The Arcade Experience: Behind The Scenes

The Arcade Experience: Behind The Scenes

I’ve never been to a real arcade, as far as I can remember. By which I mean I’ve never been to one that ran exclusively on quarters and only featured arcade and pinball machines. As a child of the 90’s I grew up thinking video games were a one time buy. A fixture of the home that every kid had and enjoyed. Little did I know that arcades used to rule the gaming scene.

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Slowly throughout the years I accumulated a large amount of Nintendo games and products and one day I decided I had enough to consider it a collection. Then I actually began collecting, which is a different beast. Last summer as I browsed through eBay I saw that a Donkey Kong arcade machine was for sale not far from where I lived. I called up the owner and made him an offer. Four hours later I sat in the dining room of my small apartment and played my very first game of Donkey Kong on a restored 1981 machine. Every time I look at the big blue cabinet I get a big goofy grin on my face. I love my DK machine. The man who sold me the machine, one Travis Sims, did so out of his garage. The garage was full of cabinets and other parts that I had never seen or even heard of. I guess there wasn’t enough space because he started up his own little repair store down the road and dubbed it Arcade Rescue 911.

Today I went to the Arcade Rescue 911 open house. Here’s my investigative report (with pictures!).

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The first thing I saw as I came in the door was a Ms. Pacman machine. Since everything was on free play I gave it a whack, but was soon mobbed by ghosts. So I played it again. And again. It’s hard not to love the classics. To the right of Ms. Pacman was Dragon’s Lair, or as I like to call it “Try Not to Die for Four Seconds!” Seriously, that game was crazy hard. Even after I asked one of the arcade veterans to show me the ropes I couldn’t get far without dying a grisly death. I drank poison, walked off ledges, got electrocuted, got strangled by swamp monsters, the torment was never ending. But hey, it was on free play, so I kept at it.

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I made my way around to many different parts of the little repair shop and played almost all of the games. There were plenty of other folks around playing games and many kids playing arcade games for the first time, which made me smile. In one corner there were three pinball machine that were all in wonderful working order. If only I had the cash (and space) to get one of those bad boys. Also Hydro Thunder, I need that in my life. I mean it basically doubles as a massage chair, what with it’s ridiculously rumbly seat.

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Along the middle of the wall I found an Atari Asteroids machine, in great condition non the less. I’d never played the original Asteroids either, so I set my sights on destroying some of the more jagged space rocks as well as some zippy spaceships. The game was also hard, but much more satisfying then Dragon’s Lair. Dragon’s Lair! *Shakes fist*

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In the back of the shop were games that had been sold or had yet to be fixed. Artwork for games, circuit boards, buttons, control panels, and screens were all present and accounted for. You can see all the different circuit boards down below, my favourites being “Dead Frogger” and “Tekken 2”. The owner was kind enough to give me a tour and show me how they acquire and fix the machines. It’s very apparent that a lot of time and money goes into a jobby (job + hobby = jobby) like this, and I could tell that he did it more for fun then for a profit. After all, you’re buying, selling and fixing arcade machines, that’s a pretty fun job.

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If you have the money, the space and the chance I highly recommend you pick up an arcade machine sometime in the future. Sure they cost hundreds and can break down, but these mammoths of gaming history deserve good home with dedicated owners.

If you live in the Midwest (especially the Indiana, Illinois, Ohio area) you should look up Arcade Rescue 911, it’s a great little shop with some dedicated owners.

Comments

  • Dear god look at those RGB monitors! I’ll have a vertical and a horizontal – thanks! Anyone know where to buy them in sydney?

    • You can utilise just about any crt. Just pick up some free ones on gumtree and search for some instruction on what required to put the crt into an arcade machine

      • Arcade crt use rgb inputs – as opposed to composite/component or VGA They also come as a chassey (without box or transformer) and are mounted onto the frame of the unit. I have card’s that transform the RGB output of the JAMMA card to VGA to a CRT on my horizontal unit but wish to replace it with an original RGB CRT. I have an lcd in my vertical unit but am unable to mount it properly hence my need for an old skool vertical CRT. I Hope that makes sense.

        • component is separate rgb channels though?
          composite is the single yellow (most of the time) plug

          edit my mistake – component is luma based while you mean seperate channels containing the complete picture just with that colour (redundant pic info) according to wikipedia

          • Yep 🙂
            I basically want to put in two original monitors – but they are expensive and shipping would be a joke. Ive looked online and was looking to see if anyone knew of a local seller.

          • Component gives you red blue and luma – the tv calculates the green from that (from memory).

  • I went to Vegas last year and visited the pinball hall of fame.
    It’s not really a hall of fame per se…. just one dedicated owner who has over a hundred machines in one location. Heaps of stuff from my childhood and a crazy amount of things I’d never seen before, absolutely awesome stuff !!!

  • Bet if you wanted to buy something like this in Aus you’d be expected to pay quadruple the price

    • You can buy a generic upright cabinet for a few hundred in reasonable condition. You could get a generic cabinet with 1000+ games in one board and play most games from your childhood. Then there’s MAME.

      An original Asteroids or Pacman is going to cost you a very pretty penny though.

  • a lot of time and money goes into a jobby (job + hobby = jobby)
    I’m not sure if it’s just my circles, but Jobby has an entirely different meaning around here…

    On topic. I really miss arcades. Like, proper arcades with a good selection of games and a great social scene. A lot of my childhood through to uni years were spent in arcades.

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