Day 156: The “Killer Queen” Arcade Game brings out the best and worst of all of us

Lee Ngo

For the last few years, an arcade game that is best played with 10 players has swept the world, and I’ve only discovered it in the last few weeks.

What is Killer Queen?

Yes, we know it’s a terrific song by Queen (which saw some life again as one of the early songs you play in Guitar Hero), but this game has little to nothing to do with that rock classic.

Described by its creators as “The Only 10-Player Strategy Arcade Game,” Killer Queen is an indie game of epic proportions. It began as a physical, real-world game played in a field with props and eager souls, and with a little bit of wood and gumption, you can now find one of these cabinets anywhere in the gaming world.

How to play and win

I could tell you, but that’s like explaining soccer strategy to someone, and everyone has their own interpretation. Here’s a more detailed (unofficial) overview of the gameplay.

The cabinet does describe what you should do at the start of any game, and that’s by design.

How to win and yet still be a loser

My first time playing the game was somewhere in the Fremont district of Seattle. My friends and I waited a while for some people in front of us to play what seemed like a dozen rounds. We started to get bored and chant random things, especially, “Snail, snail, snail!” to force the best victory of all.

Visibly frustrated, one of the players turned to us and shouted, “shut the F**K up.”

We had a new agenda: beat the shit out of this guy… at the game he loves and hates so much. It was clear that Killer Queen had a grip on him and the others who would not stop playing and experienced no joy in victory or honor in defeat.

We had to change their ways.

How to win or lose yet always be a winner

My three friends and I finally started playing. Our “fifth” was someone who may not have budged from his position for the last hour, playing as the queen and taking the game way too seriously for his own good. There was a moment when I was fortunately physically in between our “queen” and my friend to prevent some punches thrown.

My strategy:

  1. Don’t give a damn about winning or losing. It does not matter.
  2. Smile and clap if we lose.
  3. Smile and clap if we win.
  4. Never stop talking throughout the entire gameplay.
  5. Tell people that this is the first time you’ve ever played — especially if you win. Say it loud enough so that the guy who swore at you can hear.
  6. Get academic. Pointing out the undercurrent of sexism in the game (e.g. “If I keep assaulting the queen, does that make me a misogynist?”. Refer to the economic victory as a “long-term investment strategy.” Forcing people to think shifts their focus on the game.
  7. If you’re kind of a jerk, play as a knight. I was almost always the knight.

Even our “queen” was cracking jokes by the end, though most of them weren’t that funny. I hope he gets laid someday.

Damn it, now I want to play Killer Queen again. Anyone in SF wanna join?

— Lee

PS: I will not be able to draw until at least Tuesday. Sorry for the three of you out there who care. This post deserves art, so there will be a placeholder from Portland’s Ground Kontrol there for now.

Lee Ngo

Written by

Lee Ngo

Write with intention. Think with compassion.

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