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'Mortal Kombat' Succeeded Beyond Its Creators' Dreams, Just as They Planned

This article was written by Patrick Klepek and originally published by Vice. Read the full article here.


“I was lucky enough to grow up down the street from an arcade in the Chicago suburbs where they would test new and unreleased arcade machines of new Mortal Kombat games. The line to play an unfinished Mortal Kombat III, I distinctly recall, wrapped well outside the arcade itself. While in line, people would trade observations about what was hidden in the game, and even slap post-it notes on the machine, as people discovered new secrets.


There is a good chance that, at one point, I was standing near one of the co-designers of Mortal Kombat, John Tobias. When I recently mentioned the arcade I frequented in my youth, Tobias quickly recognized a description of a very specific suburban mall and passed on a long held admiration for the mall's pizza stand, one that I spent a lot of time at in high school.


‘We visited arcades all over the city and burbs throughout our testing phase,’ said Tobias in an email recently. ‘If we weren’t at our computers or sleeping we were at an arcade.’


Tobias no longer works on the franchise, but was a primary creative force through Mortal Kombat 4, around the time the series was getting overexposed.


The first public test for Mortal Kombat took place at Times Square Arcade on Chicago's North Side, an event Tobias considered ‘make or break’ for the game. Tobias spent the entire weekend watching the machine alongside programmer (and co-designer) Ed Boon.


‘We tried to take in as much info from player behavior as possible,’ said Tobias. ‘We would crowd in with other players at the machine and watch. We were like undercover agents. I was 21 or 22 at the time and Ed wasn’t that much older so we were able to blend in with the crowd. A couple months later after our first full week’s test, I got trapped at that arcade during a Sunday night riot when the Bulls beat the Trailblazers [in the 1992 NBA Finals].’”


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