Or the opposite. The National Pinball Museum just opened a mile and a half from the Lincoln Memorial in D.C, Pac-Man toys are currently in our fast food kid’s meals, and Mario is on his 50,000th game incarnation. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the more we have to keep coming up with cliches to make even superficial sense out of the world.
Funspot, an arcade in Weirs Beach, NH. Originally opened in 1952, it has survived six decades of adolescent entertainment fickleness to become home to the world’s largest collection of arcade games.
Located at 579 Endicott Street, where it has been since 1964, it’s hard to believe that fun can come in such a beige, corrugated metal box. However, follow the yellow lighted sign with the cartoon mascot dragon anadromically named Topsnuf and you’ll enter three floors of beeping, clacking, clinking, flashing, clicking, buzzing machines hungry for both your tokens and your nostalgia.
American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM) that much cooler.
I learned about Funspot and its hallowed place in arcadium through the hilarious 2007 documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. In it, two men battle for the Donkey Kong record, 25 years after it was cool to do so. Funspot features prominently in the film, as it seems to be an officially sanctioned battleground for this strange kind of bravado. It’s also home to the Annual Classic Videogame and Pinball Tournament.
Turns out, not only does the museum take up almost the whole third floor of the facility, just about all the games are playable. So I did the only thing I could do in that situation. I filled a plastic cup full of tokens (designed by the guy who created Archie, weirdly enough) and ran into the dimness of the arcade wishing I hadn’t left my sweat wrist bands at home…my childhood home.
Every so often, an arcade game would have a piece of paper in a plastic stand atop its cabinet, with a brief and often uninformative paragraph about the history of the cabinet. There was also a wall of fame covered in the pictures of retro-game record holders who had earned those records on the premises and who hoped to be rewarded some day for it in the afterlife.
Back to the interactive part of the museum, the games only cost one or two tokens to play, and I think we got like 50 tokens for 10 dollars. It took us a while to get through our stash, even though we went through the various cabinets like we were speed-dating them, partially out of excitement at trying them all, but mostly because it took us less than 60 seconds to lose on any given game. Life before save points was rough.
Certainly, all the classics were there, Frogger, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Dragon’s Lair, and there was a row of Donkey Kong machines of various iterations, including the one from the documentary. My favorite cabinets, though, were definitely the movie-themed games. Ghostbusters, Krull, Indiana Jones, to name some examples, complete with cool cabinet art. Also the pinball machines, which took up an entire wall of the room and were themed from everything from Kiss to Superman.