Arcade dreams

Galaxian machineDiary date: 29th May, 1985

Galaxian, Pac-Man, Defender, Space Invaders, Track and Field, Star Wars. Worlds of wonder when anything seemed possible.

Engrossing, state-of-the-art video games in colourful, custom-made cabinets. Seedy arcades in gloomy rooms with sticky, concrete floors. Tumbling coins landing loudly on silver-metal trays. Piercing, earworm music looping endlessly. A grabbing claw, too frail to carry off its booty. Armies of upright fruit machines, bandits’ arms poised and ready. Air hockey, shoot ’em ups, water guns, penny falls, basketball and bingo. A horse race on sticks with a random, last-minute winner.

Games you wish you were good at.

Players huddled round glowing screens, murmuring appreciatively as the latest level starts. Initials rolling upwards in a slow scroll. A hi-score that speaks of unseen worlds.

Games you wish you had the cash to play.

Checking shiny trays for the forgotten coppers that could be just the start. Longing looks at the Change machine. Pinball wizards making their money last forever. Side-by-side racing cars with pedals the penniless players can’t reach. A game demo so good it saves the cost of feeding the hungry slots.

Games you sit inside. Games you stand on, or in front of, or next to. 1UP, 2UP, 3UP, 4UP.

Games you lose, and games you win. Games you play just to see what’s next.

Games you wish the girl from Art would watch you play.

A teenager in a glowing room, fingers dancing on a complex controller. Hypnotic, immersive action on a rich, realistic screen.

A headset with a microphone. Go left. I’ll look upstairs. Invisible collaborators from across the town and around the world. Competitors, enemies, teammates. Cover me, I’m going in. Hi-scores constantly redefined as ratings, reaction times or efficiency. Games played with whoever you want, whenever they’re there. Fly solo or assemble the dream team.

Games you lose, and games you win.

Games that check your heartbeat and sense your movement. Watch and be watched.

Games you play just to see what’s next.

Games you wish the girl from Art would watch you play.

 

(Image credit:ย http://www.coinopspace.com)
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44 thoughts on “Arcade dreams

  1. dakegra

    I introduced Ed to the retro games room at the Media Museum. His initial reaction was of disdain, but several 20 pence pieces into Gauntlet soon changed his mind. We had a good discussion about how ‘back then’ the game itself had to be good rather than just relying on shiny graphics.

    I think he still prefers his Xbox. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Anna

    This is brilliant, stirring- thank you so much for sharing! Those who do not play games cannot understand just how grand they really can be. And welcome to the Freshly Pressed gang my dear! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. rami ungar the writer

    It’s such a shame that arcades are going under as more people play them at home. I wish they played them at the arcade more often. How else will I play Tekken or House of the Dead, especially since I don’t own a console?

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  4. Jen

    My dad is an attorney and every once in a while he would do a case for barter instead of money. To our benefit… one time the barter was for a real live arcade game. Qbert! In our basement. I was the coolest kid on the block for a while. And I got really really good at hopping from block to block.

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  5. littlemisswordy

    Great post! We have an old stand up arcade machine like the one pictured. My hubby gutted it and put in a computer so it now plays over 5,000 games. Can’t entertain without guests of all ages hovering around it.

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  6. jamesroom964x

    This was a really evocative post for me. Brought back all the memories of going to an old beachside arcade with my dad as a kid. He’d hand me a fresh roll of quarters, and for an hour or two, I was a king. I miss arcades, there are so few left now.

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  7. lawrenceofcanadia

    Been there done that ๐Ÿ™‚ I was a piball wizard myself. My friend was a legend at Virtua Fighter Two. YOu should check out my post of Computer games of the 80s. A trip down memory lane for all ๐Ÿ™‚ Great article

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  8. Animockery

    Nostalgia is a fun topic. We talk retro all the time at Animockery Studios and we actually really dig into it in most of our shows (not saying much since we only have three out). We plan on really going deep into nostalgic conversation in an upcoming episode, probably around the 17th. Thanks for sharing your memories and congrats on the FP.

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  9. gothichydran126

    Great post! Brings back fun memories of going to big arcades in the mid 80s to late 90’s. I remember spending part of my allowance money on games like Cadash, Contra, Street Fighter 2, and any Neo Geo game.
    When I think about it, that was the only time when kids, teens, and adults gathered up outside the house together to play video games (not forgetting the emergence of the Atari or Nintendo console’s). Doesn’t really happen anymore with the take over of online gaming. Sure they meet online but it’s not the same as meeting in person.

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  10. pickledwings

    That brings back memories!

    As a young teenager, I went into arcades and played the likes of Galaga, Defender, Time Pilot and others of their era.

    Later, I worked in arcades and eventually managed one. Galaga had surprising staying power and could still attract players while sitting in the midst of the various Mortal Kombat editions, Soulcalibur, Marvel vs. Capcom and their ilk.

    I remember when the technicians would exchange games regularly, bringing something different in for my branch and sending one of mine on to another. Then, they didn’t exchange so much anymore. They’d come and take one of my branch’s machines but not leave another; the machine that they took wasn’t going to another branch, it had been sold to a private buyer.

    My branch got emptier and emptier as more of my regulars chose to play on home systems or online. Listening to them talk about all the little extras they could download for the online version that made it better than what I could offer them left me with no latitude to blame them for their choice to abandon the arcades.

    When I was a kid, the arcade chain seemed to have a branch in every mall in my home city. When I stopped working for them, around 15 years ago, they were down to two locations.

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  11. jhosack87

    As a gaming nerd, this is beautiful. Then again, as a writer and human being, this is beautiful as well. Your detailed descriptions are amazing. Thanks for the memories.

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  12. L. Palmer

    I had the opportunity to go to E3 a number of years ago, and despite all the flashy, shiny new games and toys, I was drawn to an exhibit of classic arcade games. I got to sit in a Star Wars booth for a few minutes, and be trashed by green-lined tie-fighters, but it was an awesome few minutes.

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  13. Angelia Herrin

    Gosh I remember going to the arcade on the corner and trying to stretch the dollar or two I had to play with. Weather I was playing pac man, dig dug, or my fav Donkey Kong 1, 2, or 3 I was in another world. I remember when in 8th grade I got my first Nintendo and stayed up all hours of the night playing. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and congrats on being freshly pressed… Angelia @ http://dixielandcountry.com

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  14. alwayslittlepieces

    This is awesome, you transported me back! But of course I wanted the guy with the hockey jacket that I had a huge crush on from school to come over and watch. “No school like old school”. In my town Kelowna, BC Canada, we still have same old arcade place that I went to as a tween(almost teenager), the cool age and my children have been there. Hope they have those same feelings and grand arcade dreams you felt too. Thank-you, loved this.

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    1. jasonallanlapp

      Through secondary school, I was plagued by being in love with the not-so-popular art class girl. There’s just something mystic… so intriguing about women with creative souls.

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  15. brittneyyeahh

    I love this! as being born in the generation i am, i’m sad that there aren’t really any arcades around. instead, i have to buy the classic system and some games or the “atari classics” or something for say…playstation 2. i would do anything to be able to live back in the ’80’s just to feel the giddiness of having a pocket full of quarters and a few spare hours to kill at an arcade. sadly, time travel hasn’t been invented yet, so i guess it’s time for me to go back to my xbox. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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  16. SandySays1

    My human and I enjoyed your post very much. He can remember taking his kids to an arcade to play Pac Man and Pong. He is ten days older than dirt. He related a recent incident in a restaurant where he was talking to a mother and her son about things to do over summer. He mentioned that the mother might introduce her boy to “Kick the can.” She immediately asked, “Does it work with X-box?”

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  17. Kenneth

    My generation just missed the time of arcades, yet I still feel nostalgic thanks to your beautifully written post.

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