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GAME OVER
May 15, 2011 8:23 AM   Subscribe

The last gasp of the arcade. Several months ago, two of the last major arcades on the west coast and east coast, Chinatown Fair in New York and Arcade Infinity in Los Angeles, shut down.

While Henry Cen, the manager of the arcade, has set up a new arcade in Brooklyn, the loss of these arcades is a blow to their respective communities, especially those who play fighting games.

Arcade: the Last Night at Chinatown Fair (site), is a documentary about the last hours of the 50 year old New York legend, currently in production by Kurt Vincent.

Ancillary Links:
Pictures of Arcade Infinity closing.
Retronauts Podcast: The Rise and Death of the Arcade Scene
Chicago Tribune article about a Chicago area arcade closing.
posted by zabuni (71 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah yes, Chinatown Fair. Insert a quarter, and watch the live chicken dance to ragtime on an electrified grid.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:27 AM on May 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Funspot is still safe, right? RIGHT?
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


They took the chicken out Sticky, IIRC they have pictures of said chicken on a farm where the machine used to be, seriously.
posted by hellojed at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funspot will never close!

Live Free* or Die motherfuckers, NH pride!


*25 ∑'®†¥¨ˆø∂πåß…∂¬˚çΩ≈≤≥µ√∫˜Ω¡™¡£¢∞§¶¶•ªº–≠‘«‘“π…æ÷≥≤µ˜∫ƒç≈ç≈ßß∂ß√çœßç FUCK IT CAN'T FIND THE CENTS SYMBOL
posted by nathancaswell at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, New Hampshire is representing in the arcade wars. The Pinball Wizard in Pelham, NH (about 30-45 min north of Boston) opened up 1/2 year ago with classic machines in beautiful condition. Completely old school arcade in all the right ways.
posted by jeremias at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I know, the fabulous arcade at Seattle Center is still in good shape. At least I hope it is. It's one of those places I love to go and drop a few bucks whenever I'm visiting.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 AM on May 15, 2011


No retro arcade is completely authentic unless there is a sketchy guy selling hash oil.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:39 AM on May 15, 2011


And yet Amusement 2000 Plus in Montreal keeps chugging along, little different than when I used to play Defender there in the '80s.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:44 AM on May 15, 2011


Manitou Springs, CO has a kickass arcade, much of it outdoors! Besides 80's era video games, they have pinball from all eras and lots of pre-video amusements - including flip-book peep shows.

And if you get depressed thinking of your lost youth, you can sip from the lithium-spiked mineral springs across the street. Really, what more could you want?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:57 AM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


--cut-here--cut-here--
¢
--cut-here--cut-here--
posted by ryanrs at 9:00 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


A new arcade just opened in Las Vegas. Being Vegas, its 21+, serves alcohol, and has bottle service.
posted by SirOmega at 9:02 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


metafilter: They took the chicken out sticky.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:03 AM on May 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I have a friend who just went to Insert Coin in Vegas. He says it was awesome.
posted by Nelson at 9:05 AM on May 15, 2011


I've mentioned this a few times here on the Meef, but the opening of Pinballz Arcade, here in Austin, has really improved my quality of life enormously. They have, at last count, 120 pinball tables and then another 100 arcade and other (SkeeBall, etc) games. Everything is in perfect condition and they have a terrific, attentive, knowledgeable staff keeping everything in tip top. It's astounding.

The only drawback, other than my quiet fear that they will close and I will be wracked with grief for the rest of my life, is that they are pretty full and there in't much room to expand. Darren, the owner, says he has a warehouse with another 100+ pins right nearby.

But I remember Chinatown Fair, and for them:

.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:06 AM on May 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The fate of Lily, the Tic Tac Toe Chicken.
posted by Durhey at 9:10 AM on May 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Growing Up In Arcades: 1979-1989
posted by gman at 9:17 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aww. I wish I'd have heard of this place. All we've got is Family Amusement down the block, across from the community college, and outside of the brand new games, a lot of their cabinets are pretty busted (like no medium kick button on the Marvel Superheroes cabinet).

And the game I always wanted to see out here — especially since they got rid of it at Pete's back in Ann Arbor, was Elevator Action 2, where I could get to the boss on one quarter.
posted by klangklangston at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah there may be specialty arcades here and there but there used to be arcades every few blocks.

Actually I was visiting a friend in Florida and I flew into this tiny airport with 4 gates. The airport actually had an arcade with game machines that looked like they were at least 10-15 years old. I took some pictures, but I didn't have any quarters on me.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2011


Seconding the awesomeness of Pinballz Arcade in Austin. It might be a good thing that the owner has a warehouse of extra pins; that way he can cycle out machines that need heavier maintenance and cycle in others to keep things fresh for the diehards.

I worked in the amusement industry for a little while (laser tag), and it seemed like the trends were towards building mega-funplexes (Main Event) and possibly attaching alcohol sales (Dave & Busters). The venues that were more Mom & Pop were even more reliant on hosting birthday parties rather than catering to walk-in crowds to make their money.

Redemption machines and skill-prize (window-dressed gambling?) games like Super Stacker (where you can win multi-hundred dollar prizes like Playstations) were becoming the cash-cows to complement the loss-leader arcade games :(

I wonder if the fighting game arcade mentioned in the links is going to stay a private club, and if that model might work out.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned the era of the arcade died when they closed Playland in Times Square. You can talk all you want to about leet gamers playing fighting games for "respect". But you took your life into your hands going into Playland later in the evening. There you'd find an eclectic group as well. Hookers, pimps, heroin and coke dealers, addicts, pickpockets, gangbangers, drunks and ignorant tourists. There was a booth in front that sold knives and bogus ID.

I loved it.

Shoulder to shoulder with the sweaty dregs of society on a 100 degree Saturday night. Hell, I was one off those dregs back then. Greased up with Egyptian Musk Oil from the street vendor outside. Soaked tanktop. A pocket full of quarters. Maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend at my side. On a break from the Avon Theater or the Love Theater. A 16 ounce Olde English in a paper bag. Playing Defender, badly. A row of quarters for "next game" lined up on a ledge on the machine. And nobody fucked with those quarters. No matter how strung out the junkie, you didn't touch those quarters. That was respect. You had respect for the people there because they were probably tweaked and half crazy on something. You could get gutted for a few stolen quarters. And that added spice. Living on the edge. Crazy swirling in the thick atmosphere. Sweat dripping down your neck. Adrenaline.

Good times, bubba. Good times.
posted by Splunge at 9:29 AM on May 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


Portland, Oregon. Pinball too.
posted by rainperimeter at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Aww. I wish I'd have heard of this place. All we've got is Family Amusement down the block

Bite your tongue, sir!
posted by mykescipark at 9:55 AM on May 15, 2011


Game Over

.
posted by Trurl at 10:09 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only went to playland a few times due to the rumors you would get kidnapped by "chickenhawks" if you went in there. Much later there was another arcade called xcess in times square, which was said to be populated exclusively by triad members.

There is of course barcade, which I guess is kind of cool if you feel the urge to play tapper, but I don't know if it is really an arcade, it just doesn't have the same feel.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:16 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's pinball only, but the nonprofit Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, and the inimitable Little JuJu (a 1947 Spartan trailer filled with pinball machines) are still with us.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:20 AM on May 15, 2011


Ah yes, Playland. I used to go there in high school, and nearly got myself killed at the Street Fighter 2 machine. If you are 14 and are playing against a huge Puerto Rican guy who keeps choosing Blanca, maybe beating him with Chun Li and laughing about it isn't a good idea. Life lesson, that is.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:24 AM on May 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I did not expect, in opening this thread, to experience a range of emotions related to a chicken. But then I did. (Thank goodness Durhey linked the happy ending!)

As an aside, I will take on all challengers for Virtua Fighter 2. Also Tekken 2. But only the arcade versions.
posted by Glinn at 10:32 AM on May 15, 2011


.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:54 AM on May 15, 2011


Scouting NY had a post on Chinatown Fair earlier this year
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:55 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister's restaurant in rva is also part arcade. Good times.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:23 AM on May 15, 2011


Anyone know if the arcade in Hackers was a real arcade or based on a real arcade? Because that looked totally awesome.
posted by Mitheral at 11:32 AM on May 15, 2011


I kind of miss the Somerville Goodtime Emporium. Sometimes you just really wanted to knock back a drink and/or some carnival food and then watch Asian kids playing DDR, doing the hardest songs on the hardest difficulty level (or whatever thing), and actually playing with their backs to the screen and getting perfect scores.

And then someone would get shanked sometimes, here and there, but the place had Addams Family Pinball so you won't hear a word of complaint from me.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:41 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The arcades that I visited in Japan were astounding. Eight floors of games, with each floor assigned its own type of game. Beautiful young women dressed to the nines and fucking dominating whatever they were playing. RTS arcade games where you slide cards around to control your armies. Incredible!
posted by meows at 11:41 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Playland was my joint! That was THE NYC arcade. My cousin's boyfriend used to work there. He was one of those guys you would see walking around breaking change for people. Every time I went to visit, he would open up the machines and give me 50 free credits on each of the games. Those change breakers had a habit of skimming money at the end of the day. They were taking home an extra $300 a night in change. I hate to think this may be one of the reasons why they closed down.
posted by cazoo at 12:00 PM on May 15, 2011


Best Weekend Ever:

FunSpot and a Journey/Stix/REO Speedwagon show at that outdoor ampitheatre near there.
posted by k8t at 12:19 PM on May 15, 2011


"Bite your tongue, sir!"

Call a meetup!
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2011


"Bite your tongue, sir!"

Call a meetup!


Photos or it never happened.
posted by hippybear at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2011


Crazy, the Tilt chain is still around. I must have funded their pension fund for the next thirty years with all the money I've dropped in them.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:25 PM on May 15, 2011


Holy cow, the new Chinatown fair is a block from my apartment.

I'm going to check it out now and I'll tell everyone what it is like.

(This is much more fun than the work I'm supposed to be doing).
posted by overhauser at 12:29 PM on May 15, 2011


There is no entry for Pinball Pete's on Wikipedia.

AA1
AA2 (wasn't there another AA location besides the one on South U?)
EL[more]
Lansing (at Frandor)

I spent many a day and night smoking and waiting around for my boyfriend to finish playing Tekken 3 at Pete's.

(I personally enjoyed playing Bust-a-Move over at Bilbos.
posted by k8t at 12:30 PM on May 15, 2011


Anyone know if the arcade in Hackers was a real arcade or based on a real arcade? Because that looked totally awesome

That place was awesome. Iirc the exterior was an art gallery in soho. They game Zero Cool and Acid Burn play was wipeout ( recently the subject of a FPP)
posted by Ad hominem at 12:37 PM on May 15, 2011


I kind of miss the Somerville Goodtime Emporium.

Me too! Jillian's is such a weak repleacement...
posted by rollbiz at 12:42 PM on May 15, 2011


.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:07 PM on May 15, 2011


I swear but on the beard of Zeus, the arcade is too awesome a phenomenon to die. Just as poker halls, pool halls, betting halls, and sports bars refuse to die, so will the arcade live in perpetuity in some incarnation.

Here in Beijing, arcades are big family-style affairs. But a few bars and hip joints in the city are starting to install machines next to the dart boards. I think we all know where this is going in the next 20 years. Mortal Kombat is going to be the poker of the 21st Century.

At least that's what I think.
posted by saysthis at 1:11 PM on May 15, 2011


Chicago Tribune article about a Chicago area arcade opening.

Cool place, too, and the guys that own it are also developing a couple of arcade games inspired by, of all things, classic Mortal Kombat. Which, okay, I won't hold it against them.
posted by hoboynow at 1:18 PM on May 15, 2011


install machines next to the dart boards

I think that might affect my pinball skills, having to worry about catching a dart in the ass.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:46 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man. I took my daughter down for arcade, dim sum and Chinatown ice cream factory a few times. Is there any arcade left in the city?
posted by shothotbot at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2011


I think that might affect my pinball skills, having to worry about catching a dart in the ass.
posted by Purposeful Grimace


Yes, the grimace that would result would be more from surprise than premeditated purpose.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"There is no entry for Pinball Pete's on Wikipedia.

AA1
AA2 (wasn't there another AA location besides the one on South U?)
EL[more]
Lansing (at Frandor)

I spent many a day and night smoking and waiting around for my boyfriend to finish playing Tekken 3 at Pete's.
"

For a while, there were three concurrent Ann Arbor Pinball Pete's locations.

While I was in high school, the two that existed were the one on South University, next door to Middle Earth, and the one on William, upstairs on the corner of Maynard. Then another arcade opened in what is now Panchero's on South U., which was the first place you could play Mortal Kombat in town. Pete's opened up the bigger space downstairs in that galleria or whatever the fuck they call it on South U., which was at the time the location of Tower Records, displacing a bunch of shady piercing and tattoo parlors (and maybe a restaurant?).

For a while, all three of those were open, with the one across the street being where they moved all their "vintage" games, including the one that worked like Qix but let you see pixillated Japanese titties by revealing the playfield.

I don't remember which of the other two closed first, but my hunch is that it was the one across the street.

I've heard it rumored that there were even more locations at one point, but I must have been too young to find them.

There was also Putt Putt out on Washtenaw (they had two locations for a while too), where you could find all the NSK/Turbograffix games, like King of Fighters. Oh, and Puzzle Fighter, a game that I've wanted to find in a cabinet for years now. I know that it came out for the original Playstation, at least in Japan, because one of my buddies had a modded PS that would play it, but I haven't been able to find it on any other systems (really, I'm surprised there's not a flash version) and though I think it's on the PS3, I haven't wanted to buy a new console just for that game.
posted by klangklangston at 2:13 PM on May 15, 2011


I think the NY spot is where I got my first fake ID.
posted by sundrop at 2:43 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


No love for LAN cafés? They seem to have carried on the true spirit of arcades with all their dinginess and sketchy folk.
posted by Joe Chip at 2:53 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other day, I caught part of an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" where the cops arrested a guy while he was smoking a cigarette in an arcade, and I was wondering if it had turned into a time travel show while I wasn't paying attention.
posted by brundlefly at 3:50 PM on May 15, 2011


I remember going to Aladdin's Castle when I was a preteen and blowing through $5 (a king's ransom in the early 80s) in half an hour. I had a lot of fun back then, even though I never got good at anything other than Karate Champ.

One of the few reasons that I keep a Windows XP virtual machine on my Linux laptop (besides OpenOffice woes) is to play games on MAME.

But it's not the same*


* - until the glorious day when I build my super-leet MAME arcade cabinet.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:00 PM on May 15, 2011


No mention of King of Kong? A must see for those who love arcades and/or Centipede champions who now sell hot sauce.
posted by carlodio at 4:02 PM on May 15, 2011


MetaFilter: Centipede champions who now sell hot sauce
posted by hippybear at 4:12 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, even though I lived in NYC from 2003 - 2007 I loved Chinatown Fair because it felt like one of the last bastions of real New York that hadn't been Micky Moused up by the time I arrived for college.
posted by wcfields at 4:19 PM on May 15, 2011


Starbase is still in San Rafael (Northern California) just take highway 101 to Downtown San Rafael and head west on 4th. Video Bob's been running the place for as long as I can remember, and I used to drop my allowance at this joint. He takes excellent care of the machines and is an awesome dude. Great arcade.
posted by fartknocker at 4:21 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if anyone's made a map of the good arcades still open...

Summer roadtrip!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:30 PM on May 15, 2011


There's an arcade a town over from us where all the games are a nickel, except pinball and driving games. Boy loves it. I can buy him a $5 cup of coins, and he's happy for two hours, and I can play Addams Family pinball. Everybody wins!
posted by dejah420 at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went to Insert Coin(s) this past weekend in Vegas. While the idea and the execution were spot-on, the arcade was plagued by the same problem as so many other video parlours: too many broken down games. Dim screens, loose joysticks, broken buttons, etc.

Granted, there were enough well-working games to make things fun, but there were several disappointing moments when I'd see a marquee for a favorite game, only to find the machine unplayable.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2011


That Pete's that was in the weird big Tower Records was open when I was in college. I went in there before I was 21 a few times with dorm buddies.

It was not what the skeevy Lansing ones were like at all.
posted by k8t at 5:11 PM on May 15, 2011



Here in Beijing, arcades are big family-style affairs. But a few bars and hip joints in the city are starting to install machines next to the dart boards. I think we all know where this is going in the next 20 years. Mortal Kombat is going to be the poker of the 21st Century.


Bars in Sydney have old Street Fighter, pinball, and dodgy MAME cabinets. And lots of deer hunting games.
There was a great arcade in Fairfield or Westport CT when I was growing up. Old and smokey. Got replaced by an Anthropologie or one of those boho stores. So we started going to one in Milford (I think). That closed. There was a massive arcade somewhere with bumper cars and lazer tag. Had my birthday there once. Not sure if it's still around.

Sydney has a few proper arcades. Two are right in the centre of Sydney, so it gets alot of teenagers (I think). I love them, though I don't like having to buy a special card to play the games. I mostly just play lightgun games, since that's harder to simulate at home.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:17 PM on May 15, 2011


Arcades! I was so surprised a couple of days ago to see that there's actually an arcade of some sort at the Ameristar casino here in St. Louis. Otherwise, I guess there's Dave & Buster's... Other than that, the last actual arcade I remember here (outside of a movie theater) was the Tilt at Northwest Plaza.
posted by limeonaire at 5:25 PM on May 15, 2011


The Casino Arcade (and others) at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk are still around and doing fine. It's not the same creepily thrilling place it was when I was a kid, but at least there's still sand all over the floor and the smell of grease, sugar, salt air, and machines.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:30 PM on May 15, 2011


I'm glad to hear about Pinballz Arcade for Austin, I haven't made it out there yet but I'll be taking a look soon. There's also Arcade UFO down near the UT campus. They have a heavier focus on fighting games, but there's also some shmups and rhythm games as well.
posted by Talanvor at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2011


As far as I know, the fabulous arcade at Seattle Center is still in good shape. At least I hope it is. It's one of those places I love to go and drop a few bucks whenever I'm visiting.

I don't know how to break this to you, but the entire Fun Forest is gone. Arcade, rides, laser tag, air hockey, etc. That's where they're sticking the Chihuly museum that none of the locals seem to actually want, but just coincidentally would bring in tourist megabucks for Seattle Center selling tickets to see and buy brightly colored mass produced glass trinkets.

Last I heard they've been so generous as to maybe give KEXP a small corner of the development as a sop, but I can't remember if it's for new studios or an exhibition/performance space or what.
posted by loquacious at 8:32 PM on May 15, 2011


loquacious: that's the saddest thing I've heard in months. Hell, I can see a good dozen Chihuly works for free just a few miles from where I live, including a huge chandelier.

*sigh*

Well, fuck. That takes care of THAT part of my pilgrimage rituals in Seattle. With C.C. Attle's also being closed and no firm opening date announced, there's not a lot left for me there. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.
posted by hippybear at 8:51 PM on May 15, 2011


There was another Ann Arbor Pinball Pete's on Packard right by the Packard and State intersection. That's the first one that I remember closing (maybe early 90's?). The E. Williams and S. University spots were more popular though.
posted by p3t3 at 8:51 PM on May 15, 2011


Since we're all mentioning our favorite arcade-y haunts, might as well mention the very fun Pinball Parlour about an hour outside of Philly, site of a MeFi meetup back in 2008.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:19 PM on May 15, 2011


Funland in Seaside, Oregon is still alive and well.

I predict a renaissance when some better virtual reality hits the market. Just like Imax and 3-d is doing for movie theaters.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:03 PM on May 15, 2011


I don't know how to break this to you, but the entire Fun Forest is gone. Arcade, rides, laser tag, air hockey, etc. That's where they're sticking the Chihuly museum that none of the locals seem to actually want,

That's depressing. I didn't think I liked Chihuly, and confirmed it a few years ago on a visit to Tacoma, where his garish junk is all over the place. I imagine Tacoma is not entirely pleased about Seattle's new museum either.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:40 AM on May 17, 2011


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