Arcade of Darkness: A Gamer's Apocalypse

Lights dim..
The opening scene, Arcade in New Jersey. Olivia Newton John blares from the jukebox:

Narrator: (voice over)

"The arcade, sh_t. I'm still in the arcade. Every time I think I'm going to give it up, and head back to the playground. When I was on vacation after the school year, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be a radiation burn in my eyes... I hardly said a word to the bill changer until I said yes to $5 in quarters. When I was here, I knew I probably should not be here, chores were not done, lawn not mowed, garbage not taken out. When I was there, all I could think of was hopping back onto my red BMX- with the foam protective parts so I wouldn't crack my teeth or squash my crotch- and ride back to the arcade.

I've been here 2 hours now at the arcade. Waiting for clearing, getting
more impatient, the quarters getting slippery with sweat. The older cool kids put their quarters on the marquee, taking quick puffs from cigarettes. "The bill changer guy won't smell the smoke, they must have thought, as greyish blue clouds eminated around the machine. My fingers smelled of dirty quarters and crinkled dollar bills. Every hour I stay in this arcade my homework piles up. Each time I look around the line of quarters gets lighter, the smoke thicker, the arcade dingier. I have to use the bathroom, but if I leave now, I lose my spot.

Everyone gets everything he wants, or so my fortune cookie has since told me. I wanted a shot at the game, and for my sins, the machine opened up for me. Like the first crinkled Playboy you find in your dad's room, inviting, beckoning.. Forbidden."

I approach the screen:

THE GAME:"Prepare to qualify.."

Me:"Yeah. This is gonna be cool."

Narrator: (voice over)

"It was a real choice game, and when it was
over, I thought I would want a few dozen more. I was sadly mistaken. Slowly my car accellerates, and heads into the first turn. What's that, a billboard? BOOM! My car explodes into what looks like a badly drawn poinsetta, and my tires bounce away. Shift up, speed up, and head into the straight away. I zip past cars, and up comes another turn. Is that the same billboard, or am I just seeing things.. "Dig-Dug" billboard, no, the other one said "ATARI" I think.. BOOM! The poinsetta returns, the tires disperse. I approach the finish line, and the doorbell-like sounds mock me, and some fake guitar chimes in. My rank, 132.. GAME OVER. "

Me:"What the heck? Geez this game sucks!"

Narrator: (voice over)

Being so young, I had not sharpened my dictionary of obscenities, and there were adults around. Best to just "Aw shucks" and walk away."I was in the worst place in the world, and boy I sure knew it. Hours away and a couple of miles up Franklin Ave, the road we were forbidden to cross on our bikes, snaked back up home. The intoxicating smell of nicotine and carpets stuck to walls, covered with bubble gum, demanded the rest of my money. The PacMan and Ms PacMan machines chirped at me like old friends. Time Pilot had me going for a bit, but that was because the quarters fell through the coin slot, into the receiving tray, but counted as a paid game! Free games!

Crystal Castles and Missile Command both welcomed me, and mocked my fingers- those tracballs would be catching my fingers, playfully but violently wanting me skin. Even the Dig-Dug machine looked inviting, but the flashbacks from my exploding car had me avoid the machine. Too much time with Gyruss, trying to place the music. Sounds classical, sounds cool! Don't know.. can't place it.. 5 hours, $5.

Me: "Better get home, the 5 o'clock siren just went off."

Narrator: (voice over)

Good old Wyckoff, New Jersey.. the town that reads like a question. At 12:00 noon and at 5:00 pm, the siren at the firehouse would go off. If you heard the second siren and you weren't home, you were in for it- you were late for dinner.

(Fast-forward 25 years, give or take a few.)

Narrator: (voice over)

The new white beast calls me, welcoming me into the arcade. The bill changer? Gone, replaced by a Visa or Mastercard. The quarters? Gone, replaced by Microsoft Points. There are new addictions brought on to the gaming world: XBox Live Arcade, gamerpoints, and achievements. Joust, Defender, Smash TV.. damn quarter eaters are now stuck in my 360. Ms PacMan and PacMan icons sit, stoicly, sterile, inanimate. "Play me, you don't have all of the achievements yet!" What do little spheres know? Time Pilot, Rally X, Gyruss soon, no sign of the racing game, the darkness of the arcade. Then it hits me. The cigarette smells, the wall covered with carpets, quarters on the floor. I must be halucinating. I sniff at the glass of milk, poke at the surface, and realize yes, I am halucinating. The milk is bad.

I've purchased all of these games, the agony, the ecstacy, the mis-guided nostalgia. Assault Heroes, simply a re-working of classics like Ikari Warriors which, in hind-sight.. truly suck ass. But Assault Heroes breaths some life into the arcade, scaring the cobwebs out of old classics, rendering them useless in today's gaming world. I ask why should I finish these games, achievements,

fyedaddy: "Because your scores are NOT on top of the leaderboard!"

Me: What was that, a slight? Maybe.. but it doesn't hit that hard. I'll eventually school him, or at least beat him in NHL 2K7!"

XBox 360: "Because SWAT still has you beat by over 4,000 points, dick!"

Me: Oh yeah. That's why. The big picture..

(considered submitting this for "call for writers," but I'm not confident enough to do it- I don't think I followed the directions properly.)

I will get all the achievements for Frogger and Joust. I will!

"It's Saturday night; I've got no date, a two liter bottle of Shasta, and my all-Rush mix tape... let's rock."

wordsmythe wrote:

I will get all the achievements for Frogger and Joust. I will!

"It's Saturday night; I've got no date, a two liter bottle of Shasta, and my all-Rush mix tape... let's rock."

May your attack on technology be worthy of being chronicled in an anthem by Rush.

Joust achievements... "Nothing closer to God in Heaven in an arcade game than Joust achievements."

So Max, did you kill the buzzard?

BTW, 5 hours on 5 dollars is not bad at all.

Thanks for the "misguided nostalgia"

I think I accidentally killed the Pterodactyl, I've never specifically hunted the thing.

There was a pixel that let you kill it. I don't know if I really remember some teenager killing it while I was there, or if it's just a fabricated memory, but it was pretty cool.

You have to hit it straight on, though it seems harder now. I may just be older.