This is the fitness issue, right? Well, I guess we better talk about arcade games. In our defense, hand-eye coordination is probably fitness, plus good arcade machines are so far and few between around here that if you jogged to all of them, you’d probably get tired. Whatever. Let’s have a look at some of the area’s best arcade machines, and learn some useless information in the process. I’m probably fired.
Angry Beaver Sports Grill,
349 SW 4th St.
This is might be the most beautiful machine that I visited during my search. In most arcades, the consoles are pushed against each other side by side to conserve space, but this Centipede machine is positioned so the amazing artwork on the side can be enjoyed. A fierce, terrifying, three-foot centipede, the game’s antagonist adorns the left-hand side of this machine, a brilliant green on a white background. You may also recognize this artwork from The Strokes excellent 2003 single, “Reptilia.”
Centipede was released by Atari in 1981, and the game actually has a pretty interesting history. One of the game’s engineers, Dona Bailey, was one of very few women working in the video game industry at the time. She was attracted to the Centipede project; she viewed the game’s concept as significantly less violent than many of the other games that Atari was developing. The game became hugely successful in the classic arcade age, partially because it was one of the first arcade games that garnered significant female patronage.
The concept of this game itself is just as bizarre and abstract as one would expect an 80s arcade game to be. You control a pixelated blob that I imagine is a pest exterminator of some sort, using a trackball rather than a joystick, and fire lasers. A centipede snakes its way down the screen at you through a field of mushrooms; any segment hit turns into another mushroom, and the centipede splits into multiple entities. Other bugs come after you as well, and a pesky spider hassles you toward the bottom of the screen, like spiders do. KILL THEM ALL without dying and you win!
The Angry Beaver charges 50 cents for this game, which makes me an angry writer. No game released before 1997 should cost more than a quarter. Please accept this criticism as constructive, guys.
Highland Bowl, 2123 NW 9th St.
Mortal Kombat was released by the now defunct Midway Games in 1992. Surprisingly enough, this game was surrounded by controversy for reasons other than the fact that changing C’s to K’s is historically not cool.
Mortal Kombat is the father of what’s referred to as “The Exploitation Era” of gaming. When released, this game was basically a clone of fighting game Street Fighter II, only with loads of fantastically ridiculous and gory violence. If you win a match, you can press a series of buttons to perform what’s known as a “fatality,” and brutally murder your dazed and defenseless victim. For instance, the character Sub-Zero will rip his opponents head off, blood-covered spine still attached.
Similarly to exploitation cinema, Midway used this provocative aspect of the game as its main selling point, and kids went nuts for it. As one can imagine, some people who hate fun became concerned, such as Senator Joe Lieberman. This game resulted in congressional hearings on the subject of video game violence, which eventually led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
Mortal Kombat became a cultural juggernaut; its popularity triggered sequels, films, and a bunch of 12-year-old boys running around screaming “get over here!” Most importantly, it was the inspiration for the fictional Simpson’s game “BoneStorm,” which blessed us with the exquisite joke: THRILLHOUSE. Next time you’re near Highland Bowl, play a couple of rounds for old time’s sake.
Squirrel’s Tavern 100 SW 2nd St.
This pinball machine is actually very new; it was released in 2016 by Stern Pinball. Normally, I’d turn up my nose at such a recent release, but this game is really something else. It manages to capture all of the fun of the original film, and even features some new recorded dialogue from Ernie Hudson. If you play for long enough, I’m sure Ernie will eventually say: “Sigourney Weaver as Zuul is the most breathtakingly gorgeous woman in any film ever,” but I ran out of quarters.
The game has tons of fun features like a moving Slimer target, and a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that probably does something cool if you’re good at pinball, which I’m not. My favorite aspect of this machine is the intricate, vivid hand-drawn artwork on the top and sides, which is fully visible in its position at Squirrel’s. I found the lovely hand-drawn Zuul on the bottom left hand corner of the machine’s face to be slightly distracting, though. 75 cents a play is well worth it, in this machine’s case.
By Jay Sharpe