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Close Quarters Social Gaming Club is home to niche gaming communities

Mike Thomas

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Success comes in many forms, each with its own unique challenges. You can slave away as a humble drone, stacking your meagre financial treasures until they amount to a fortune. Or, you can tackle obstacles like a sword-wielding valkyrie, dominating the competition until you crash and burn. Then again, you could always just ride the big pink snail into the wicker basket thingy.

As Close Quarters Gaming Club founder Blake Compton can tell you, there’s no “right” way to play Killer Queen, the five-on-five arcade game that is the centerpiece of his establishment. Whatever path to victory you pursue, the thing that sets this game apart is its unique potential for building community.

“The differentiating factor between [Killer Queen] and other games is that you can’t play against people online,” Compton explains. “You have to play in person, meaning you have to coordinate 10 people to show up at the same time, so there’s a lot of energy.”

Photos: Kyle Asperger

For the uninitiated, Killer Queen is a real-time strategy platformer that pits teams of up to five players each against each other in a bee-themed world. One player on each team assumes the role of a powerful, warlike queen, with others playing as drones. As previously mentioned, victory in the game comes in several forms: collecting special berries, by assassinating the enemy queen, or by riding a giant snail god into your team’s goal.

While Killer Queen puts a unique spin on the format, Compton has a long history with cooperative gaming. In his college days, he spent his free time playing the online multiplayer game Defense of the Ancients on a national-level competitive team. After graduating, Compton started a successful construction company and fell out of the hardcore gaming scene for a time. It was discovering Killer Queen that brought him back into the fold.

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“I enjoyed it because, at the time, no one knew me,” Compton recalls of his early experiences playing the game at the original Arcade Super Awesome location. “I had built up a company and people knew me around town, but now there was this segment of the population who didn’t care who I was—I was just another guy, and if I sucked at the game I sucked at the game.”

With a growing community of passionate players emerging around the game, Compton realized the potential for creating a purpose-built space for the Killer Queen community in Central Ohio to call home. When an opportunity to rent a space in Franklinton presented itself, Compton turned to the community to help make his vision for the gaming club a reality.

Close Quarters founder Blake Compton

“It was truly member-run and member-built,” Compton says of his club, which got off the ground thanks to crowdsourced help in every area from construction to branding. “I invested a lot of money, but a lot more could have been spent if not for the 20 or 30 people who helped build this thing.”

The resulting member-built club is part chic, modern lounge and part micro-game arena, complete with commentator’s booth for live-streaming tournaments on the gamer-centric online streaming platform Twitch. And of course, there’s the twin game cabinets of Killer Queen, the game that serves as the focal point of the space.

In addition to acting as a hub to the local Killer Queen community, Close Quarters is the sometimes-home to events for other niche gaming interests. In particular, the Columbus fighting game community—which includes competitive players of titles like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Super Smash Bros.—frequently rent the space for their tournaments.

“We have so many different cultures and so many different-sized venues that, these days, we just kind of pick what kind of atmosphere we want out of an event before we even pick the venue,” explains Kyle Keister, a leader in the local fighting game culture who frequently hosts tournaments at Close Quarters. “This place is nice because it’s got built-in streaming, and the home living room feel.”

Beyond the gaming world, Compton has found ways to incorporate his community-minded approach through the local arts scene. He partnered with the consultancy Side Hustle Syndicate, which uses the club as a venue for events, and has also secured a grant to host Franklinton Friday galleries in the space featuring the work of local creatives. In the same vein, gamer- themed murals from renowned Columbus artists Hakim Callwood and Mandi Caskey adorn the outside of the building.

Want to check out this thriving community for yourself? $5 will get you in the door for a single day. If you like what you see, membership to the club runs $40 a month. Whether you’re in it for glory on the Killer Queen cabinet, or just looking for a friendly gathering of like-minded gamers, Close Quarters offers a more welcoming and homey environment than most bar-arcades.

“I don’t run it as a typical business, where you’re trying to make money and have employees and make a viable scheme. I run it more like an uber-hobby,” Compton says of the club. “It’s kind of like your mom’s gamer basement on steroids.”

To learn more, visit socialgamingclub.com, or find Close Quarters on Facebook.

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Arts & Culture

Summer Camp Soap Opera

J.R. McMillan

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Young screenwriters shocked by surprise casting at Thurber House

Summer camp is a rite of passage wrapped in revelry, rivalry, and romance — all the makings of a must-see soap opera. But when Thurber House (humorist James Thurber’s former home turned local literary center) rushed to push their summer camps online this year, they feared some of that creative connectivity might be lost among aspiring young writers.

Hoping for a hook, camp counselors Justin Martin and Frankie Diederich decided to challenge campers with a genre they’d never tackled before: writing an original soap opera. Entirely on a whim, Martin took to Twitter to see if anyone happened to have a connection to the industry.


“I genuinely didn’t expect it to go anywhere, I didn’t even tag anyone. But an hour later I had half the cast of Days of Our Lives,” recalled Martin, whose disbelief still lingers. It was a plot twist even campers didn’t see coming. “California’s stay-home order was so uncertain, we never knew when everyone might go back to work. Even when we told writers and their parents the night before the performances, some of them didn’t believe us.

Though daytime television isn’t an obvious obsession for middle school students, nearly every novel of young adult fiction is essentially a soap opera. And Days of Our Lives is set in the fictional Midwest city of Salem — folksy yet sophisticated, and never short on scandal, not unlike Columbus, Ohio. It’s a short stretch that only seems non sequitur.

“Everyone started with a blank page, but by the end of the week, Frankie and I had helped them create a complete screenplay. But the cast was still a shock,” Martin explained. “Kids admire anyone who has made a career out of doing something they love, and these actors and actresses were so enthusiastic, flexible, and generous. They were every bit as into it as the campers.”

It was actress Martha Madison who happened to see a retweet of Martin’s request and matter-of-factly replied, “Can I bring some friends?” She soon roped in more than a dozen of her costars, all equally eager to give a bunch of adolescent screenwriters the performance they deserved despite a pandemic.

“I’m a big believer in fate. It was an easy ask, everyone said yes,” revealed Madison, better known to many as Belle Black. Her character’s parents John and Marlena have been synonymous with Days of Our Lives for decades. “There was so much character development, and they all had love and murder in the plot. They were real soap operas.”


Like many nonprofits struggling to adapt, the shift to online programming has actually expanded the reach of Thurber House. Much like parents working remotely, kids from across Ohio, and from New York to California, also received insightful lessons in craft and collaboration from screenwriter Amanda Beall, whose credits include The Young and the Restless, All My Children, and General Hospital.

“If you’re a creative person, none of that goes away just because you’re stuck at home. You can still share your experience with anyone anywhere,” Madison noted. “I was very impressed with the writing. I’d love to work again with any one of these kids someday.”

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For more on Thurber House and upcoming events and programs, visit thurberhouse.org

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Music

(614) Music Club: Joey Aich

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Photo by Zak Kolesar.

Every week, (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist consisting of songs that have inspired their sound, tracks they’re currently jamming out to, guilty pleasures, and favorite Columbus musicians. They also stop by to answer a few burning questions and plug any upcoming performances or releases.

This week’s playlist is brought to you by hip-hop artist Joey Aich. Originally from Woodmere, Ohio, Aich has called Columbus home since 2017. Since then, Aich has observed a city going through growing pains. His thoughts are present in his original work and even more poignant in his June 2020 release, Open Treehouse. The retro, introspective nature of the album shines through on his playlist selection and through his answers, both of which you can find below.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0HAmWoTgLUo3hhsGh8QKjj?si=CZoCOG1STyi3_qSefVLKJA

Can you talk a little bit about some of the songs you selected for your playlist and how they may have shaped your music career?

The way I crafted the playlist is into three sections: current, Columbus, and classics. 

The current section (consists of) songs that describe the rollercoaster of emotions I have dealt with amidst the heinous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery due to police brutality and racism. One moment I’m crying in bed listening to Marvin Gaye hoping the violence stops, and the next moment I’m full of rage, and proud, scrolling through social media and seeing peaceful protests along with protests that include people burning cars and looting stores to make sure their voices are heard. Music has helped me during this time and these songs reflect where my head has been. 

The Columbus section includes songs from the Columbus-based artists that are featured on my upcoming album, Open Treehouse. Outside of them being featured on the album, they are incredible friends and amazing talents who push me to be better. Dom Deshawn, Trek Manifest, and Sarob are my “carried by 6 brothers,” and I’m glad we were able to make more music together. 

Classics! These are a few songs that will forever be in rotation for me. Believe it or not, I wrote a book for a class assignment in elementary school, and the title was “Living my Life Like it’s Golden,” because I loved (“Golden” by Jill Scott) when I was a kid. I have a personal attachment to these songs and each artist has had an impact on my genre choice, rapping style, and approach to music. 

During the past few months, how have you been able to stay creatively busy? Did you pick up any new skills or hobbies?

It’s been tough but I’ve enjoyed it. Since I’m in the middle of an album rollout I’ve had to scrap a lot of plans and figure out new ways to make it happen. I told myself I don’t want to come out of quarantine without testing my creative abilities or learning a new skill. Quarantining has stopped a lot of my writing process because I write off of experiences, and being in the house with roommates isn’t that exciting, to be honest. But I’ve found other ways to fuel and channel my creativity. 

I’ve been sipping wine and painting as a way to free my mind and put thoughts to canvas. I was inspired by my friend and Columbus legend, Hakim Callwood, to start painting a while ago, and I challenged myself to take this time to get better and keep myself at peace because I find it to be very therapeutic. 

With a lot of my plans, including music videos, being axed, I’ve been filming music videos on my phone and editing them in iMovie. The process is hard and a bit of a headache, but I’m proud of what I made and my progress with it. I’m glad I stuck with it because now when I work with a videographer I can bring some new ideas to the table. 

Overall, I think I’ve been having a good time with my creative process. I love the challenge of having to work with the situations at hand and make the best of it. 

What do you think separates the Columbus music scene from major industry hot spots like New York and Nashville?

Definitely not the talent. I believe the talent is here, but the infrastructure isn’t as solid as the other big cities. Oftentimes artists here in Columbus and even Ohio as a whole have to go somewhere else and get some type of name recognition before being accepted here in Ohio. I also don’t think that’s technically a bad thing as long as Ohio gets its respect as a place that breeds talent. 

How do you think the Columbus hip-hop scene can carry the momentum it had going into 2020 and turn a positive spin on the latter half of this year?

Continuing to do what we have been doing, but amplified and more polished. Again, I believe the talent is here, but we just have to take the next steps...I subscribe to the “trial and error” method of attempting to do things and learning how to do it better the next time.

To turn a positive spin on the latter half of the year, I think we should continue to be creative and adapt to the new normal because we don’t know how long quarantining will last and what normal looks like after. Maybe we don’t have shows until mid-2021, (so) let’s figure out how to still be effective whether it be live streams or create a novel way to bring the experience to the audience. I like where Columbus hip-hop is headed. I think we have a good group of artists that are right there and at any moment lives can be changed. 

Aich’s latest album, the June 18 release Open Treehouse, is available to listen to on all streaming platforms and available to purchase on Bandcamp here.

Here is where you can find Aich on the Internet:

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Arts & Culture

Rare flower ready to stink up 2020 at the Franklin Park Conservatory

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Photo provided by Franklin Park Conservatory.

“Some people wait a lifetime to see this,” said Bruce Harkey, president and CEO of Franklin Park Conservatory. 

What someone will wait a lifetime to see (or smell) varies from person to person. If watching a massive flower bloom and let out a wretched odor is your thing, you better keep a close eye on the Conservatory.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday, the endangered Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will flower in the next week for the first time in the Conservatory’s history. The flower can grow to 10 feet tall and emits a strong odor, resembling rotting flesh. While the “corpse flower” only blooms for a few days, those who go to the FPC to visit it will not soon forget it.

And while it may seem that 2020 could not get any weirder with its masks and murder hornets,  this particular brand of weird is actually kind of cool—and it’s in our own backyard.

Check out the FPC social channels, where you can view the bloom live, or head to the Conservatory to smell it in person, though the required mask may prevent a full whiff of the dreadful stench. But if you dare, you can buy your timed tickets online here.

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