4/23/13

Tech #24: Arcade Games



The early eighties were all about video games for me.  I lived in Ohio during this time, and I literally can go down the list of all the arcade games I played and their exact location. Examples...

Every few weeks my family would eat out at Godfather's Pizza.  There I would play Tempest and Star Wars like a freaking maniac.  It seems like only yesterday I was blowing up the Death Star to the sound of Neil Diamond's "Heart Light" emanating from the restaurant's speakers.

Every day after school, my friends and I would walk to the 7-11, get a bag of Skittles and play Q-Bert and Time Pilot.

Every time I had to tag along to the grocery store (a Bruno's in Dayton), I spent the entire time playing Pole Position and Galaga.

Shall I go on? Well, Retrospace isn't a diary, so I'll spare you the entire laundry list of arcade memories; however, there are some games in particular that I'd like to take a look at...




That's Don Bluth in the picture.  He did The Secret of Nimh after leaving Disney, and later some other titles like All Dogs Go To Heaven.  I remember first playing Dragon's Lair at a miniature golf arcade.  As I recall, the laser disc game was impressive to look at, but it cost 2 quarters and the play time was often less than a minute.  Your fifty cents were gone in the blink of an eye.  No thanks - I'll play Donkey Kong Jr. for twenty minutes and get my money's worth instead.


There was a tiny whole in the wall arcade in Celina, Ohio (where my relatives lived).  And it was in that dimly lit backroom that I played the hell out of Krull.   What a godawful film; it's so odd that it had such a widespread arcade game.  It wasn't that fun, but you couldn't be too choosy back then.




Sinistar was a badass game I played at an arcade next to the movie theater in Fairborn, Ohio. It had a cool evil sounding bad guy.  Gyruss was cool because it was like Galaga, except you traveled the circumference of the screen.



When I used to stay with my cousins we'd go to my uncle's favorite hangout, a dimly lit bar in Dayton.  We'd play Pac-Man the whole time.  It was extra special because it was the table-top variety; the flat surface arcade game that was a novelty at the time.


Centipede was cool because it had that rollerball controller; however, the graphics were quickly outpaced by other coin-ops, and it had that Space Invaders stress factor - where things escalate quickly, leaving the player exhausted afterwards.


Never got into the Crystal Castles game.  Other games I haven't mentioned but did enjoy: Xevious, Bump 'n' Jump, Joust, and who could forget Berzerk.


But I've saved the best for last....


Defender holds a special place in my heart.  It's the one game I could routinely get my 3 letters on the high score list.  In terms of sheer all around enjoyment, this was hands down the best. Perhaps the graphics were a tad weak and the gameplay was a bit repetitive, yet my favorite arcade game of all time has to be Defender.



29 comments:

  1. Battlezone was my electronic crack addiction. Once you got the pattern down for the missiles, you were well-nigh invincible. I remember the arcade in the town I went to high school in had an attached pizza parlor, and once they had a Battlezone tournament with the prize being free pizzas for the summer. I put a quarter in the machine and went for seven hours! I almost passed out when it was over, but my friends and I had pizza for dinner almost every night for three months :^)

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  2. Great memories. Loved Tempest, Vanguard, Centipede, Space Invaders, Missile command. Sometimes when I hear those old video game noises I can still smell the pizzas that were baking where I was playing those games.

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  3. My dream is to one day own a Baby Pac game. Pinball + video = WHOOOOAAAAAA!!!

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  4. There is a mall in Egg Harbor twp.NJ that is being demo'ed as I type. For about 40 years it was home to an arcade called the Space Port.In it's heyday it was really cool looking,with futuristic looking tubing and porthole windows on the walls.In my 45 years of age,I've watched it evolve from a pinball parlor to a more progressive arcade in the 70's.There was shooting games like Sea Wolf,Boot Hill and Killer shark not to mention a big screen video skeet shoot in the back.Also,Foozeball,Bubble hockey,and air hockey ran their course.I remember the Space Invader craze,the Pac Man craze,Donkey Kong craze,etc.The place went throug a Capcom/Neo Geo phase in the 90's.In the 00's, it kind of took on a Dave & Buster's/carnival like persona with games of skill , ticket payouts and a prize counter.The mall itself has been largely empty and kind of strange for many years ,but I'm still gonna be sad to see it go.I attended a time capsule burial there in 1974 at the age of 6.Unfortunately ,it had to be dug up 60 years early because of the demolition.I've already vowed that I will egg and toilet paper the corporate office buildings that will probably be built on the site.Screw'em...

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    1. Space Port must have been some sort of chain arcade or at least a real popular name, because I swear the arcade in one of my local malls growing up (Plymouth Meeting) was also Space Port...great arcade...had a whole pinball area even in the late 80's/early 90's...

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    2. Patron ZeroMay 02, 2013

      I was at IU-Bloomington in the early '80s, there was a Space Port arcade right off campus across from the Von Lee theater. It was there I saw the Hercules giant-sized pinball machine for the first time !

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  5. Defender was pretty excellent. My two favorites have always been Space Invaders and Asteroids. I actually have both machines, but haven't had them working in years. The power supplies went bad. Maybe I'll get them back working this summer ...

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  6. Super Pac-Man, Centipede, Frogger, Tempest, and of course Robotron. I got blisters and callouses on my fingers playing Robotron ... while other guys were out getting laid. Memories.

    So, is Galaga pronounced GA-laga or ga-LAG-a?

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  7. Defender was my go-to game also. I had a set of callouses on my hand for years after I had stopped playing it. Lots of quality entertainment time for just a quarter. I never could get the hang of the sequel, Stargate. Too hard. My other favorites; Tailgunner, Millipede, Space duel. It is weird how I can remember the location of each one in my campus rec-center even after 30 years :P

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  8. Anon, we always said ga-LAG-a, but then I'm from Iowa. It's probably GAL-a-ga, as in GAL-ax-y. When I worked at a car stereo installation place in Iowa City, my friend and I would go to the Godfather's across the highway, order our mini pizzas, and get a couple bucks worth of quarters each to feed to the tabletop Galaga. Every time the scorpion aliens appeared I'd sing some line from a Scorpions song—I didn't even like that band back then.

    One of the malls we frequented went through 2 different arcades. I still have some tokens for each in my coin collection. Our time was spent on Tron, Tempest, Q-bert, and Crystal Castles. A little Joust, but jeez, I just sucked at that.

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  9. OMG GODFATHER'S PIZZA WAS THE BEST!!! I MISS IT SO MUCH! Years ago, we moved back to a city that actually did have a Godfather's Pizza & it just wasn't as good as I remembered it to be :( I think they must have changed the formula or something. Can we blame Herman Cain for this???

    Ditto for Kentucky Fried Chicken...every time I eat it, I promptly have digestive problems & everybody I know also tells me the same for them also. What gives?

    Oh, well...thanks for blogging! :)

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    1. LMAO at the "digestive problems" comment, me too!

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    2. Same problem with KFC. I love it, but seems lately every time I have it I get sick about 15 minutes later and nearly throw up. I suspect they are using some odd sort of grease or some sketchy ingredient.

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  10. Back in the 80's I used to work part time in a video game arcade. My favorite video game was Battle Zone, the graphics were simply yello-green lines on a dark screen, but I found it fascinating.

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  11. The highlight of almost weekly summer trips to Atlantic City to visit my grandmother was the arcade at the Tropicana. $10 in quarters to split with my brother and we'd be there for hours. Zaxxon and Pole Position were the best...and even as a 10 or 11 year old I knew that the sit-down 50 cent version of Pole Position was a rip-off when you could spend 25 cents on the stand-up one. I wonder whatever happened to all of my high scores on that machine...

    Even now, 25+ years later I still sometimes hear "Prepare to qualify" in my head when I pull out of my driveway to go to work!

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  12. RUN COWARD!
    My go to game was Track & Field by Konami. There is something cathartic about smashing the hell out of buttons on an arcade cabinet.

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  13. J. Bevington TaliaferroApril 24, 2013

    My favorite is also Defender. The place I used to go was in the basement of an ancient skyscraper in downtown Atlanta. They had SIX defender machines lined up next to each other. There were always guys clustered around one or two of them betting money on the outcome. I played every day for a long, long time and I actually got to where I could turn the game over. By this time several guys kept trying to bet with me. I would never do that though. In 1989 the place decided to sell half the games. I could have gotten a Defender for $150 dollars. I should have.

    Another game I liked a lot was Xevious. It was another shoot em up space game. The graphics were insanely great for the era and it had excellent game play. I understand that one was a massive hit in Asia, but not so much in the U.S.

    The most bizarre game had to be Gauntlet. Four-person game in a haunted castle with wizard, valkyrie, elf, thor? I forget. "Elf needs food badly." hahahahahaha I liked watching that game more than playing it.

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    1. Haha I remember that one. "Wizard is about to die"

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  14. Growing up in South Bend, IN there were a few choices for arcades. My favorite was a place downtown called The Billiard Ball. Sure it was a pool hall but the video games were right up front. I loved playing Robotron 2084, Joust and Missile Command. It seemed that video games were EVERYWHERE back then and even gas stations had a game or two.

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  15. Battlezone for me. The guy who was our hanging out group's "champion" of Battlezone actually joined the army and became a tank gunner! Who says video games don't teach young people anything?

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  16. I actually owned both Xevious and Defender. Sold Xevious to a freind of mine but still have the defender, maybe time to sell it also.

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  17. I was never much of a gamer, but I always prefered the Vector graphics games. Battle Zone, Tempest, Tail Gunner, those were the best!

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  18. My local arcade had all the usual games - Pac-Man, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Galaga, Time Pilot.

    I also remember the lesser-known ones - Moon Cresta, Astro Blaster, Satan's Hollow, Space Duel.

    They even had the Journey game where you helped the little Steve Perry reach his mic stand while an 8-bit "Wheel in the Sky" played. It was awful!

    My all-time favorite was GORF, although Space Encounters (Bally Midway 1980) was a close second.

    The arcade in the smaller suburban mall had other games - Vanguard, Berzerk, Tapper, Wacko, Crazy Climber.

    I'm going on vacation to the Funspot games arcade in NH next month. Can't wait!

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  19. My cousin had an awesome arcade in his neighborhood.He lived in Key Largo Florida and there was a restaurant/Marina called Tahiti Village just 2 blocks from his home.Inside the boat hanger,along one wall,was about 2 dozen games.I visited in 1982,so the best games were like Donkey Kong,Ms PacMan,Turbo,Zaxxon,Centipede...you name it, they had it.Not just one,at least 2 of each game.Not that it was necessary because apparently my cousin was the only kid in the neighborhood besides the owners son who lived on a houseboat docked there.Everyone else in the community was a retiree!What a setup!

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  20. Probably around 1981-2, my newly divorced dad, had a big surprise for me: he said I could get some sort of arcade video game for 6 months. I think he had some sort of connection with a distributer. It turned out to be PHOENIX. Oh man, I loved it! So much so I'm thinking he added on another 6 months, but I can't be sure. Anyway, I got quite good;couldn't wait to get home from school and bring friends over to play...Between that, my Odyssey, and the bumper pool table, I had one swinging basement pad for a 12 year old!

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  21. AnonymousMay 19, 2013

    Many of the games originated on a PLATO system. Battle Zone is one of the games that started on there.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO_(computer_system)

    The main attractions these days are the first multi player star trek combat game called empire and a game called avatar a multi player d&d type maze crawl. It's still up and running and free.

    http://cyber1.org/

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  22. i love the 70s and 80s arcade games,,who needs women ,,jajajajajajaaaaaa..just gime more quarters,,,inset coins,or lose it

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  23. AnonymousMay 26, 2015

    I LOVE THE ZAXXON ARCADE,,SCRAMBLE,,GALAGA Y MISSILE COMMAND--REMEMBER THE 70S AND 80S...AND I REMEMBER THE RAMBO 3 ARCADE,,OH BOY,,I SPEND MY LIFE IN OPERATION WOLF BY TAITO.AND THE DOUBLE DRAQGON ,,I WANT SINISTAR ARFCADE--RUN RUN RUN YOU COWARD,,IM SINISTAR

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