As a child gamer growing up in the 80’s I was living in a much different culture of video games than what we have today. Where we now are able to buy, download or even stream any game we could want, in the 80’s some of the biggest and best games available were completely unavailable to play at home. This was because they were at your local arcade.
The arcade was the coolest place to be for a kid in the 80’s. There was nothing like walking through an arcade as a pint sized kid hopped up on pizza and root beer. The lights glowing off the screens of rows upon rows of cabinets, the sounds of each game blending together to create a bizarre techno-symphony, and the sights of kids scrambling at high speed to get to their favorite game with pockets stuffed with quarters.
For me and my family the arcade to beat was Circus, Circus in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. We would file in and order our dinner, Mom and Dad would hold down the fort at the table while we would storm the arcade floor in pursuit of fun. I can remember playing games like Konami’s TMNT, Super Off-Road, and X-Men. We would play for a good fifteen or twenty minutes before the loudspeakers would announce that our dinner was ready. That was our cue to head back to the dining room and indulge in pizza to tell our parents about all the fun we were having while listening to the rocking tunes of the animatronic band ‘ROCK-AFIRE EXPLOSION’. The robotic animal musicians were procured from another arcade that had gone under in the area, Showbiz Pizza.
It really was the best time ever. Going to Circus, Circus became a staple for my family. Every birthday was celebrated there year after year and that place really defined that moment in our lives of us brothers being young kids just having fun. It also was a place where we could really be a whole family too. When your parents are separated it means a lot when you can all be together in one place and just have fun, even if only for a little while.There was nothing like it, and now sadly, there is nothing like it. Arcades, while still around, serve up an entirely different experience. From the buildings themselves being more akin to nightclubs or sports bars, to the games playing more for profit than for fun. In the 80’s you could play through an entire game on one quarter if you had the skills, my last trip to Dave and Busters I was only allowed to play one track of Mario Kart on my credit… which was stored on a pay card. It’s just not the same.
But I guess that’s the way it is for all of us. We all have those moments of childhood that exist only in our memories or our photo albums. That’s okay, anytime I want to go back to Circus, Circus I just take a trip in my mind. I can still hear the pinball machines ringing and the roll of the ski balls. I know the entire layout of the arcade down to the locations of the bathrooms next to the prize counter. I remember dancing by the stage to Rock-Afire’s music. I remember being a kid.
Long live Circus, Circus.
This week’s speed painting is 80’s video game staple PAC MAN! NOM NOM NOM!!!