Meet Tom Oswald. He’s a mild-manned father of two and hard-working Best Buy employee in San Antonio. But put him in front of a vintage Mortal Kombat arcade game and his heart starts pumping and he becomes “Mortal Tombat” — the guy who never loses.
“About four years ago, I was at a video game convention and started playing the Mortal Kombat II game they had there,” Tom said. “The guy who owned it said, ‘No one can beat me.’ I beat him 10 times in a row and went the rest of that weekend without losing.”
That marked the birth of Mortal Tombat and the beginning of Tom’s new outlet for his passion: Going to gaming conventions and drawing big crowds of people who think they can take him down. At one point, anyone who beat him would win the machine. It never happened.
Tom estimates his record at conventions to be somewhere around 1,200 wins and just one loss, a tally that has turned him into a minor celebrity for the gaming crowd. Some of his fallen opponents have proudly worn a sticker that said, “Mortal Tombat Finished Me.”
“I’ll be at a convention and little kids will come up to me, or people will recognize me in the elevator,” he said. “The hype has died down a bit, but it’s still kind of surreal.”
It’s ‘pure adrenaline’
At one point, Tom owned seven different arcade machines and hoped to open his own vintage arcade. He eventually sold the games when they got too expensive to store, but he never stopped playing.
“Playing these games is just pure adrenaline,” he said. “Fighting games are the best because you are the reason everything happens. If you lose, it’s because of what you did. It’s true one-on-one competition, the only game like that in the video game genre. It’s awesome.”
There are plenty of newer games — including Mortal Kombat 11, which launched this week — but the 26-year-old Mortal Kombat II remains Tom’s favorite.
“Even when no one was playing it for 10 years, I played every day,” he said. “I’m very passionate about fighting games, and I set out to be the best.”
Tom hasn’t competed for more than a year and, for now, only plays for fun. But he says his ultimate goal is to compete at Kombat Kon, where he would face the best Mortal Kombat II players in front of the co-creator, Ed Boon, and actors from the game.
And if he wins?
“That’s it,” he said. “I would retire.”
Click here to shop for Mortal Kombat 11 at Best Buy.
Staff writer Blake Derrick contributed to this article.