A visit to Galloping Ghost, the largest video game arcade in the USA
May 17, 2014 1:41 PM   Subscribe

A visit to Galloping Ghost, the largest video game arcade in the USA. "'The largest video arcade in the USA,' boasted the website. 'We’ve got to make it over there,' I told Deputy Editor Nate Anderson over IM one morning. Galloping Ghost, an arcade located in the western suburbs of Chicago, was said to house well over 400 vintage games. The combination of proximity and the desire to while away an afternoon in a warm, nostalgic gaming haze eventually overpowered our excuses not to go, so we made the trip."
posted by SpacemanStix (33 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

A visual tour of the experience.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:42 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]

Fifteen bucks for all-you-can-play? Twelve year-old me just died and went to heaven.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:47 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]

Forty One year-old me will be joining him.
posted by fullerine at 1:52 PM on May 17 [7 favorites]

can you die of "sounded-way-less-creepy-in-my-head"?
posted by fullerine at 1:57 PM on May 17 [31 favorites]

Cabinets can also be pilfered for parts...he dropped a PlayStation 3 into the cabinet so gamers could have the most current experience..."It's not as popular in the competitive scene... I'm actually swapping it back to the original arcade hardware"

Forty Six year-old me weeps for the departed who ended up in Purgatory.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:26 PM on May 17

My brother went here with a passel of his oldest childhood chums last week and sent me snapshot after snapshot of old machines. I'd never heard of the place before, but I'm going to pay a visit when I'm in the 'hood next month.
posted by mykescipark at 2:40 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

When they expand to add a bunch of pinball machines, I will so be there. I love my Visual Pinball cab, but it's not quite the same as playing with a real steel ball.
posted by wierdo at 2:47 PM on May 17

I'd love to find an arcade that does all-you-can-play. I've always had this love/hate thing with arcade games because I detest the slot-machine aspect of them, where in order to get even reasonably good at one of them you have to be ready to feed in a stack of quarters. Even if they aren't that bad a deal in terms of entertainment cost-per-hour, there's a lot of friction to sticking in another quarter vs. just walking away.

Since consoles succeeded (in part) by offering the opposite value proposition--pay once, play forever, as much as you want--I'm surprised more arcades never tried some version of unlimited flat-rate play.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:56 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Been there. It's really worth the trip. Two years ago (and maybe still today) they were resetting the machines regularly and keeping track of the high scores on paper. This feels wrong, but necessary. It also lends itself to an unexpected opportunity: If you've never seen your initials at the top of the high score list of your favorite cab, you can probably make it happen.
posted by rlk at 3:04 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

A large 250+ gamery in Manitou, CO, and another link to reviews.
Whoa, you say whut is legal in Manitou?

Cooler than Plinko.
posted by buzzman at 3:11 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Buzzman, whoever wrote that first link was apparently on SOMETHING, legal or not.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:14 PM on May 17

Alright, I'll just quote the comment I left on the Ars article this morning:

I love the idea of arcades, but every time I look at one it is the same games, mostly things with 90s era 3D graphics (Area 51 and Time Crisis being the one I see the most often, but there is some racing game that every movie theater seems to have).

Now, the last time I was in a paid arcade was Palladium as a kid, and it had a lot of cool stuff, but I haven't been back as an adult, largely because haven't seen any new cabinets outside of it, and every article on arcades I see talks about nostalgia and old games.

Would it be that hard to make a modern rail-shooter? Or even adapt a console racing game to play in a chair with a full sized steering wheel?

Or has the arcade scene evolved? ALL this article talks about are old games, mostly nostalgia ones. I never carried change as a kid, so while I would see 1942 and such in arcades, I never played them. When I went to palladium though, I loved playing games where I could use light guns, sit in racing chairs and use wheels, hold firehoses, sit in a podracer, or BEST of all, sit in a mech cockpit. Are there new arcade games like this being built? The fact almost all of these use CRTs isn't a good sign, but I know that LCDs don't work with light guns.
posted by Canageek at 3:32 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Jesus. I drive past it almost everyday and live less than a mile from the GG and have never been. And now it makes the Blue. Thanks for the kick in the pants.
posted by repoman at 3:50 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Please go and report back! Bonus points for pictures.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:53 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]

Would it be that hard to make a modern rail-shooter? Or even adapt a console racing game to play in a chair with a full sized steering wheel?

Or has the arcade scene evolved?

it evolved into angry birds and candy crush and everyone has them on their cell phones

so it goes
posted by pyramid termite at 4:02 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Supposedly they are on the Brookfield waiting list for a liquor license. Wouldn't that be something. Sipping on a double IPA while re trying to master Defender. 'Honey, back in a few. Oil needs a changing!' Wife----'again?'
posted by repoman at 4:13 PM on May 17

Oh and totally reporting back. Maybe as soon as tomorrow.
posted by repoman at 4:14 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

I was the world's least adept Zaxxon master.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:21 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

If they have the vector graphics Red Baron, I may spring for the plane ticket.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:39 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

There is a maximum number of points possible in Atari's Pole Position. You can tell you are going to achieve it when you come out of the skid in the hairpin turn with the pedal down and the nose of the car clips the first straight pavement segment past the curve.

Also, every enemy in Double Dragon can be defeated by repeatedly throwing elbow strikes. Face away from the enemy and spam elbow strikes -- you'll best even the bosses with ease.

And that, kids, is what I learned in my freshman year of college.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:56 PM on May 17 [11 favorites]

I would be happy just fixing those things. At school, me and a fellow geek bought a board at an amateur radio meet that was obviously an arcade game, but didn't have any easily-researchable markings on it. We had to basically work out what all the interface connectors did and spend a month of weekends building a lash-up of controllers, display adaptor for a computer monitor, power supply and so on. Can't remember what game it was - haven't seen it before or since - and about the only thing that comes to mind at this distance was that the player sprite was basically the USS Enterprise shape from above. It wasn't very good...

Also spent some summer months fixing games and slots in a big barn up on Dartmoor. Bringing those things back to life was always very satisfying. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the earlier models, which didn't have custom chips in, will be easier to maintain indefinitely than the later ones, once you've done the usual antique electronics renovation tasks of replacing aged capacitors, under-rated resistors and heat-aged components.

But yeah. Shut me in that back room with a soldering iron and a test meter, and just deliver beer and pizza on a regular basis. I'll be happy.
posted by Devonian at 5:14 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I hereby invoke the name of jscott, because mythos holds that if you mention jscott three times where old videogames are concerned he will what's the word jscott? Is someone from this facility on the interview list already? ^_^
posted by trackofalljades at 5:20 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Damn. They don't have Major Havoc. That was my favorite game as a kid. I only ever saw it once in the Carousel Arcade in Seaside Heights, which burned to ashes last year.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:30 PM on May 17

it evolved into angry birds and candy crush and everyone has them on their cell phones

What goes around comes around.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:33 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

There is a maximum number of points possible in Atari's Pole Position.

Technically it's Namco's Pole Position, Atari just licensed it. That's also why the original Pac-Man machines were listed as copyright Bally/Midway, it wasn't uncommon at all for US companies to publish Japanese machines, and I think vice versa happened too.

Damn. They don't have Major Havoc.

Major Havoc's pretty rare, it was released around the time of the Great Game Crash of '83 and got a diminished production run.
posted by JHarris at 7:39 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

When they expand to add a bunch of pinball machines, I will so be there.

They do have a pinball room, but it's only open for a couple of hours on Saturday evenings or whenever the guy who maintains them feels like coming in, it seems. Call ahead.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:55 PM on May 17

I've been here a couple times. It was pretty fun, mostly just OK. If you're into fighting game's like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat you'll probably like it more. When I go to an arcade I'm looking for a novel game experience, something I can't do with a computer or console at home. Like Silent Scope, which they did have there and I was happy to play for a while. Or like multiplayer racing games with cockpits.
Also I've never been able to get into the pinball room even tho that would hands down be the best part.

If you're in Chicago, just go to HeadQuarters on Sheffield. You can play way more pinball and get beer.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:10 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

So glad I noticed this post, I will be really close to this place in a couple weeks and will try to check it out.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:13 AM on May 18

They don't have Reactor. I played that game obsessively my first year in college in '82 but have never seen it in the wild since.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 AM on May 18

If you're on the west coast, California Extreme is coming up. The free-play arcade of your childhood dreams, alas for only a weekend.
posted by bitmage at 11:42 AM on May 18

Reactor is a scarce one. I see it pretty regularly at shows, but the only arcade that had it in the wild in Albuquerque was Scrooge's, or

 C O G S

as the poor typography on their promotional mesh trucker hats rendered it. They charged a nickel a play and specialized in games that none of the other arcades wanted, including stuff like Reactor, Space Dungeon, Zektor, Blue Print, Eliminator, Defend The Terra Attack On The Red UFO, The Electric Yo-Yo, and the maddening Orbiter-1 pinball. They might have also had Inferno though I wouldn't swear to it. But Reactor was our jam, thanks to that badass soundtrack.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 1:39 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

Bay Area video-arcade lovers, there's a very nice "video game museum" on Park Street in Alameda called "High Scores." (Yelp reviews.) All you can play, either $5 for an hour or $10 for the day. (There are plenty of restaurants and bars and cafes on the surrounding blocks.)
posted by kenlayne at 5:53 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]

Invoke me indeed.

I will interview them or I won't. It'd be nice to. But my Arcade documentary has a lot of different people interviewed as it is, and we're moving into redundancy territory. Still, when I go to the Chicago area, I should really swing down here.
posted by jscott at 9:27 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]

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