07 Feb 2007
Wil Wheaton has a nifty post on his memories of video arcades growing up. One cool thing about the first half of the 80s was that you could find a video game just about anywhere. Every convenience store had one or two in the corner. Like Wil, I can still see in my mind certain games, exactly where they were in the building, and who I was usually with when I was there. I can hear the tunes on the jukebox, or in the case of the pizza joint in Utah, I can see the videos on MTV.
Thinking back to junior high, I remember the stand alone video arcade on Hwy 98 in Panama City FL. I don't remember the name of the place, but I believe it had a putt putt course too. I was the classic arcade, full of older teenagers with long hair that were smoking and as they lined up their quarters to claim next. The jukebox would have been playing Boston, Foreigner, and Journey. It was a place full of excitement and danger for us junior high kids, so we were there, often. It was about a 20-30 minute bike ride away. The games I remember playing there are the original classics, Qbert, Galaga, and Space Invaders.
Also in Florida, the bowling alley on Tyndall AFB had a pretty good arcade. That is where I discovered Battlezone, Asteroids, and Centipede. Asteriods for some reason was out by the front door, segregated from the rest of the games in the game room. I bowled on Saturday mornings, and due to my parents habit of being an hour late picking me up, I usually had plenty of arcade time after the bowling league. I also remember playing Pac-Man at the Embers, a bar my parents hung out at. Legend holds that my mother could play Pac-Man for an hour on one quarter. The Pac-Man machine was on the left against the wall, before you got to the bar. I always sucked at Pac-Man.
For 10th grade (1983) we moved to Dugway, Utah, a place so remote that it still isn't on a lot of maps. The bowling alley again was the place to be, and the game of choice was Donkey Kong and Kangaroo. Gauntlet was also big. Rotating in and out as you died, it was easy to spend an entire Friday night playing Gauntlet and munching on fries and chocolate shakes from the snack bar. That sounds very 50s (minus the video games) but it what we did out there in the desert. The military also opened a pizza parlor and arcade while we were in Utah. It had Popeye and Pole Position. Pole Position was by the door, segregated from the rest of the games in the back room with the TV tuned to MTV. The pizza parlor represented the pinnacle of my video game success. I flat out ruled on Popeye and Pole Position.
In a sense, I left the arcades on top. We moved to Kwaj from Utah and there were no arcades out in the Pacific Ocean, 3000 miles SW of Hawaii. Kwaj is where I discovered a game of a different sort, Dungeons and Dragons.
But that is different story.