Saturday at the Arcade: Home Edition

At the dawn of the 21st century, when the video game systems hooked up to our living room TVs far surpass anything we could have dreamed of in the 80s, there are entire generations of people (yes...we're that old) who never spent a Saturday afternoon hanging out at a video arcade. Even my wife, who is a mere seven years younger than me, is far enough removed from the early days of video games that she never planned a day around an arcade visit either.

Back in the day, there was nothing that got me quite as excited as hanging out in a roomful of video games. (I was a geek back then...I didn't have many "excitement" options.) The peak of the video game boom hit right around the time I started high school. Back then, there was an arcade in every shopping center. And if you weren't near a shopping center? No problem! Pretty much every commercial establishment had at least one video game. On my walk home from school every day, I ran a veritable gauntlet of my favorite games. There was Missile Command (at a pizza parlor), Wizard of Wor (at a deli), and Pac-Man (at the convenience store). Needless to say, I never made it home from school with any quarters in my pocket.

But those quick-fixes in the corner store never compared to hanging out in the arcades. I managed to make the trek to one of them every week, even before I had a car. "Massively multiplayer" gaming in the early 80s meant stacking your quarter up on the control panel and waiting in line for the popular games. And there were new games coming out all the time. Every year, my parents took us on a vacation to the beach (Ocean City, Maryland), where I spent my time before and after the beach in the arcades on the boardwalk. They always had the newest games at the beach before they had them back at home.

Nowadays, the arcades have all but disappeared. You can only find video games in big family fun centers, and they're kind of eclipsed by the redemption games. And pinball machines (I love pinball, too) are only being made by one manufacturer, at the rate of one or two per year.

So how does this nostalgic and melancholy walk down memory lane fit into the Gimme That! category?

Check out my home arcade. Since I can't go to the corner arcade anymore, I brought the arcade to me.

For those of you who pine for the days when coin-op games ruled the world, take note that you, too, can have your very own slice of the 80s in your basement or garage. All it takes is a little searching, a little money (less than you think), and a lot of space.

Oh. And a really understanding wife or significant other.

An arcade of your very own. If that doesn't say "Gimme That!" to an 80s video game geek, I don't know what does.

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