Enter the Arcade

I am not a modern gamer. I wish I could get into games like Halo or Call of Duty because I am sure they would very entertaining. But I don’t have the patience or the interest to master a whole new set of skills. The frustrations of dying before the game got fun is a real thing with me. I do play PC Tiger Woods Golf but that relaxes me. It doesn’t make me feel like a target all the time. I don’t want to be that frightened lemur hiding in the trees. That isn’t a fun arcade experience for me.

I remember playing Pong in some German hotel we were staying at. I thought it was like the future began for me at that moment.

But there was a time in my life when I loved video games and especially the grubby arcades they were contained in. The stand up machines are the only ones for me. I have great nostalgia for the period when everyone stopped by the arcade after bowling on a Saturday afternoon. It was a cool place for teens on the base to hang out in. They served pizza slices and orange fountain pop and since we were a military base, they had a cool selection of both old and new machines.

Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George tries to save his beloved Frogger machine? That pretty much sums up my feelings for these classic stand-up machines. I too spent many hours trying to get that stupid frog across the road myself. I often wondered what was waiting for him on the other side that was so important that it was worth risking his life to obtain. What? I was a deep thinker even back then.

Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong were easy enough to play that they rewarded the effort you put into staying alive. Staying alive and getting the most out of your quarter was the whole point of arcade games in the 80s. Who wanted to lose their pocket full of quarters in ten minutes? That was the second best thing about these original classics. The first best thing being the jailbait that hung around when you were doing well. (Now before you judge me, remember that it’s not jailbait if I am jailbait myself.)

Ah, Galaga, the king of all arcade games for me. I loved the sounds it made and the colorful little bugs that I got to shoot at. If you got into a rhythm you could coast up to the higher levels with two ships and do crazy damage before dying. Like all the best games it rewarded mastery of the few skills you needed to play for a long time.

Out Run was the most fun to play at university after taking a puff of some Old Toby. The whole game was on a hydraulic platform that allowed you to feel the corners and bumps on the road. When you drove onto the grass the car imitated the forces that would act upon you in real life.

It was a kick to play because if I just zoned out and became one with the wheel and the road, I could make my time trials most every time. Then of course they make it really hard but up until my death, I raced the hell out of this game.

There is nothing like a good pinball machine. Once you know what parts to shoot for and which bumpers gave you the most points, then you could make a quarter last for hours. We had one of these old school pinball machines in the student lounge of Red Deer College that often was a savior between classes. Sometimes I needed a few minutes to clear my mind with a quick game before switching from Madam Bovary to Science 101.

Joust and Rampage were also favorites. I loved the way in Joust that you had to constantly keep the wings flapping on your bird or you would get killed. That flapping sound the birds made added another level to my game play – my hearing. I could maneuver the bird just by the sound of his wings alone while picking up the eggs before they hit the ground. Extra points and extra playtime.

Now Rampage let you pound on buildings until they crashed to the ground. You then got to eat any survivors who made it out of that carnage alive. It was simple destruction and it was surprisingly difficult to die, something rare with an arcade game.

As I reached the legal drinking age, arcade games took on a whole new level of fun. After a long day of classes it was great to play Galaga, drink rum and coke and eat chicken wings and greasy slices of pizza. Replace the jailbait with university co-eds and we have an idea of what Heaven must be like… if Heaven was real.

But then there is the one game that I HATED. I DISPISED Dragon’s Lair. It was such a stupid concept and the joystick never worked right. I could never perfect the timing to move from one piece of the story to the next. It was embarrassing and I am glad the game didn’t become some universal phenomenon that I just couldn’t live up to. As it is it’s a piece of rip-off crap that chewed up your quarters without consideration for your feelings and it shouldn’t keep me from getting my own starfighter like in the movie The Last Starfighter.

Check out the ultimate arcade from other League members.

Nerd Rage Against The Machine

The Nerd Nook

Branded In The 80s

Rediscover The 80s


Cal Heighton is a blogger extraordinaire from Red Deer, Alberta. He is also the co-host of the Geek Fallout podcast. You can find him at his Canadian Cave of Cool

About Calvin Heighton 5 Articles

Cal Heighton is a blogger extraordinaire from Red Deer, Alberta. He is also the co-host of the Geek Fallout podcast. You can find him at his Canadian Cave of Cool