Wil has a post up on Suicide Girls this week about the fall and decline of video arcades. He also mentioned it on his own blog. The comment thread over there is pretty good. Of course, his experience echoes that of many of us born in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Arcades were HUGE in the early 80’s. Permit me to wax nostalgic as well, most of these locations are in and around North Dallas and Richardson, where I grew up.
My first arcade and the one that will always have a place in my heart was the one at the Putt Putt near Richardson Square Mall. I can’t remember the name of the place or exactly where it was, but it was a wonderland to an 8-10 year old boy. They had putt putt, of course, but they also had a fair sized arcade and batting cages. The first game I remember really well was Space Wars. It’s got a long geek history and is arguably the first video game, but I remember the version released in 1977, right about the same time as Star Wars. I remember spending time before playing looking at all of the options you could set via the numeric keypad between the two controllers. I was completely in awe of the thing. It seemed huge. We went back there many times and it was always a huge treat. I remember playing Star Castle and Battlezone among others.
Next up is my first encounter with Space Invaders in the bar of a country club in either Queens, Brooklyn or Long Island for my uncle’s wedding in 1980. I was bored out of my mind and somehow weaseled my way into the bar area to play a couple games of it.
The Loews Park Central movie theater is another one that figures prominently. We went to see a lot of movies there in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They always had two or three arcade machines to the right of the lobby. Asteroids was parked there for years and that’s where I played it the most.
The Tilt arcade in Prestonwood Mall was probably the longest lasting and last major sized arcade I frequented. It’s where I remember noticing the decline of arcade games, signaled in retrospect by the prominent place that Dragon’s Lair grabbed at the front by the entrance when it was first released and where it remained for quite some time. I remember playing Spy Hunter and Robotron there.
There were a whole bunch of places within biking distance. We actually had a neighborhood arcade for a brief time in probably 1980 or 1981. It didn’t last long. After that, there was the Dairy Queen that turned into a bunch of other independently owned businesses like Hamburger USA and Bunkie’s Donuts. I remember playing Defender for the first time there. There was also a Pac Man at the convenience store a few blocks farther away. At one point, a neighborhood friend figured out that that UT-Dallas had a couple of arcade games. At that point, it was only a graduate school, no undergrad and no on campus housing. It’s changed a lot now. I remember us sneaking around because I don’t think we were technically allowed in the room with the games. I distinctly remember playing Donkey Kong or Donkey Kong Jr. there.
The White Water amusement park in Garland was another summer haunt with an arcade. Time Pilot was the big game for me there. I loved that one for some reason. Wil’s description of the chlorine smell and feeling in your hair and eyes goes with that place for me, along with fading astroturf (come to think of it that was prominent at the Putt Putt place too).
In high school, we all got hooked on Xenophobe because three could play at one time on a split screen. They had one at the convenience store on Northgate Dr. across from UD, but we also played it at the Dave & Buster’s at 75 and Walnut Hill.
As I mentioned in my comment on WWDN, in college, I had one brief resurgence of video gaming in the arcades along The Drag at UT in Austin. Le Fun and Einstein’s were the two arcades across from the University. I *think* both of them are closed now. We played Addams Family pinball and Rampart.
On the home console front, I got an Intellivision not very long after they were released (Sea Battle, Mind Surgeon, B-17 Bomber). It was pretty cool, but I was always jealous of the more mainstream Atari 2600 owners. I followed that with an Apple IIe which I used to play Miner 2049er, Lode Runner, Choplifter, Karateka and Castle Wolfenstein incessantly and not much else. We got a Nintendo when they came out and I took that to college and played Tecmo Bowl way too late with my roommates (Ronnie Lott!). I pretty much missed the Doom and Tetris craze and picked up with Quake at my first real job back in Austin. We played that like crazy. I followed up with Quake 2 and 3 and then Half Life, Team Fortress and CounterStrike. After that I had kids, so the gaming dropped off until I had a brief and intense obsession with Grand Theft Auto III.
We finally let my son start using the PS2 this past year. He’s got a Game Boy SP as well. He’s currently obsessed with Lego Star Wars I and II.
And so it continues…
P.S. I left out that I actually owned a cassette (kids, ask your parents) of Buckner & Garcia’s Pac Man Fever, a whole album of video game related songs, each one worse than the next. I can only recall the title track and “Hyperspace”…Hyyyyyperspace Push on the button and I’m back in the race. Sorry. Click on the link for 30 second clips of all the songs in their 1982 crappy glory.
[tags]arcade, wwdn, nostalgia, 1980s, pacmanfever, dallas, richardson, austin, spacewars, xenophobe, rampart[/tags]