"Unwilling to change for society, we'll be who we wanna be. We are the underground." -Life of Agony/Underground

Okay, I’ll admit it; yesterday’s post was a little depressing. I wrote it after moving 18 arcade games and coming to the realization that I simply don’t have the space or time to continue this hobby. It’s one thing to say it; it’s another thing to hear it from your aching back.

What I neglected to share with you all were all the good times I had with my arcade. Here are a few of those.

When we bought the house in 2002, what became known as “the arcade” was simply a shed. The previous home owner did woodworking as (we guess) a hobby. When we took ownership of the house, the shed was full of scrap wood, sawdust, and spiders. As I said yesterday, it was Susan who rallied my friends and family and surprised me with a complete remodel of the shed for my 30th birthday. I can honestly say I know what it’s like to be one one of those home makeover shows.

Originally I only had two arcade cabinets out there: Shinobi and Bucky O’Hare. They had been stored out in the garage, previously. Mason really enjoyed the air hockey table back then. Selling it is just one of the decisions I regret.

I spent the next few years attending auctions and buying and selling (but mostly buying) games. I never got the selling part down all that well. Three years later in 2006, the arcade looked like this:

Lots of cool things happened in 2008. The first of which was, I was interviewed by an AP reporter about my game collection. They even sent an AP photographer out to take pictures of my games! The article ran in newspapers across the country (I have a framed copy of the one that ran in the Chicago Times). Here is the picture that ran with the story:

The second thing was, friends of mine from all over the country came to Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Electronic Gaming Expo, and came to my house afterwards to enjoy my arcade. Friends of mine from Arkansas, Texas, and even New Mexico made the trek out.

The third thing that happened in 2008 was I published my second book. Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Arcade Games was a compilation of everything I had learned about the hobby up until that point. (Say, maybe I should write a sequel, covering everything I know about getting out of it!) Although Invading Spaces has not sold as well as Commodork, I still stand behind the book. I think it’s full of useful information and entertaining stories.

Probably my favorite memory of the arcade took place New Year’s Eve, 2009. That’s the night my buddy Jeff and his family came over to ring in the new year.

For this to mean anything to you, you have to know this — I can’t remember going to a single (okay, Oklahoma-based) arcade without seeing Jeff there at my side. Our moms used to take us to Crossroads Mall to let us play at Le Mans together. We rode our bikes to the old arcade down on Vandement. We walked to the bowling alley together. We went to the skating rink together. Lord knows how many hours we spent at Cactus Jack’s together. The first time I ever saw (and played) Gauntlet, Jeff was there; same goes for so many other games.

Jeff and I met in 1985, and started playing arcade games together probably the following day. Here we were, in 2009, playing arcade games together in my backyard.

That’s me on the left and Jeff on the right, in case you didn’t know. And with everything that picture represents, I think this one is more important to me.

That’s Jeff’s son Talon in the foreground and my son Mason in the background. If that’s not full circle, I don’t know what is.

I like to gauge my adventures based on the number of friends I walk away with, and if that’s the case, then this hobby was a success. I’ve asked dozens of people for advice and help and I’ve passed on everything I’ve learned to anyone who has asked — so, to everyone who has lent me a hand over the years, thanks, and to everyone I’ve helped over the years, you’re welcome. ;)

I’m not totally getting out of the hobby, but I will be making a personal change from “that guy who owns 30 games” to “some guy who owns 3″. There’s a part of me that feels like I’m dumping part of my identity — I mean let’s face it, telling people “I’m the guy that used to own a lot of arcade games” isn’t nearly as impressive as inviting people over, opening the door to the arcade, and watching their jaws drop.

As I explained yesterday, the loss of my building means the loss of this hobby, at least for now. There are big parts of me that are a bit thankful for this. At some point, this hobby took on a life of its own. Over the past few years I have definitely spent more time working on my machines than I have playing or enjoying them. As a kid these giant hunks of wood seemed indestructible. Today, having worked on so many of them, they seem more fragile than they should That’s what I get for buying low end games. Had I stuck to buying one or two at a time and fixing them up before buying more I probably wouldn’t have burned out the way I did.

It’s tough to love and loathe something at the same time, but I managed it.

My immediate plans are to sell the games that are working and in good condition, and either fix or part out the rest. I waited just a tad too long to try and pull this off. (A month before Christmas would have been perfect, but … eh, hindsight.) Each buyer will probably have to endure my stories of how and where I obtained each cabinet one last time, and the selling of the cabinet will get appended on to the end of those stories.

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6 Responses to “Foreclosure of a Dream: Part II”

  1. Dr. Phrack says:

    Just be glad you didn’t collect pinball machines.

  2. liz says:

    ……………….” and a good time was had by all “

  3. Mom says:

    Good memories of a hobby that brought you so many good times and good friends. You can’t go wrong when that’s the result!

  4. Earl Green says:

    I’ve had to shed so many “tentacles” of my various hobbies in recent years, out of financial necessity, that I’ve gotten a little bit numb to these things, but yeah, this one stings. The little building, even when it was cramped, was legendary. Maybe not the whole-freakin-warehouse setup that the guys south of you had, but that doesn’t matter, ’cause it was all yours.

    My old game room is now more of a romper room with a game shelf in it that barely gets touched. Cartoons fill the screen more than video games do. More board games get played in here than video games these days. New fun memories to sit alongside the old ones.

  5. Ice Cream Jonsey says:

    I’m honored I got to experience Cactus FLACK’S earlier this year. It was a treat, it was a legend… it will live on in our hearts. And I’ll probably garishly rip it off and have it appear in a future text game. :)

  6. Dean says:

    Rob, bring that Commando to lawton, you’ll be welcome in the biggest arcade ever….