80s arcade goodness.

Yes, I am a child of the 80s.

Specifically, I am a teen of the 80s. All those great movies and no small amount of memorable TV, some decent music, and a lot of shitty fashion (and I mean a lot) hail from that wondrous and yet justifiably puzzling decade. Yes, you can make those same statements about other decades, but there is one thing that the 80s owns, now and forever: The Era of the Video Game Arcade.

trekarcadeWhen I was a teenager in the early to mid 80s, arcades were like Starbucks are today: everywhere. Malls and hotels, movie theaters and restaurants, or simply their own dedicated space in a strip mall or other standalone building. A decent arcade would be home to several dozen different games, and multiple models of the really new or hot titles. Tron. Gyruss. Tempest. Defender. Zaxxon. Star Wars and, of course, Star Trek, just to name a few. The sounds of electronic quest, victory and death echoed through the rooms, amplified by some of that aforementioned music of the day.

It was glorious. Screw home systems. The arcade is where epic gaming truly lived.

I have no idea how many quarters I pumped into how many video games in who knows how many arcades during the 80s. A conservative calculation leads me to think that if I’d saved that money, I probably could buy a small country by now, or at least a decent-sized island to call my own. There are still arcades today, of course, though they are but a shadow of their predecessors. Meanwhile, people like me occasionally give in to a need to relive a bit of the good old days, and so we cram our houses with stuff like arcade games when the planets align and a working model is available at a decent price. For me, that’s the Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator, which resides in one corner of my home office. One of these days, I hope to put a Tron cabinet next to that bad boy.

Oh, it’s gonna happen.

That said, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of “classic arcades” popping up here and there, with people trying to recreate that original 80s gaming flavor. Then, you have stuff like the viral marketing campaign that ramped up to the release of Tron: Legacy back in 2010, which included a recreation of Flynn’s Arcade from the original 1982 Tron film, and in which you could actually play games from the movie, such as Flynn’s own Space Paranoids.

Oh. Yeah.

(Note to self: If I win the lottery, open a kick-ass three or four-story arcade. Make it look like Flynn’s. Invite friends.)


What started this rambling session? This morning, I was rummaging in a closet down in my home office when I spied a package which had been tucked into one corner. It had been there since we moved into the house last year, and I’d forgotten what it was. Once I picked it up, though, I knew exactly what was inside. Behold:


Plexiglas marquees like these would be installed in the top front of a game cabinet, which provided backlighting to make the artwork pop. If an arcade was properly lit–which is to say the main lights were down low–then all of the games would look just that much more awesome. Add in your music, and we’re off and running.

I’ve had these things for years. I had a Tron marquee at one point, but ended up giving that one away for some reason I now regret. Both of these things are over thirty years old, and still look great. I’m thinking I might get them mounted somehow, so that they can be backlit for the man cave.

My wife will absolutely love that. No, really. Especially if I add a Tron one. Honest.

Anybody else a child of the 80s? Got a favorite game?

20 thoughts on “80s arcade goodness.

  1. Brother I cannot tell you how many quarters I put into those damn machines at the Smithhaven Mall arcade on LI. The two that got the most of my quarters were Tailgunner (especially the sit down version) and Star Castle. Man those were great times.


  2. Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was / is and will forever remain my favorite arcade game. I envy your for the courage to put one in your home. A long time ago I heard all of those were fire hazard and that’s why Sega had them removed from arcades. When I visit Kansas City later this year I’m coming with a roll of quarters!


    1. Mine isn’t an “official” cabinet from Sega, but instead another cabinet that had its artwork/innards swapped out. It’s basically a rebuild.

      And I only plug it in when I want to play. 🙂


  3. Computer Space– a local mall arcade had one of these machines and my best friend and I would play it until we ran out of quarters or we lost our minds, whichever came first.

    Then we played Tank, with similar results.

    Battlezone was great, even solo, and despite the wireframe graphics.

    I am, of course, utterly green with jealousy that you have a Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator cabinet. Perhaps I should add this to my bucket list….


  4. Oh boy. Can you believe this was one time when it paid to be the straight-A nerd student? Because the video game arcade I could bike to gave you two free tokens for every “A” on your report card.

    You have to have read “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, right? Talk about an ode to video games and that time period…..


    1. We used to scout out all the arcades in search of certain games. I remember when Discs of Tron hit. There were only two or three to be found, and usually only one in any arcade where we found it.


  5. Oh, and by the time I was in college, my favorite was Millipede. My boyfriend and I went every night after dinner in the dining hall, each put in a single quarter, and then could play our two-person game for at least an hour straight…..


Lay it on me.

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