Public gaming used to be a thing. It used to be the thing—and it’s still very fun.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/nevjkz/what-are-your-favorite-arcade-memories
Public gaming used to be a thing. It used to be the thing—and it’s still very fun.
I was not a Cool Kid growing up. I was real chubby, I had the kind of allergies that made me throw up when I consumed things with red dye, and I was home schooled.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have anything going for me at all. My brother let me hang out with him and his friends sometimes, and I was friends with my cousin. But I passed most of my time on the computer playing TIE Fighter and avoiding parent-mandated soccer practice.
Soccer sucked. I was a chubby kid, I wasn’t coordinated and because I was homeschooled I didn’t really know anybody on the team. It was hard to make friends. In my third year of soccer, however, I met Lee.
Lee was not like me. Lee was a Cool Kid. He was tall, athletic, and really funny (for what passes as those things as a third grader). And he was really nice to me! He was tall so he played goalie, and he always had an encouraging word for me. He had also played soccer longer than me and was really patient to help me along when we were paired together.
Eventually we became friends and he invited me to his house during the summer. I was nervous - Lee did Cool Things like play basketball and run for more than three minutes without needing an inhaler. I knew he didn’t have a video game console (that was like, the first question you asked someone back then) so what other games were we going to play? What were we going to do all day?
I’m not sure what we did for the first part of the day. Probably transformed some robots, shot some NERF guns, and played outside (gross). But the second part of the day I remember very well. Lee’s mom needed to run some errands so she dropped us off at the arcade with $10 each for an hour.
This was amazing to me for two reasons: first, I was a poor kid. Arcades were something you paid for with your own money. This meant that I spent a lot of time hanging around arcades, watching older (or richer kids) play but rarely playing myself. Second, I finally had something to offer.
For one magic hour in the mall arcade I was the Cool Kid, showing my new friend Lee all the games I had watched so studiously. We played several rounds of NBA Jam (which he loved), I introduced him to the first couple levels of X-Men (the only areas of the game I was ever able to watch people play in the movie theater lobby), and we laughed at all the funny animations in Super Street Fighter II. I’m sure he also convinced me to drop some coins on the stupid mini-basketball game, but nobody’s perfect.
After his mom came to pick us up we were driving home and he asked if I could come over again so we could go to the arcade. I think that was the first time I had ever heard anyone who wasn’t related to me express to someone else that they wanted to spend time with me, specifically. It was so thrilling, to finally feel like I had a friend who liked me for me.
We went to the arcade again, and again. But we also played outside more. Lee taught me about Monty Python and the simple joy of playing catch. We remained friends through elementary, and he was one of my best friends when I eventually joined him in high school, and he was one of my best friends while attending the same college and we still keep in touch.
The arcade isn’t responsible for giving me a friend but I’m so grateful there was a public space like that where I could share a little bit of myself with someone.
(sorry for the wall of text; I read this question and all these memories just came flooding back!)
My favorite arcade memory is thinking i’m hot shit at a fighting game and getting wrecked so bad I had to leave.
It really prepared me for life to be honest.
Back about sixteen years ago, the local Golfland here was king poop of heck mountain for Bemani games, with a number of DDR machines, some Beatmanias, a Para Para Paradise, and for a brief time, a linked setup of Guitar Freaks, Drummania, and Keyboardmania. Eventually the Keyboardmania would spent several years facing the wall in a corner of the greasy pizza area of the arcade, unplugged and unloved, but for a couple months surrounding 9/11, I had occassion with four other friends to jam out to a ridiculous Castlevania medley. I’ve played a lot of rhythm games and Rock Band 2 & 3 are some of my favorite games ever, but I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun faking a skill than being that Beethoven of the cyber-harpsichord.
That was incredibly sweet and beautiful, Gary, thank you for sharing!
I was never allowed to watch The Simpsons growing up (SUPER conservative household), so my only exposure was when my Grandmom would take me out to the arcades and I’d get to sink quarter after quarter into The Simpsons Arcade Game. My god, that was so much fun. And then that feeling when, after years of trying, I finally beat it! Arcades were the best.
T2: The Arcade Game.
I was 12 and it was shortly after my parents split. It was one of my weekends with Dad and we went out to the go-kart track. As soon as we got there, it rained. Deluge. No racing was going to happen that day.
There were other activities there, including an arcade.
After trying a few machines, we decided to play something co-op and settled on the T2 machine. We’d never played it before and neither of us were particularly good at arcade games, but we were immediately having fun.
We quickly burned through our first $5 of quarters, and while I was on my last credit, my Dad fished a few more out of his pocket and slapped them on the cabinet while he ran to the coin machine to put in another fiver, he had to do this a second time. There was almost nobody else in the arcade that day, but as we neared the end of what had become $15 of quarters , my Dad gave me a twenty (which the coin machine wouldn’t accept) and told me to run to the front desk and get change. When I came back, my Dad took all four $5 bills and ran to the coin machine, put in all the bills and came back with twenty dollars worth of quarters. Twenty dollars in quarters. We kept pumping quarters, quarters, and more quarters into that machine as we made slow grueling progress.
Eventually we made it to the last level, in the steel foundry, and one of the arcade employees who saw us struggling told us how to use the grenade launcher to defeat the T1000. We beat the game.
We put over $35 into that machine, but it was worth it. Up until that point, I’d never seen the end of an arcade game .
I grew up right at the tail end of arcades in Toronto (late 90s, early 2000s). There was a spot on Yonge Street (a main drag in TOs downtown) that had a bunch of Neo Geo stuff, an OutRun cabinet, and I think four Initial D ver. 3 machines I would play constantly. My brother tells me they also had Super Street Fighter 2 and some other more “retro” stuff, but I spent most of my time there playing OutRun and MVS cabinets.
Just being in that place, which was right by a university so it was packed, was amazing. I remember it being dark with neon lights, with people gathering around the multiplayer games being loud and just generally having a good time.
I think the arcade got shut down because it was selling weed on the side.
There are no arcades in my area, but when we went to vacate in Denmark (from Norway) annually for 10 or so years there was a small but good one down at the nearby pier.
It had Time Splitters, Daytona USA, House of the Dead (which came to replace the Time Splitters machine), that motorbike game where you can lean n stuff, a couple of Pinball machines and some brawler I can’t remember the name of.
There was many a day where me and my cousin went down there to co-op time splitters or play on separate machines.
Also some of the bigger ferries going between the countries also had arcades, and one of them had the Star Wars podracing game, it was amazing, and had those lever controls on it.
I wish I had more experiences in arcades, maybe I’d have some passing knowledge of Street Fighter if that was the case.
“the arcade” to me is pretty much limited to kind of dilapidated english seaside towns, which are like 90% crane games and coin pushers.
it’s all family holidays in the summer as a child (I have a togepi soft toy on my desk I won from a crane game as a kid) and then hanging out with friends in the summers after school when some of us can drive there.
playing light gun games with my brother (he was more into it than me), slamming out video killed the radio star on the dance machine.
teaching a guy the right timing to drop the coin into the coin pusher (my friend insisted he was flirting with me, I remain unconvinced).
it’s a lot of small memories, all as part of ‘hanging out at the beach in the summer’.
ah it’s been so long.
There was a brief period of time in my life after I’d just watched The King of Kong where I convinced myself that I was gonna work my way to the world record in Galaga. They had a Galaga cabinet at my local movie theatre, and every time I’d go there to see a film, I’d always bring a bunch of extra cash to exchange for quarters. It took around 3-4 visits and 4-5 hours of playtime, but I eventually ended up beating the local high score, which was a p big accomplishment for me back then.
Then I looked at the actual world record on the Twin Galaxies website and was like, “nah,”
The Gameworks arcade at the Puente Hills Mall was right next to the Borders bookstore back in the day where I would jump between watching people play games while reading manga off the shelves. Though my earliest arcade was watching the demo screens at a 4 machine thing at the 99 Ranch Market plaza in that same area. Never really was given money to spend on it and only really just watched people play.
Since my birthday is in the summer my mom usually had my party before so I could have it with my friends.
So, end of 6th grade my family & I are moving to another continent a week after school ends & my mom decides to have my birthday party the day after classes end that way I can say goodbye. We go to a bowling alley & notice in the back there is a small arcade with Virtua Cop 2 which nobody appears to have played or if they did they didn’t do well. So my mom gets me and a friend a bunch of quarters (I don’t remember how much) and one friend & I beat it. We had unlocked all the levels & used up all of our quarters but in the end it was just really satisfying to be able to look at the level select screen completely unlocked.
Shoutout to @danielle bona-fide use in the article.
My last memories of the arcade was me with my brother and sister playing around at a arcade in either Brooklyn or Staten island working our way from shooters from basic hand guns to the sniper game, to the fighters like tekken and SNK games, and last racing games.
There was a time when arcade machines were almost ubiquitous in any public setting in America. You can still see the reminents in the occasional movie theater, bowling alley, or bar.
There was also the Ohio state fair arcade, which was easily the most interesting thing there (once you got over the cow made out of butter). Huge air conditioned building filled with machines.
So many memories connected to arcade machines…my first video game was actually an Asteroids machine at the old YMCA where I learned to swim!
Maybe my favorite memory is a summer at the Jersey Shore when I spent most of my afternoons in a convenience store trying to play Double Dragon. I say trying because it was very popular and you had to claim your place in line with a quarter on top of the machine and hope the older kids just didn’t claim territory.
The platforming was an utter quarter muncher and Abobo was constantly knocking us in a pit, but eventually beat it and man it was epic, especially when you inexplicably had to fight each other.
Anytime I could play with 3 other players in a side scrolling beat em up game like the Xmen, TMNT, or the Simpsons arcade cabinets at movie theaters. Gave me that Co-op Double Dragon or streets of rage feeling i was missing from the days when my cousins and I would play for hours at a time on the weekend.
Idk why, but the title of that video reminded me of that Hemingway microfiction
Namco Panic Park
That arcade at Cedar Point too, to play some Mortal Kombat and escape the heat.
My favorite arcade memories are probably from summers when I was in elementary school. A fair amount of the time, I’d get left with my grandma during the day, and back then, Grandma was a bowler. Part of a team in a league and everything else. So what would I do for those couple of hours while Grandma bowled with all of her gray haired friends? I’d wander over to the arcade in the bowling alley.
This was late 80s/early 90s, so public smoking was still a thing, and I still distinctly remember the unique bowling alley smell, and how it would melt away as I approached the arcade. At that time, the biggies were Street Fighter II and Mortal Koimbat. Only ever got good with Chun Li on Street Fighter, never really mastered any character on MK. Regardless, it was still a lot of fun. Watching the older kids kick the crab out of each other, and nervously going up to the machine and putting my quarters on the bottom edge of the screen (i.e. I got next).
It’s interesting, when you think about it, but the Internet effectively disrupted a lot of these “third places” where we would gain significant socialization with our peers and others. Although, when I was thinking about this idea recently, it did strike me that bowling alleys are one of the few places that have survived the Internet lol.
Anyways, smokey bowling alleys and the bright lights of the machines, all while Grandma bowled with her friends a little ways away. Not much better than that