Not content with being the world's largest arcade, Funspot in New Hampshire, USA, also houses the American Classic Arcade Museum, a collection of almost 300 original cabinets from the Golden Age. Curator Gary Vincent regales Paul Drury with the tales behind some of its most precious treasures.
(Atari, 1979) Funspot has an impressive row of over 30 pinball tables alongside its superlative videogame collection, so we asked flipper master Dr Dave from pinballdoctor.com to pick one that caught his eye. Atari was obviously known for videogames, but they made pins too. While everyone else was using the same kind of stuff in Chicago, the same moulds and same supplies, Atari said, 'No, were going to do it all differently here in California!' Superman was one of their wide-body pins, designed by Steve Ritchie and sound by Eugene Jarvis.I like the whole shot up the left-hand side. A fun little table.'
(Exidy, 1976) Gary: "We got it off eBay in 2007 and I knew it was in poor condition, but when it arrived, it smelt like a swamp! As soon as we got it on the dolly to move it, the bottom fell out and the front door fell off. We strapped it hack together to stop it falling apart and it must have sat in the workshop for a year and a half. I seriously worried if we'd ever get it on the floor."With help from Brian Jones and Richard Lint, Gary and his team restored this exceptionally rare yellow cabinet version of the first videogame nasty back to mint condition.
Us vs Them
(Mylstar, 1984) This LaserDisc rarity from Q*Bert creator Warren Davis lays computer graphics over video footage to create a space shoot-'em-up with wonderfully cheesy cut-scenes. Gary: "This goes back to the mission statement of the museum: to preserve the history of coin-operated arcade games and other arcade-related memorabilia. I've been in this business long enough to remember when LaserDisc games arrived and we were all like, 'Wow, this is like playing a cartoon!' That magic wore off after about six months when a new phrase entered our vocabulary: Disc Error. 'Huh, what's a disc error? Not seen that before...' That began the long and terrible road of LaserDisc."
(Nutting Associates,1971) Gary: "We all felt that this needed to be here. How can you have an arcade museum without the first coin-operated video game? We got it in 2006 in very good condition but the monitor didn't work. It's actually a vacuum tube television set. When you pull it out it still has the knobs for tuning and volumel. If you have something old that needs fixing, go to an old person, so I told my dad who's 77 years old and an electronics buff I had this really old TV set that needed fixing. He got it working."
(Atari, 1977) Gary: "A few years ago, Curt Vendel and Mike Stuhler were here doing a project for Atari and they asked if they could take pictures of all the Atari cabinets we have. They told me we had the greatest number of them anywhere. I think it was around 65. Some were in storage and as we were pulling them out of the back room, I heard Curt go, 'Oh my god, there's a Triple Hunt!' He was flabbergasted. He said, 'You gotta get this working!' If you do, you'll have the only working one I know of.' So we did. Not many people realise how rare that game is."
(Atari, 1980) Developed alongside Battlezone, this biplane blaster, often cited as the first flight simulator to offer a first-person perspective, is best enjoyed by climbing into one of the rare cockpit cabinets. Gary: "We were lucky to get it. There aren't many around and Vector games tend to have more problems than regular raster games, especially colour vector games. Red Baron is a beautiful cabinet, a fun game and a unique technology. There was just that small window of vector games before people said, 'We better do something more exciting than stick drawings', and moved on."
(Atari, 1978) This behemoth of a cabinet was the first game to allow simultaneous co-operative play. The driver sat in front, steering the cab of the truck, while a second player stood behind them, trying desperately to control the wildly swinging ladder section. Gary: "I'm told there are a few of these out there, but people don't want to part with them. A lot of firefighters like to buy them and have them in their houses, apparently. It's another machine that's been here since we bought it and is still kicking around."
Donkey Kong II
(Arcadeshop.com, 2008) An ingenious hack of the original game by Jeff Kulezycki, introducing four new levels, some charming intermissions and many clever gameplay elements. Gary: "Something of an oddity in the museum because it was only released last year, but it really follows in the line of Donkey Kong, so we felt it was an important piece to have. Players love it, competing with each other to push the score higher like in the old days. The artwork was donated by Richard Lint from ThisOldGame.com, which is why the machine looks so great."
A Job For Life
Ascending the stairs to the American Classic Arcade Museum is a magical experience. Greeted by row upon row at cabinets, pristine pieces of your childhood blinking back at you, you'll never went to leave, which is pretty much what happened to Gary Vincent. He got a summer job at Funspot in 1981, supposedly for four weeks, and ended up staying. "The place looks pretty much like it did back then,- smiles Gary, "but that was something that evolved. Back in September 1998, I was at our weekly staff meeting and asked Bob Lawton that as we had a lot of older games, would he have any objection to me putting them all together, like a museum to celebrate the history of gaming. Bob,who founded Funspot With his brother John back in 1952 and still opens it up each morning, gave the nod. Over the following decade, the collection of classic games grew to its current total of 275, with over a dozen still awaiting restoration, including the vector trio of Rip-Off, Space Wars and Solar Quest. The setting, too, was restored, with the paintwork, posters and even music all chosen to recreate the arcade in its heyday. "We've had several film crews here," adds Gary, "Scenes from The King Of Kong, Chasing Ghosts and a forthcoming production called Alter Of The Unnamed have all been filmed here. This piece still brings back memories for me of when I started out here; all the sounds I remember from that first summer. It's a neat thing."