December 5, 2010

Thankful that I knew you and sorely miss you…..

During this time of year we are thankful for all sorts of things; Family, good health, friends, stable job to bring food to the table, and compassion towards our fellow man. As gamers we are thankful for all of those and more; great games, new hardware, updates to bring a new flavor to our favorite games, the joys of taking down a noob and gently resting our virtual nu-nads on their forehead, laughing and having good times with friends, and having the comforting joy of a controller in hand during the long winter nights.

This year I have played a lot of games both retail and downloadable, through great games and sour ones, great narratives and horrible clichéd stories that make famous authors turn in their graves, I have stolen every form of transportation known to man and have walked to the far reaches of the galaxy and back. Still with all of this said and done, all the experiences I have had there is one that I miss every day; the thrill, smell, sights and sounds of the arcade. 

Arcades have played a big role in my life. My family owns a business in Pittsburgh which has assembled arcade machines since the 70’s and is still open today despite the American arcade scene has fallen off the grid; they mostly do touch masters for bars and video slots now. Growing up I was in the front lines of the arcade industry. While my parents were still together we had a pinball machine in the basement, anytime I would visit my grandfather’s shop I would spend countless hours in the show room with various pinball machines and arcade games. After my parents split and the times in the shop diminished, I hit the arcade scene with every quarter I had in tow. There were two arcades in the town I lived in, Pocket Change which was in the mall that is still in use today but has since been remodeled and Giggles (see the above picture) which still has a storefront but the mall has been vacant for years. Pocket Change was the more advanced of the two arcades, always having the top of the line machines. Giggles was more of a retro arcade, housing games like Double Dragon, P.O.W. and John Elway Football but still had some of the more recent titles like Mortal Kombat.

The weekends were great, get dropped off at the mall, walk into Giggles, hit the change machine and start my night. You would always have the big crowds surrounding the top machines, kids placing quarters in line at the bottom of the monitors waiting for their turn, and the smell of the Pizza Boy floating in from across the way. Ran out of quarters? Not a problem. The local ToysRus was attached to the mall and you would find kids setting up their own tournaments on the demo machines; Soul Blade on the PS1 drew a crowd every weekend despite only having 3 characters unlocked.

Thinking back to those times makes me sad to see the way of the American arcade. The last arcade I stepped into was when I was in New York City in 2003, and the fate of that one I am unsure of. The arcade has a special place in my heart, that no matter how many remakes show up on XBLA and PSN they can never replace the feeling of going to a brick and mortar arcade.

To see a resurgence of the American arcade is one in a million, but I am thankful that I was there to at least see and experience what those wonderful places had to offer. This holiday I will hold on to my 360 arcade stick tightly and think of better times while I enjoy the X-men arcade remake coming through the downloadable pipe. Have any of you enjoyed the days of the arcade or wished you could have? I am still looking for a Rush 2049 arcade cabinet, one of the only racing games to have a working clutch. I would love to rebuild it from scratch so that maybe a future retirement plan; some people build cars, I want to build arcade machines. Maybe it’s just in my blood. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

9 comments

  1. Strider782 - December 11, 2010 2:06 pm

    Excellent article my friend, one that brings back a lot of memories for me as well and ones that I wish I could live through again. I was always drawn to the arcade as a kid. While some of my friends would be called to the pool tables I felt myself pulled more towards the call of games like Spyhunter, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Magic Sword, The Avengers, X-men and many more cult classics. The days of scrimping together a quarter for some fun that might last anywhere for a few seconds to a few minutes and always a slew of trash talking that would ensue after towards either the AI or the player. Not to mention all of the junk you could get for a few thousand tickets or points that you knew you could buy at the store for a few bucks but you were just too damn stubborn and determined to do it that way.

    Many times did I lose all of my money in the arcades in our local town that I’m sure we both frequented, then I would make my way over to the local retail store to play the game demos that they had going on. I miss the good old days of that when we had tournaments on the demo kiosks and before they the time limits on them as well. Back in the days of 64 I hopped on the one at Sears and played Ocarina of Time for hours, I was literally just a few minutes away from winning before I had to go. The loss of arcades are the loss of an era, yet a new era has come forth that we dreamed of back at that time where we can just play games where ever we are and play against friends and rivals over the net.

    The next time we’re all together we need to kick one back for the memories, for the good ole days as Scrotus says, but most of all we need to kick one back for the Old School!

    Reply
  2. ScrotusKilmystr - December 10, 2010 9:50 am

    this is a great article Cabbie! a good bit of my childhood was spent in the arcades of yor! lived right next to the another cade on the other side of town from giggles and pocket change the owner was cool and all the local kids would do chores around the shop he had for free game play… I’ll show my age alittle when he got in Pacman, Astroids, and centipede it was an epic event that eveyone piled in to play. Me, my favorite was DIG DUG this game will always hold a special place in the dark and dusty depths of my mind.
    My parents never gave me money to play the games I always had to earn it some how chores, paper route kissing up to the grand parents….
    While I reminisce once a year my parents would scrap the cash together and we would go on vacation to myrtle beach and to any one who has been there in the 80’s or 90’s knows that vacation hot spots where an arcade gamers heaven!! with thousands of games in every direction it was easy to burn through my spend money I scrapped together all year…
    Now almost all the arcades are gone replaced by t-shirt shops and seedy guys trying to sell you cheap eletronics …..
    ahhh the good ole days

    Reply
  3. thsoundman - December 6, 2010 8:58 pm

    oooooooooooooooo pinball… many hours was spent there. Many quarters were lost there… lets have a moment of silence for those quarters lost in the epic battle………………………. I remember playing countless hours of Time Crisis and Jurassic park. Mmmmmm thoses were the good ole days. If i could get a hold of one of those arcade machines I wouls be infinately happy.

    Reply
  4. CharcoalCoyote - December 6, 2010 8:37 pm

    I had the next best thing growing up. When I was young, my dad ran a laundromat. This meant that I got infinite quarters for whatever of the two to three arcade machines we had at the time were (we had some sort of swap deal running with the local pizza places). Though I don’t remember the names of all the games, I do remember the sheer joy of getting your name up on a scoreboard. Hey, I found a place for those music/rhythm games that everyone’s sick of!

    Occasionally I did get to go on trips to real arcades. Time Crisis was always a favorite series of mine, as was Crazy Taxi and good ol’ Galaga.

    Also, pinball. Nuff said.

    Reply
  5. PimpmasterF - December 6, 2010 1:04 pm

    I never had any money growing up so I went to the arcade a few times but not much, wish I couldve been able to get more into it though, i went to classic style arcade a few years back and it was just awsome, its too bad theres no respect for what was and it all gets thrown out.

    Reply
  6. Bartholomew P. Skibbenhiems III - December 5, 2010 9:13 pm

    Thinking of the arcade reminds me of the old, but still kick ass, NEO GEO fighters. Especially Samurai Shodown!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em4cJZWNquw

    Reply
  7. T8 - December 5, 2010 8:56 pm

    This is a great article. I come from the exact opposite side of the spectrum. My parents never gave me money to go off and have a good time. If i wanted to do something, i had to get a job (mowing lawns or whatever) to pay for it. So when i finally did have say 50 dollars in cash, it would bother me to go and drop it all into a machine. So i literally passed all the arcades to get to the gamestop and purchase the newest Nintendo console out there. I do however, believe that the whole community aspect that goes along with the arcade life was wonderful. It takes years to develop a community of gamers in a strictly online community and you never quite get that unity that you see from a group that meets in person.

    Again great article CAB glad to see you up and writing again 🙂

    Reply
  8. thsoundman - December 5, 2010 8:42 pm

    I have to say this is something that i truly miss about my younger days. Arcades were a big part of my life until I was about 16 or 17. I remember going to the mall with my mother and begging her to let me go to it and play. My mother of course was happy to let me go play for awhile while she went shopping. She’d give me $20 dollars or so in exchange for performing a certian list of chores when she wanted me to get done.

    I was never good at the arcade fighting games. My asian friends always kicked my ass 3 ways from sunday. I did have a special place though for the monoply game that rolled a fake line of tickets and you had to get the quarter to land on the center of the ticket and you would get 500 tickets. I loved that. I also remember playing mortal combat, playing a scorpion, I would conquer all the other fighters. While I was never good I still enjoyed it. Ski-ball? Claw machines? I think my favorite games however were Time Crisis and Jurassic Park. I spent so much time and money playing those. I don’t regret any of it becasue I had so much fun.

    While I think arcades are a long gone form of game playing I think they still survive, in some part, at places like Dave and Busters. You still have an extremely large arcade setting and the ability to play as much as you want. I would complain however that the price of arcades has gone up a great deal. I remember being able to play Claw Machines at Elitch Gardens for a mere $.25. Most claw machines are $.75 – $1.50. It’s hard to justify that kind of money for 3 minutes of fun. There are call girls that are probably cheaper 😛

    I must say Cab this is quite the interesting viewpoint. I’ve never met anyone from inside the industry. ARe you still involved in the industry in any form or fashion?

    Reply
  9. Bartholomew P. Skibbenhiems III - December 5, 2010 8:31 pm

    I used to arcade game a lot in our local mall. I was always into the fighting games. Mortal Combat, Time Killers, Killer Instinct, Street Fighter, and so on. Good times …

    Our mall arcade has since shut down. 🙁 Well we have here now is Chuck-e-cheese …

    Reply

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