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[Comments] (5) : 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.

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Posted by kirkjerk at Fri Nov 19 2010 08:17

Interesting, your implication that museums ain't museums unless they're explainin' something. (Though I think some of the game had small plaques above with manufacturer details etc) Anyway, even though it's not perfect (especially the token receivers, it seemed) I admire how much effort they must put into maintenance.

GCC is like the unsung hero of the 2600 -- Activision upped the ante but Atari came back fueled by outstanding ports of their arcade games, done by those guys.

Man, usually I don't mind having sold off a vectrex, but now that you're so into vectors, I'm having sellers remorse.

Posted by Susie at Fri Nov 19 2010 08:23

Didn't we visit something like that at the wharf in SF?

Posted by Leonard at Fri Nov 19 2010 08:50

Kirk: I have very mixed feelings about this. In one sense it's a wunderkammer-type museum, where they just jumble a lot of stuff together for you to gawk at. I really don't like that. There are really interesting stories that aren't being told here.

In another sense it's an interactive historical recreation, where you can experience what it was like when every medium-sized town had one or more of these arcades. I like that a lot, and I'm glad they kept most of the earlier stuff off to the side so that it wouldn't look anachronistic. For this, it doesn't matter that there aren't displays about the historical importance of the games--nobody knew these stories or thought they were important at the time.

And in another sense it's just another tourist attraction bundled with the cheap mini-golf and the bowling. And for that... well, whatever works, I guess.

And, yeah, big props on the quality maintenance.

I have been into vectors for years, I just never saw an Asteroids cabinet before. I totally want a Vectrex, but I hear they're very tempermental.

Susanna: yeah, we visited the Múséé Mécháníqúé, which is like the American Classic Arcade Museum for pre-1930s stuff.

Posted by jacob at Fri Nov 19 2010 12:37

funspot is also notable for being the place where arcade records are set. the documentary "king of kong" (which is enjoyable, if loose with the truth) goes into this more, but for a variety of reasons, if you want to set a world record at an arcade game, you have to set it on one of these machines. in my mind it's sort of like those vaults that hold THE physical incarnation of the inch or whatever, like, we all know the game Centipede, but this is THE Centipede. i have a pending road trip to funspot with a friend so he can become #3 in the world for arcade tetris.

did you play that famous and disturbing torture shoot 'em up?

Posted by kirkjerk at Fri Nov 19 2010 15:22

"There are really interesting stories that aren't being told here."

That's true... but there's something nice, even apart from the historical recreation of an authentic old school arcade, about not trying to insert a curator's voice.

Heh, I remember seeing "Game On" at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry... which had more of that voice. I guess it can be cool. Maybe there's room for in between-ness.


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