The Thrill Of The Chase: Space Invaders Arcade Cabinet

There are times that I think to myself, “I am in the right place at the right time”. One lazy afternoon last week, I was trawling through a certain online site when I stumbled upon an unloved Space Invaders arcade cabinet. My retro senses went into overdrive. I had been looking for such a cabinet for a while, but had given up of ever finding one.

The prized prey is strapped down

The prized prey is strapped down

Reading the advertisement, the machine had all the original innards, but the outside of the cabinet had seen better days. The usual story in these online advertisements go something like this: “I don’t have room and the wife tells me I got to get rid of it”, or my favourite, “I bought this cab to restore it, but I now need the money, so it must go”. The seller of this particular machine fell in the latter.

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The price in the advertisement was negotiable. I immediately sent an offer to the seller and sweetened the deal by saying I could pick it up on the weekend. I honestly thought the seller would negotiate up, but to my astonishment, he accepted it. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. I could not sleep properly till I had the machine in my possession.

With a bit of loving care, she will be restored to her former beatuty

With a bit of loving care, she will be restored to her former beatuty

With the trailer in tow, I showed up half an hour early at the seller’s house. Once we made  some small talk, money was exchanged and the machine was loaded securely and driven back to its new home, my garage.

The arcade cabinet needs some attention, including the control panel, which isn’t original. However, with lots of tender loving care, she will be restored to her former beauty. She is rock solid – they don’t build them like they used to.

 

Ultimate Dream Station

I am not much of an emulation fan. I prefer to play the classics on their original hardware. Then along comes the Multi Video Games System Two cabinet (MVGS2-Dream-Station) by PAT47200.

It is at times like these that even I, a staunch retro gamer has to concede that this is one awesome setup. Please take my order now!


source: PAT47200

The 80′s Arcade

The year is 1985. You walk into a smoky arcade parlour and the sounds of Galaga, Robotron:2084, Pac Man and Asteroids fill your ears. Dire Straits is blaring from the crackling sound system singing something about “Money For Nothing”.

You make a beeline to your favourite arcade machine. Coins are lined up on the screen as you eagerly await your turn. Once you get hold of the joystick and your fingers are poised on the fire button, excitement and joy fills your heart as you dash towards the last remaining aliens, pew pew, pew. The machine rocks and vibrates as you attempt to beat the high score. Just one more level, one more ghost, one more kick, one more blast and you will be the star of the arcade and immortalised forever on the high score table.

Those were the days before game-saves and redemption machines, when every game cost 20 cents and every life was important – an era that required true skill and nerves of steel to play.

Catalog Your Video Game Collection

Arcade in Paradise

TimeZone_ausretrogamer

I don’t know about you, but I still get that ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling whenever I stumble upon an amusement parlour (Ed: It is called an entertainment centre!).

During our recent trip to Queensland, not only did we stumble upon an amusement parlour, but we hit the jackpot – we found the largest Timezone in the world! A gaming paradise spanning over 5,000 square metres. This multi ‘Gold Coast Business Excellence Award’ winning entertainment centre knows how to cater for all gamers – young and old.

Yours truly enjoying some After Burner Climax

Yours truly enjoying some After Burner Climax

Timezone Funtasia has been part of the Surfers Paradise fabric for many moons. No visit to Cavill Mall is complete without going up the escalators and entering this great funhouse. There are the usual redemption machines, arcade machines based on smarthphone games (Ed: Doodle Jump!), lots of shooting and driving games, fighting games (Ed: I love a bit of Tekken), sports games (Virtua Tennis 4 is pure bliss), pool tables, slot car racing, miniature bowling alleys, air hockey and pinball tables, laser skirmish, merry-go-rounds, and even a dodgem (bumper) cars rink.

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I know what you are thinking – were there any old arcade machines from the late 80s and early 90s? Sadly, there wasn’t. The oldest machines were Sega’s 8-player Daytona USA and Namco’s Point Blank. However, there were enough machines and tables to keep you occupied for hours, literally!

The two videos below give you a glimpse of this Timezone. Nothing will beat being there in person and immersing yourself in a game; savouring the game play, hearing the sound effects, music and most importantly, the feel of playing on a machine. If you do find yourself on the Gold Coast, give Timezone a visit, you will not regret it!

 

 

If you would like to feast your eyes on more arcade machines from TimeZone, check out our album.

 

 

Interview with Seth Peterson from All You Can Arcade

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If you have dreamed of owning your own arcade machine but could never afford buying one, then you are in luck (Ed: if you live in California.)! We stumbled upon a new business that offers arcade machines for rent. They have lots of machines, even those old ones we loved while growing up. This new business is the brainchild of Seth Peterson, Co-Founder and CEO of All You Can Arcade. We rounded up Seth and asked him some hard hitting questions about his business.

AUSRETROGAMER [ARG]: Tell us about ‘All You Can Arcade’ – how did you come up with the idea?
Seth Peterson [SP]: About two years ago, I wanted to buy an arcade game for myself. After looking online for about a month, it seemed like the only ones I could find were all $800 or above. At one point I almost bought one for that much. If I had, who knows, maybe ‘All You Can Arcade’ never would have existed. Anyway, my van broke down on the way to pick up the game and I wasn’t able to buy it. A few months later I was on Craigslist and wanted to see if prices had changed. It was my 35th birthday and like a gift from heaven, someone was offering to sell a non-working Turbo Outrun game for $60 (Ed: Wow!). I called the guy and for an extra $15, he agreed to deliver the game to my house. When it arrived, it was a little rough around the edges, but the game still worked. That night, I stayed up racing away to my heart’s content. The next morning, I couldn’t shake-off how great it felt to have someone bring over an arcade game for so little, even if it wasn’t a “premium” title. That is when I had my epiphany – I thought to myself, if I could find enough games at a discount price, we could offer the same service to other people, but we get to hang onto the games instead of selling them.

Top of the world: All You Can Arcade CEO, Seth Peterson

Top of the world: All You Can Arcade – Co-Founder & CEO, Seth Peterson

ARG: What services / products does ‘All You Can Arcade’ offer?
SP: In many ways we are title neutral. We look for good deals and know that someone somewhere is looking for that game. People have compared our services to Netflix, but in some ways we’re more like Redbox. If you go to a Redbox kiosk, you can rent one of maybe 30 video games for about $2 per day. Not every game is great, but by focusing on a different genre with each title, they’re able to have something that anyone will like at any given time. Because the arcades are limited in the number of games and certain titles, we’re trying to put together a similar selection so that if someone’s top game isn’t available this month, then they can still find something they love while they wait for only $2.50 per day. These niche titles create a sort of long-lasting appeal that helps us match niche games with the customers who want to keep them for an extended period. The other day, we rented out our Buck Rogers arcade – it’s not a strong racer, but if you grew up watching the TV show, there’s a special magic about playing that game. By finding someone who was a fan of the show, we can offer a more powerful experience then delivering that same customer a Donkey Kong. Of course a lot of people still love Donkey Kong, Tempest, Asteroids, Tron, Ms. Pacman, Street Fighter II, Pole Position, Dig Dug, Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt and other hit titles, so we try to collect as many of those as well.

ARG: How many arcade machines do you currently have?
SP: We currently own about 175 games. By comparison, the third largest arcade in the world has a little over 180 games. We hope to get to 500 games in our own portfolio before we’ll stop buying more.

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Bally’s awesome pinball table: Harlem Globetrotters On Tour

ARG: What other machines are you looking to add to your portfolio? Where do you source your machines from?
SP: We never quite know where we’ll find a game, but we’re willing to travel hundreds of miles to get them at the right price. That gives us an advantage over people who limit themselves to the major metropolitan areas. Some have come from operators (we know) who want to retire. Others get picked off from Craigslist when someone is moving and they don’t have the capability to take it with them. Some come from ex-girlfriends or widows who hated the games and just want them gone (friendly advice for any man who owns arcade games or a nice convertible – don’t ever cheat on your special lady). Sometimes, we’ll go to the arcade auctions and pick off the weak titles that the collectors can’t seem to absorb. Part of what has allowed us to buy so many is that once the games stop earning income, collectors became really picky and there are titles that you just can’t move because so many of the people in the hobby have their garages filled up with games.

ARG: What are the pricing packages to rent an arcade machine? How does one rent a machine?
SP: We charge $75 per month, per game. We don’t care what title you pick. We don’t want people to feel like they are getting short changed by trying to up-sell them on more popular titles like the way that the arcade industry has traditionally priced rentals. We also don’t require any long term commitments (Ed: Now that is great.). Members are free to walk away anytime they get tired of the service and we’ll come and pick up the arcade game. On top of the $75 per month, we also charge an initial $75 deposit that is returned to customers provided the game comes back free from abuse. The best way to rent a game is to sign up for a 1, 2 or 3 at a time package on our website and reserve your game.

ARG: What areas does ‘All You Can Arcade’ service ? Any plans for expansion – nationally or internationally?
SP: Currently we serve as far south as San Jose, as far north as Santa Rosa, as far east as Sacramento and Modesto and all the way to the coast. We currently have an operator in Denver who is test piloting our crowd-sourcing feature that we hope to launch soon (Ed: we definitely want to know more about that!).

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The Simpsons: four player mayhem

ARG: Can you tell us which arcade machine(s) is/are the most popular with renters?
SP: People love Ms. Pacman. We literally bought 6 more PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) yesterday to try and keep up with demand. Street Fighter II (SF2) also has a long waiting list. We’re looking to add more ‘fighters’ to the site and hope that will alleviate some of the SF2 congestion that we face. Pole Position has also been surprisingly popular – we have 3 copies that rotate in and out. While we don’t get a lot of requests, when we put our Mortal Kombat on the site, it was reserved in less than 5 minutes, so we think there is demand for that title as well.

ARG: What are your immediate challenges at ‘All You Can Arcade’?
SP: Trying to grow from a small business into a medium sized one. It’s clear from the response that our service has struck a chord and that we’ve got a lot of room to grow just locally. But in order to save the arcade industry, we need to do this on a national scale. With demand being so strong, it’s been challenging to try and fix up the games while making deliveries full-time and still trying to hang onto the day job (not to mention all of the business development that goes on behind the scenes). Lots of all-night work – I haven’t had a day off in over 6 months, and pretty much no time for TV or video games unless they are being tested right before they go out (Ed: That is dedication.). This is the 4th business that I’ve started and by far it’s been the most challenging to create. The bankers, accountants, attorneys and professionals have universally hated the concept from the get go, so we’ve had to do this on our own to prove that there really is demand for a service like ours. Once we can prove that we have a winning business model, it will be easier to attract the resources we need to accelerate growth. In the meantime, it’s a lot of hard work, but sometimes the most important things in life are the hardest to accomplish.

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Bunch of beauties. Look at Galaga!

ARG: Do you have a favourite arcade machine? – if so, what is it and why is it your favourite?
SP: My favorite has got to be Missile Command (Ed: great choice!). It was the very first video game I ever played and to this day I can’t put my hand over the trackball without getting goosebumps. It’s like stepping back in time to when I was 8 years old. Even if this feeling passes after you play a few games, it’s something special and I think just about every one of us has a certain game that causes the same reaction. That’s why it was important for us to try and acquire lots of different titles instead of only offering the most popular ones. Eventually, we hope to have enough games that anyone can play their favorite game from their childhood.

ARG: Tough question time: Atari, Nintendo or Sega?
SP: At least you’re not making me choose between FPS and MMORPG, then I’d be upsetting a rabid fan base no matter what. Atari made some really cool games and they’ve probably done more for the arcade industry than any other company, but ultimately I’d have to go with Nintendo. Their commitment to the casual game gave them an exceptional lineup. Some people like to have 20 buttons and 49-way joysticks to master extreme combos. I want one joystick, one button. This simplicity creates a replay-ability factor that doesn’t exist in some of the more complex games.

A big thank you Seth for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat to us – you are a true gentleman. We wish All You Can Arcade all the best in the future. Let’s hope they grow quickly and keep the arcade machines alive. If you are lucky enough to be in the areas that ‘All You Can Arcade’ services, become a member, choose your machine and game on!

 

The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time

TSI_thespaceinvaders_longFilm: The Space Invaders: In Search Of Lost Time
Director: Jeff Von Ward
Studio: Wooden Horse Productions
Released: 2013
Distributor: Amazon Instant Video - $3.99 (7-day rental) or $14.99 (buy movie)
Synopsis: The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time will take you inside America’s hidden game rooms and into the hearts and minds of those who have made it their mission to enthusiastically preserve these important cultural touchstones.

Let’s get straight to it – as an arcade junkie, this film well and truly fed my need for retro gaming nostalgia. Jeff Von Ward has created a masterful film in which he tracks down and interviews some serious arcade collectors, like Jon Jamshid, who has amassed an impressive 180 machines!

The collectors share their passion for preserving these historic machines and the connection you feel with them is instantaneous – from scoring their first machine, their real estate woes, to the lengths they go to seek their next arcade hit.

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You will be amazed by the number of machines that are stored in basements and garages (as well as the stories behind them all!). You will be blown away by the dedication of these collectors and their respective arcade setup, especially Peter Hirschberg’s Luna City Arcade – an amusement heaven.

Interspersed throughout the film is some amazing archival footage, including Damon Claussen’s appearance (with his mom!) on the Starcade TV game show. The flow of this film, from start to finish, feels natural and just right.

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From the moment I sat down to watch ‘The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time’, I did not move nor blink (that may be a slight exaggeration) until the last credit was shown. Whether you are familiar with the arcade machines or not, this film is for anyone that has a nostalgic bone in their body, or would just like to find out what makes serious collectors tick.

Verdict: ‘The Space Invaders: In Search Of Lost Time’ is a wonderful film that should not be missed. Mr Jeff Von Ward, you deserve an Oscar!

Breaking News from the Director: Jeff reports that the film has just been picked up by New York City based digital entertainment curator, FilmBuff. FilmBuff has successfully distributed niche documentaries such as ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ (the doc or anti-doc on Banksy) and ‘Super Size Me’.

Image and video source: thespaceinvaders.org

 

Back To The Good Old Days

Sifting through a mountain of video gaming sites, I came across this topical comic which I had to share. I am sure most of us (old school) gamers can relate.

source: cheezburger

source: cheezburger