September 22, 2014

Remembering Mr. Henderson

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com

Posted 10/2/12

One of the things I have always enjoyed about one of my major hobbies — old-timey video games — is the community aspect. I like getting together with some friends and associates who share that and similar interests, and just sitting back, shooting the breeze, and maybe throwing on a few games to play together. The loss of one such friend Oct. 16, 2010 stills reverberates with me to this day, and stands as a reminder of our own mortality.

Kim Henderson was probably a good 15 years older than I was, but we synced up on a lot of things. He and I both enjoyed old science fiction, comic books, advances in technology and artificial intelligence, and of course, video games.

Kim and I had very similar tastes on that front, skewing toward older, less popular genres and games — many of which found their home in the arcades of the 1980s and ’90s — while others were getting into big online games like “World of Warcraft” and “Halo.”

He would hold weekly game nights, dubbed FNG or “Friday Night Gaming” which were open to pretty much anyone who wanted to come by. It was through these that I first met Kim: he got in touch with my friend Jason and me, asking if we wanted to swing by ahead of one of these and talk arcade games.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate that the man was a pillar of the gaming community in the Detroit area; everybody involved knew him, and everyone involved liked him. He’d been running game nights since the mid-’90s, and had been a mainstay in arcades going back to the late ’70s. He used to tell me about walking several miles to go to party stores to play specific games he enjoyed, and going to arcades all over while working in one to spy on what people were enjoying at the competition.

Kim wasn’t in great health, though, suffering from a rare genetic disorder that caused blood clots. On top of that, he lost a leg in an industrial accident prior to me actually meeting him, which exacerbated his clotting problem. He went on all sorts of new and experimental treatments through U of M, and he and I enjoyed talking about the advances in medical science and cybernetics that could one day help him with his problems.

Through the years I knew him, he got married, moved around a bit, and slowed down his game nights, but we still talked online, and I’d stop by every now and again after class to hang out. I certainly could not have foreseen one such visit to be not only the last one I ever made to him, but also the last time he visited with anyone.

That day was two years ago, on Oct. 15, when I popped over on a Friday evening to show Kim a couple games I had picked up that he was interested in seeing. An acquaintance of ours, a guy named Dale, was there as well, and the three of us played some games and talked comics, upcoming movies, all the usual topics.

I also surprised him by bringing along a Vectrex game console from 1982 along with one of his favorite games from his youth, “Rip Off.” As it turns out a 30-year break from the game didn’t mean much, as he promptly stomped me at it. It was a fun evening, and we talked about setting up his basement the next week for restarting FNG.

The next morning, I learned he had died early on Oct. 16. I never learned the exact cause, but the symptoms sounded like a clotting problem.

The moral here is you never know when someone is going to pass away, and it’s important to enjoy as much time as you can with your friends and family. I’m glad I was able to see Kim one last time before he died, even if I wish he were still around.

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