computers (building, repairing, as well as programing)
at Votech, so I thought this might also give me an edge. With all
this in mind, I visited Delta Music's main office in Thibodaux, LA to apply
for a job. I actually saw one of my old Votech classmates there that
day who told me where I could go if I wanted to meet one of the men in
charge of hiring at the time. I then went to a local Video Poker
casino owned by Delta Music in Houma, with a résumé and a
hope that I could get a job working on coin-op machines like some of my
classmates (I had seen my old classmates from time to time at Creole Lanes
when there was a coin jam or the like on one of Delta's machines).
I entered the casino and personally met the man who would eventually become
my nemesis in the war; one of the grandsons of the owner of Delta Music!
He seemed like a nice enough guy at the time and I personally handed him
my résumé. He shook my hand and smiled at me, but he
never contacted me for a job. Instead, I would see him again later
during the war when he visited The Dungeon and introduced himself to me
as the new man in charge of that location for Delta Music. Ironically,
I believe he didn't even recognize me from that day in the casino, but
that will be another story for later.
Having said all that, it is ironic that this war would have never started with Delta Music had they simply hired me at that time. Had they given me a job, I would not have been working at Creole Lanes during the time when Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3) was being requested (which was only a month or so later). Also, I would have never had the opportunity to get my first machine, and thus would have never gotten into the coin-op business in the first place. In fact, chances are Delta Music would still have machines in Creole Lanes today had they simply hired me at the time when I wanted to leave Creole Lanes and go work for them. I would even go so far as to say if they hadn't tried to cut my throat in the first place (by initiating the war) and simply offered me a job even after I had bought that first machine, I would have been willing to sell them my MK3 machine and forgot the whole thing! I never intended to make a career out of The Dungeon, so looking back on it now the ironies simply compound.
Considering the success of The Dungeon (an arcade that lasted for almost 20 years) and the lost war Delta Music suffered as a direct result of competing with me in the first place, there is little doubt I would have made an excellent employee for their company, instead of a bitter enemy that would eventually cost them that location permanently. In the end, Delta Music did it to themselves and those three long years of war could have been avoided had they had just a little bit of foresight instead of blind arrogance.
THE WAR WITH DELTA MUSIC BEGINS, 11-17-95:
imagined when I purchased my first coin-op video game, in the summer of
1995, that it would actually lead to a war with a multi-million dollar
company like Delta Music, but it did! My original intent was to simply
provide Creole Lanes with a Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3) machine to stop
the constant customer requests for one, and perhaps make a little extra
money on the side in the process. However, despite the fact that
I was just one young man working a minimum wage job with no large sum of
money to invest and seemingly no chance of competing with their multi-million
dollar company, they felt threatened nonetheless and did everything in
their power to diminish my potential to succeed. This became clear
shortly after the final version of MK3 was released, Ultimate Mortal
Kombat 3 (UMK3), on 11-6-95. To my disappointment, it became
very difficult to get this update for my machine. At the time, I
did not know anything about having to deal with "distributors" and without
that connection I was forced to go through the company I purchased the
machine from, which was Pocket Change in the Southland Mall.
Although I promptly visited Pocket Change the moment I heard the upgrade
was available, I was told that they had to "upgrade their own machines
first" and then after that they would "see what they could do for me".
However, Delta Music did not have this problem, for they were well connected and had their upgrades for their MK3 machines long before I was able to get one for my own, so on 11-17-95 Delta Music installed their own fully updated UMK3 machine in The Dungeon first thing that morning! I know this because I always arrived to work several hours early to play on my MK3 machine before I clocked on, and that day was no exception. Imagine the rage I felt when I entered The Dungeon that morning to find that after all my hard work and efforts to improve the game room (which would no doubt improve profits on ALL machines), Delta Music was trying to cut my throat over this one machine I put in there among the 20+ machines they owned. I promptly informed the owners of Creole Lanes about this and they naturally sided with me. After all, MK3 had been requested by us and the customers for months and after being completely ignored I brought in my own, only to have Delta Music bring one of theirs in now as if we didn't already have one! Once I explained that the update for my machine was on order and simply hadn't arrived yet, the owners promptly called Delta Music to remove their UMK3 machine. Their response was "you mean you don't want the machine?", as if they thought they were doing Creole Lanes a favor. Nevertheless, their UMK3 machine was removed that same day and it would not be the last time Delta Music would try to pull something spiteful like this in the future.
Also, this would be a very important precedent, for from this point on a new rule was made! Delta Music would not be allowed to bring in any game that we already had in The Dungeon, so with their foolishly spiteful move on that day they inadvertently sealed their own doom in the coming war. With this childish act by a financially superior enemy, war with Delta Music had been declared as of 11-17-95 and would continue for three long years ending in their defeat by a determined young man with a vision!
DUNGEON GAMES IS BORN, 11-21-95:
Once war had
been declared, and I had another machine in my sights for purchase, I was
informed that I would need to get an occupation license in order
to legally compete with Delta Music with my own personally owned coin-op
machines. In order to do this, I would need to come up with a company
name for my new business. I already had one in mind, but before I
would make it official I felt I needed to tell my family about the whole
new business venture and see what they thought about its potential to succeed.
My grandfather, Johnny Saia, was already a proven successful business man
having run Saia Motor Freight for many years, and naturally my grandmother,
Helen Saia, was also at the top of my list when it came to getting advice
on major life decisions.
The last such visit before this one was in September of 1994 when I had decided to leave Votech to start my own computer service business (D&D Computer Service). Although I ultimately failed at that business, being that my job at Creole Lanes took up too much of my time and I wasn't very good at dealing with people (much less ornery computer customers), my grandparent's advice and encouragement was still very much helpful then and on the date of this visit. I brought up the idea for my new coin-op business during a visit on my grandmother's birthday on 11-21-95. I told them all about the MK3 machine and the idea of purchasing another coin-op machine, with the weekly coin audits showing the potential for profit. Since I had already turned the game room of Creole Lanes into The Dungeon, it seemed only logical to me that my new business name should be called Dungeon Games. My grandfather agreed that there was a good future in the coin-op business and my grandmother was pleased with my ideas, so as of that day the business that would go on successfully for over eleven years, Dungeon Games, was officially born.
First occupation license for Dungeon Games issued on 12-6-95
DUNGEON GAMES BRINGS JACK*BOT TO THE DUNGEON, 11-24-95:
Since my early
childhood, my first real love in any game room was pinball. I spent
far more time playing pinball then any other game in game rooms for two
reasons: one being my enjoyment of the game, and the second being I was
incredibly good at it! This is not just a boast, but an actual fact
proven by my high scores that were never beaten in The Dungeon from the
years 1995-2010 (all pinball machines were removed from The Dungeon in
2010). Unlike most video games, pinball rewarded you with a free
game if you were able to get a high enough score on the machine.
Since I was always on a budget, even as an adult, it was only natural that
would spend more time playing pinball, rather than video games, when I
had a choice. Considering this, it was not surprising that the second
machine I would purchase for The Dungeon would be a pinball machine.
During my search for a faster way to get my MK3 machine updated, I managed to locate my first coin-op distributor called Southland Distributors in Lafayette, LA. There they had a pinball machine on display which was the last one they had for sale for that model. This being the case, the machine was on sale at a discount price, which brought it closer to my limited price range. With a quick trip to Southland Distributors on 11-24-95 I would pick up and later install a Jack*Bot machine in The Dungeon. That machine would remain there and continue to make money until all pinball machines were removed in 2010! The main reason I picked this particular machine was because it was a part of a series I enjoyed which started with Pin*Bot in the 80s'. It is also interesting to point out that I first played Pin*Bot in The Swamp (my favorite game room in 1987), so when I had the opportunity to purchase a pinball machine in the same series for my own game room, I just couldn't resist.
Jack*Bot in The Dungeon (pictures taken November 1995)
However, this was not the only reason I decided to go with pinball as my second soldier in the war. Up until that point, The Dungeon's only pinball machine was a broken down Creature From The Black Lagoon. Although it was (and still is) a fun pinball to play, the one Delta Music had was run down and not properly maintained. Half of the lights on the machine were burnt out and the play field was caked with dirt from having never been properly cleaned. Although pinball machines are high maintenance and probably not the best choice when one wants to make money fast (like with a fighting games back then), I thought it was a good idea at the time. Considering the fact that pinball players are the most loyal customers (Jack*Bot continued to make good money years after MK3 stopped raking it in) and the fact that there was only one other run down pinball to choose from in The Dungeon, I knew that this would be a nice blow to Delta Music's profits. Not to mention, like with Delta Music's other machines, the sound on their pinball was way too low making it that much less enjoyable to play.
Jack*Bot next to Creature From The Black Lagoon in The Dungeon (picture taken November 1995)
was done in very little time, this is only the beginning of the war for
Dungeon between Dungeon Games and Delta Music.
It wasn't until 1996 that Dungeon Games would be able to attack and make
a solid bid to fully "assimilate" The Dungeon, and Delta Music would counter
attack with "overwhelming buying power", as this David versus Goliath
style war would continue...