Last weekend I went up to Boston to work with Julia and Kirk on the Constellation Games synopsis. Rather than complaining about the publication process, let me tell you that on Sunday Kirk and I drove up to New Hampshire. (Here's Kirk's take, with pictures.) I thought this was a big deal, but I'd forgotten that when you start in Boston, New Hampshire isn't all that far away.
Our destination was Funspot, home of the "American Classic Arcade Museum", which is actually just a functional arcade. Like, imagine that bookstores continue going out of business, until you find yourself running one of ten large bookstores in the entire country. At that point, it might make sense to rename your bookstore the "American Classic Bookstore Museum".
Funspot does have some old games of particular historical interest, like Death Race, the first game to start a "wait a minute, those pixels look like a person!" moral panic. But, they also have Skee-Ball and bad pizza. And there's nothing explaining the importance of Death Race. Suffice to say I'm a little dubious about the "museum" idea.
But they do have over 200 old arcade games, organized by manufacturer, so, seriously, enough complaining. It was great! Kirk and I played just about every two-player simultaneous game they had, including classic shoots-em-up like Contra and Heavy Barrel, as well as good old Joust. We had worse luck with Marble Madness and Xenophobe.
I was also surprised to see Donkey Kong II, since that game doesn't exist. I invested a token and quickly discovered that it's actually a brutally difficult ROM hack, put into an arcade cabinet as a cruel prank. It turns out I'm not very good at any of these games (Kirk is really good at selected games, like Pengo), but I think it's safe to say that Donkey Kong II is only for those who relish a challenge.
I'd heard lots of people talk about how much better Asteroids looks on an original vector screen than on a CRT or LCD, and kind of written them off as snobs. But I guess I have to write myself off now, because Asteroids on a vector screen looks awesome.
We arrived in Funspot on the same day as a reunion of the General Computer Corporation, the company that sold unlicensed hacks of arcade games in the early 80s, under the assumption that no one would ever successfully serve a subpoena on the "general computer corporation". That didn't work out so well, but they went legit after one of their hacks was turned into Ms. Pac-Man. Now, reunion time: lots of middle-aged engineers and their spouses.
I remembered that Ned Batchelder used to work at the General Computer Corporation, so I looked around for him at Funspot, but he wasn't there and he confirms he'd never heard of the reunion—I guess they didn't invite the summer interns.