I Miss the Arcade
Some of my favorite memories are of going to video game arcades as a child. But, sadly today they have almost disappeared. Sure their are Chuck E. Cheese's all over the place, but they're just not the same. One Arcade called Funland closed down a few years ago and it still has an empty building with a cool looking mini-golf and batting cages just sitting there with a big keep out sign. Another local arcade had an awesome go-kart track. But, this arcade was changed into a daycare center. At least it is nice seeing the kids race around the track on little big wheels and tricyles. But, when I was in my teens I raced go-karts around it and played Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat there. The arcade was a big part of my life and I am sad to see them go. At least a few times a month I would go to the arcade with a group of friends. We would play pinball, skeeball, air hockey, and most importantly video games. Sure I had an Atari, a Nintendo and Later a Playstation at home. But, going to the arcade was just so much fun. It was a place to play the newest games before they were released on the home systems. The graphics were much better and I could compete against other players. It was awesome when I could enter in my initials for a top score of a game. I would have a blast playing a fighting game on one quarter while others kept dumping in quarters to try and beat me. I wasn't even born when the first games came out. But, when I was old enough plenty of the first games where still around and I loved playing them. Some of my favorites were Donkey Kong Jr., Ms. Pac Man, Centipede, Gyrus, Rolling Thunder, Gauntlet, Chase HQ, the Mortal Kombat series, Ikari Warrioirs and numerous others.
While growing up in the 80's arcades were popping up in every town. There were a few nearby so I could visit them pretty often. I was pretty lucky in that my aunt and uncle had a vacation home up in Gunstock NH. My mother or one of my aunt's would take me there at least once every winter and summer. Nearby in Laconia is the worlds largest arcade, Funspot. I would spend hours their and never want to leave. They had all of the old classic games like Pong, Pac-Man and Space Invaders. They also had all of the newest games too. I am glad to know that the place has outlasted home video game systems unlike most other arcades. Funspot is actually considered the American Classic Arcade Museum. The place is 2 hours away from my home or else I would be their all of the time. Tons of video game geeks like me are willing to travel across the country to see it. I hope to bring my boys there soon. They would be completely Aww struck.The place has 3 huge floors dedicated to video game machines. A lot of the movie The King of Kong was shot at Funspot.
History of the Arcade
Video game cabinets became popular in the mid 70's. They would consist of a monitor, a colorful cabinet with pictures of the game and a controller. Oh and of course a slot for quarters. In 1971 the first coin operated video game was made. It was called The Gallaxy Game and it was placed at Stanford University in the student union. When the game became more widely built it was renamed Computer Space. In 1972 Atari was formed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. They created the video game Pong which quickly became a huge hit. They started out in bowling alleys and bars. As the games became more popular they started being found in gas stations, liquor stores, malls, restaurants and evan retail stores. In the early 80's arcade machines became more popular than ever. Video arcades started popping everywhere because the public just couldn't get enough. Parents were worried about kids skipping school just to play them so they didn't open until school got out.The best players would be followed and interviewed and even had groupies. In 1977 the first Check E. Cheese was opened. It was actually opened by the creator of Atari, Nolan Bushnell. His idea was to introduce younger kids to video games in a family friendly environment. Unlike bars and bowling alleys where most video games were at the time. Today Chuck E. Cheese is just as poplular as ever especially for birthday parties.
A Sad Farewell to the Arcade
Eventually home video game systems caught up with the graphics of arcade games. Although sadly in many cases the fun factor has suffered. Instead of going to the arcade as often my friends and I would hang out at each others houses and play video games. It was a lot cheaper once the initial game was purchased. We still headed out to play the newest Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games sometimes because they were a lot more fun against others. In the mid 90's a place called Strike One opened near my house. It was awesome. They offered indoor soccer and batting cages. But, the important thing for me was that they also had an awesome deal for older games. You could pay a flat $5 and play all of the games they had all day. I had a blast there. Strangely it was never very crowded. I guess most people were at home playing games.Soon many of the newer video games became 50 cents or even a dollar to play. A few years ago an awesome Pod Racing game came out when the new Star Wars came out. The game looked like a lot of fun. But, at $2.00 I wasn't going to go near it. Sure it moved and had killer graphics. But, it was just to steep of a price for me. I only saw a few people ever playing it. Today you can play Xbox live so you don't even need to leave your house to talk with and compete with other players. All of this sad talk is making me want to plan a trip to Fun Spot this summer. Wired just had a very relevant article. Small-Town Arcade Taxed out of Existence. Seems as though the taxes on places having old video games are outrageous. They have been around since people were standing in long lines to play the games. Today fewer people are playing the games and the cost of owning them in a business setting is more than they make. No wonder an important part of America's culture has been disappearing so quickly.
Classic Arcade MachinesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Best Video Game Movie
Classic Arcade Screen ShotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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