1984 Arcade, Round 4

Yesterday, my buddy Jeff and I made a whirlwind trip to the 1984 Arcade in Springfield, Missouri. After digging through old blog posts I believe this was my fourth time to visit the arcade: I went once with Stephen back in 2007, once with several of my online friends also in 2007, and once in 2009 while I was driving through town. So this was my fourth visit, and Jeff’s first.

Meeting us at the arcade this time was Robb Sherwin and Adam Thornton. Robb is a kindred spirit; he’s into computers and arcade games and video games and especially text adventures (as in, making them). Adam, like Robb, is also into text adventures and computer programming. Both Adam and Robb were interviewed and appear in Jason Scott’s new documentary about text adventures, Get Lamp.

If Jeff has a fault, it’s that he never tells me my stupid ideas are stupid. When I told him of my plan to drive 300 miles (each way) to Springfield, Missouri to play some old arcade games six people he’d never met or even heard of before, his only questions were “What are you wearing?” and “What time are we leaving?”.

I picked Jeff up at high noon and we were on our way. My wife, who happened to also be on the same turnpike, called to warn us that up ahead there was a construction-related traffic jam that had her stopped on the Interstate “for about an hour.” Desperate to avoid that, Jeff and I used the GPS to route ourselves around that mess. Unfortunately, we routed ourselves into another one. First, we ended up on old Route 66, bypassing not only the construction but also any signs of civilization. Next, we missing the I-44 connection, which again sent us out of our way. Based on our return route, we added 50 miles and an extra hour on to our voyage.

I must mention, at least in passing, that on the way to Springfield I purchased a bag of and ate a few of the most disgusting chips (correction: “puffed wheat snacks”) that I have ever eaten. They were so awful that they will get their own dedicated blog post tomorrow.

Despite the fact that Robb Sherwin flew from Denver to St. Louis and that Adam and his cohorts with Robb in tow drove from St. Louis to Springfield, and the fact that Jeff and I took a crazy detour and messed our time schedule up, miraculously all of us arrived at the arcade within 30 seconds of one another. Bizarre.

The 1984 Arcade’s business model remains the same: $5 to enter, and all the games are free. Upon entering we quickly scattered like the cockroaches, running to our favorite machines.

After playing games for a couple of hours, we decided to head down the street to Lili’s Diner. Now what we didn’t know before we piled into two cars and left was that Lili’s Diner is like 100 feet away from the arcade. In reality, all the ended up doing was moving our cars further away from both the diner and the arcade than they already were! Regardless, I’m sure glad we got in our cars and drove because, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have witnessed this:

There were not one, but two protests going on in downtown Springfield. On one side of the street were members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who were protesting a funeral. Nice. On the other side of the street were the protesters who were protesting the original protest! At the time I wasn’t sure which group we were looking at — all I did was roll down my window and shouted “Hooray!” and then took a few pictures as the crowd cheered back at me.

Finally we made it to Lili’s Diner, at which point we realized how ridiculous it was that we had driven. Dinner at Lili’s was good. I had a chicken burrito that stayed with me for a few hours before it began trying to escape, one poot at a time. Jeff had a mushroom burger with some spicy french fries. When I thought to ask him how it was, it was gone … so I guess it was good. While we ate, in the other room of the diner a band performed acoustic versions of Purple Rain and Back in Black. You can’t get that just anywhere, folks.

Then it was back to the arcade for another couple of hours of gaming. The older I get the more I realize I am pretty bad at arcade games. For a few minutes I held records on TRON, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, Moon Patrol, and a few other games, but one by one they were wiped out. Oh well, at least it was fun. Robb had never played Karate Champ before, and despite a wonky joystick that prevented me from jumping, I gave him a lesson in butt kicking. (Note #1: I own a Karate Champ machine. Note #2: By the end of the session, the grasshopper had become the student and was giving me a dose of my own medicine.)

While I hate to pull out the excuses, I felt like I was prevented by breaking the high score on several games due to bad joysticks and buttons. Gyruss had a flaky fire button, Karate Champ didn’t go “up”, Moon Patrol had a bad monitor, the joystick for player two on Joust was busted, the bomb button on Scramble was hard to press, the joystick on Zaxxon was a mess, the joystick on Elevator Action kept pulling “down”, and so on. Like I said, I’ve been to this location multiple times before and the games were always in tip-top shape. Maybe more things were broken because we went near the end of the week? I’m sure for locals it’s not that big of a deal since they can just come back the next week, but for a 600 mile round trip drive, it was a little disappointing.

Despite any hardware issues, it seemed like everybody in the group had a great time. I certainly had a good time reconnecting with Robb Sherwin and had a blast meeting Adam Thornton and all of his friends in person. Jeff had a good time, as did I, and I’m sure sometime next year I’ll be making the trip once again.

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4 comments to 1984 Arcade, Round 4

  • Ah yes, Fred Phelps. I refuse to call his organization (comprised mostly of extended family members) by its legal name, because they aren’t Baptist, and they definitely aren’t a church. About 10 years ago they protested a convention that I was supporting (in the set-the-computers-up sense). A visit from him always makes things more… interesting. And more inconvenient, of course.

    One bit of advice: Don’t talk to them one on one, and by all means don’t try to take their signs away or anything like that. Pretty much all of them are or used to be lawyers, and they finance their protests by suing anyone for any excuse they can find. Ironically, Phelps himself was once a brilliant civil rights lawyer. It’s a shame this is what he uses his talents for now.

  • You turd. I would have met you up there.

  • Were there any major games that were new arrivals since the great 2007 invade-the-arcade trip? Or any that have gone AWOL since then?

  • AArdvark

    God hates poly-cotton blends. That sign pretty much sums up the I.Q-divided-by-the-amount of people theory of protesting.