Archive for the Arcade Category

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to inform you that effective immediately, my son will no longer be delivering newspapers for the Daily Sun. Additionally, I have grave concerns regarding the safety of the route he was assigned that I would like to bring to your attention.

I initially allowed my son to take this part time job due to its relatively straight forward route and small number of customers. Despite only having ten customers (on a street with 20 houses), my son must cross three busy intersections. Despite having crosswalks, cross traffic does not stop or even yield. My son has been run over multiple times by men on motorcycles and women in convertibles. Throughout the neighborhood, my son has to frequently switch between riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and directly in the street. In the street my son has been involved in more than one head on collision. He has also ruined more bicycles than I can count by driving into drains and open manholes. The sidewalk is not much better; it is littered with fences, fire hydrants and other obstacles.

While logic dictates that the sidewalk would be a safe place for a child to ride his bicycle, clearly in this neighborhood it is not. The sidewalk is constantly overcrowded, filled with punks on skateboards, women with shopping carts, and breakdancers. To avoid hitting a man with a purple mohawk riding a unicycle, my son swerved into the street and struck a man using a jackhammer (with absolutely no safety cones or warning equipment set up to warn others). When he returned to the sidewalk, he was run over by an unmanned lawnmower.

The residents of the neighborhood are as unforgiving as they are careless. My son is only given ten newspapers for ten subscribers. This is not acceptable as he must constantly use the papers to thwart burglaries and defend himself from other dangers. While additional bundles of paper are scattered around the neighborhood (presumably from previous paperboys!) most of them get used to repel all the stray cats and dogs that constantly attack my son. At no point did anyone mention to me or my son that his route would be filled with so many abandoned houses, some of them bearing gravestones. When my son missed delivering a single paper to a single subscriber, they cancelled their subscription. When attempting to deliver them a paper the following day, the homeowner backed over my son with his Hearse.

To be honest, I am quite surprised that anyone in this neighborhood subscribes to, let alone reads, a daily periodical. In an attempt to deliver newspapers the denizens of this town have attempted to set off bombs near my son’s path and chased him with remote controlled cars in an attempt to cause him to crash. He has been knocked off his bike more than once by winos and chased by both tornadoes and the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper! Yesterday he was forced to break up a fist fight between two grown men by hitting them with a newspaper!

After hearing all these tales from my son, I recommended that he work on his bicycle skills. He told me at the end of the neighborhood there is a training section filled with moving ramps and targets. My son said he did really well in the training area and was awarded bonus points. I don’t know what bonus points are worth. I know that our insurance will not accept them as deductible payments toward our multiple insurance claims, and they apparently cannot be traded in for bicycles.

Seven times this week my son has been struck by errant car tires rolling in and out of people’s driveways and down the street. I have never heard of anyone being struck by a car tire before, let alone seven times in the same week. This is absolutely ridiculous and I will not stand for it.

Please accept this letter as an official resignation for my son. I believe it would be in your best interest to warn future paperboys about the potential hazards lurking along this route. It would also be a good idea to provide pads and/or a helmet to any future paperboys. They’re going to need it.

Last weekend the family and I drove to Bentonville, Arkansas to attend my buddy Brian’s 40th birthday party. The next morning on the way out of town we swung through Fayetteville and stopped by the Arkadia Retrocade.

Arkadia has changed a bit since our last visit. There are more games now (close to 95, I think) and they’re laid out more logically now. All the Mario games are up front, all the space games are in a small island together, all the military games are in a row, and so on.

On Sundays Arkadia is open from noon until 6pm. We arrived right around noon and essentially had the place to ourselves for around an hour. The last time we were there was on a Saturday and the place was packed, so it just depends on what time you go and what you want to experience. Some people like it when there’s lots of people there. Me, I prefer the elbow room and the ability to play whatever game I want for as long as I want. The arcade’s business model of $5 to enter and play all the games you want still seems to be working for them.

Both kids had a blast this time. Mason spent some time playing air hockey with new friends while Morgan spent her time working on her Frogger scores.

I, on the other hand, spent some time on this red leather love seat playing Atari 2600 games.

The arcade’s collection of memorabilia has grown significantly since we last visited. This is just one of many display areas toward the rear of the arcade.

I am so happy that the Arkadia Retrocade continues to succeed! I enjoy talking with owner Shea Mathis every time we visit Arkadia and you can tell by the way he talks with each customer that running Arkadia is truly a labor of love. The kids and I all had a great time (and I even caught Susan giving Centipede a quick spin) and we are already planning our next visit out!

Arkadia Retrocade
1478 N. College Ave.
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703
Phone: (479) 445-7844

In the comments of my last Raspberry Pi post, reader Ben politely pointed out “you’re doing it wrong.” And I was. Along with a couple of other helpful suggestions, Ben also pointed me toward PiMame, which comes as a precompiled image — simply download, extract, boot, and play. Now that the raspberry Pi is out of the box and connected, I only had two goals:

01. Download/extract/configure PiMame
02. Play games.

Would this one work better than my first go ’round with RetroPie? Read on!

01. Download/extract/configure PiMame

I downloaded PiMame 0.7.8 from the following link: I used Win32 Disk Imager to write the IMG file to a 4gb SD card. I pulled the SD card out of my PC, inserted it into the Pi, applied power and got the following:

So far, so good! On to step two.

02. Play games.

Using WinSCP I connected to the Pi over my network and copied the Mario Bros ROM for MAME over into the ROMs directory. I rebooted the Pi, selected MAME, and there was Mario Bros. I chose that, and got this:

Honest to goodness, that’s all there was to it. It even recognized my USB gamepad with no additional configuration. The biggest initial problem I had to overcome was the fact that there was no sound coming out of my television. Unmuting my television fixed that.

For the most part I’d say I’m pleased with PiMame. The sound is not 100% accurate but it’s certainly playable. I thought the samples sounded low in Shinobi and some of the explosions were missing in Galaga, but the thing played just fine. PiMame comes with a ton of other emulators so I’ll be experimenting with those as well.

My next Raspberry Pi project will be a hardware one, not a software one. I detest the case that came with this thing and so I’ve had my eye out for something else to use, even if it’s temporary. I had Raspberry Pi on the brain the other day at Big Lots and ran across this.

Now, where did I put that Dremmel…

It’s been a few weeks (apparently) since I announced my new podcast episodes here.

Episode 127 is about BASIC programming. This one has old stories about programming in BASIC, a few new stories about Visual Basic, and some new forks of the BASIC programming language that are still being updated.

Episode 128 is (fittingly) about the Commodore 128. Packed in and around stories about the C128 are a couple of stories about S.A.M., the old voice synthesizer for the Commodore.

Episode 129 is all about the collection of arcade games I owned while I lived in El Reno, Oklahoma. The six machines I owned back then were Elevator Action, Mat Mania, Shinobi, Street Fighter II – Championship Edition, Power Instinct 2, and Star Wars.

The fastest way to find out new episodes have been released are to follow the You Don’t Know Flack RSS Feed, subscribe to the show on iTunes, or like the You Don’t Know Flack Facebook Page. The show is also available via Doubletwist, Stitcher, Miro, the Zune/Xbox Marketplace, and the awesomely-yet-sourly-named

For suggestions, feedback, and criticism, you can e-mail me or leave a message on the official You Don’t Know Flack voice mailbox (206-309-9501).

Here’s the second post that got gummed up in the system.

Episode 125 of You Don’t Know Flack is all about the video game crash of 1983. “It was a dark and stormy night…” or was it really? In this episode I talk all about the causes of the video game crash of 1983, and why I missed it. From the voice mail box I answer the question, “what’s the worst arcade conversion I’ve ever seen?”

Link: YDKF Episode 125: The Video Game Crash of 1983
You Don’t Know Flack

(Video Game Crash. Get it?)

This podcast is actually two weeks old, but for some reason this announcement didn’t go through.

So, here it is.

Episode 124 of You Don’t Know Flack is a recap of my visit to the new Arkansas retro arcade, Arkadia Retrocade. Our visit to the arcade sure helped cure my case of Pac-Man Fever!

Link: YDKF Episode 124: The Arkadia Retrocade
Facebook: You Don’t Know Flack

(I have no idea why he is pretending to play guitar in this clip.)

A block and a half beyond the Freemont Experience in downtown Las Vegas sits Insert Coin(s), a “Videolounge Gamebar” at 512 Fremont St. I haven’t been to every big retro arcade across the country, but I hit a lot of them while working on my book Invading Spaces and had hoped to hit Insert Coin(s) the last time I was in Vegas. Unfortunately we had the kids with us that time, which meant we ended up visiting the family-friendly Pinball Hall of Fame over the more adult-oriented Insert Coin(s). This time around, no kids meant I was able to finally swing by the arcade.

Although the walk to Insert Coin(s) from the Freemont Street Experience is a short one, those two blocks make a difference. Perhaps at other times the sidewalk is more well it and filled with revelers; at 9:45pm on a Friday night with the bright lights and crowds to our backs it was dark and kind of scary.

Outside the barcade we spoke briefly with the bouncer who informed us that after 10pm Insert Coin(s) has a cover charge — $5 for locals and $10 for out-of-towners. We arrived roughly fifteen minutes before the club started charging a cover, which was a good thing as I had three people in tow who were only there to appease my curiosity, none of whom would have dropped $10 to do so.

In stark contrast to the other retro arcades I’ve visited, including the 1984 Arcade in Missouri, the Arkadia Retrocade in Arkansas, and FunSpot in New Hampshire, Insert Coin(s) is definitely a playground for the 21 and over crowd. Those other arcades are well-lit places, full of color and children. Insert Coin(s) on the other hand is a throwback to the “darker” (and I mean that literally, not figuratively) arcades of the past. Other than the glowing monitors, marquees and televisions, the main source of light in the room comes from the room’s centerpiece, a glowing bar that changes color.

The right-hand side of the room is filled with over-sized vinyl booths that sit behind home gaming consoles hooked to flat screen televisions. According to the arcade’s website, patrons with a bar tab of $25 or more get to play those systems for free. The rear of the bar housed a DJ setup. There wasn’t a DJ there during our visit, but that didn’t stop a couple of drunk girls from dancing with one another.

The real draw for me were the sixty arcade games lined up down the left hand side of the room. The lineup of games was exactly what I was both expecting and hoping to see, with machines ranging from the classics of the early 80s to the hottest fighting games from the late 90s. Along with all the usual classics one would hope to find, a couple of less-common machines caught my eye including Star Wars Trilogy, Tapper, and 720. Other than 720, it looked to me like all the machines were turned on and had good, working monitors. (I can tell you from personal experience that 720 machines are a pain in the ass to own.)

Insert Coin(s) offers retro gamers a different side of the token to consider. With their resident DJs and omnipresent glowing bar, there’s more to Insert Coin(s) than just a large selection of classic games. And, of yeah, they have a large selection of classic games! A different business model than the other retro arcades I’ve visited results in a different experience. Although I was only able to spend a short amount of time in the arcade, I’ll be adding Insert Coin(s) on to my “must stop” list of Vegas hot spots. A quarter is bound to last me a lot longer in Donkey Kong than it will in a slot machine!

This morning on Facebook one of my friends forwarded me the link to a news story on The story is about video games as financial investments, and references the current auction of an Air Raid cartridge which is currently selling for $20,000. I wrote a bit about the last Air Raid cart found, which sold for $36k. That’s not really the story here.

When I clicked on the link, I saw something familiar — a picture of my old game room!

Here is a link to the article. It’s always surprising to see a picture of the inside of your house on the internet, especially when the picture is almost 10 years old.

In 2004, an AP reporter interviewed me in regards to a story about retro games making a comeback. After interviewing me over the phone, the AP sent a photographer out to the house and shot some pictures. That led to this story, which again, ran in 2004. The picture MSN used in this morning’s article was recycled from that 2004 photo shoot.

It’s a little hard to tell because of the angle, and things are definitely messier in this shot, but here are the same shelves about a year later. As you can see I ended up painting the shelves black. The walls remained green.

This weekend, Morgan and I attended a birthday party at Celebration Station which, if you’ve not been or don’t have one near you, is essentially a Chuck E. Cheese clone. They have pizza, arcade games, lots of outdoor activities, and animatronic … dogs.

(Not my video.)

Below are a few pictures I snapped at the party.

Down the left-hand side of the arcade sat all the racing games, lined up and ready to go.

And here are some of the shooting games.

Upstairs, tucked away in the corner, were three pinball machines. The middle one was turned off, but I did play the other two. Good times. I think that may have been my first time on that WWF table. Definitely old school, “brother”. Tales from the Crypt is a good but not great table. It’s too bad the Addams Family machine is out of order. Maybe next time.

Here is a few of the first floor, taken from the second. Despite how this picture makes it look, the game mix downstairs is surprisingly close to being split 50/50 between actual arcade games and ticket dispensers.

Eventually the party moved outside. Did I mention it was 105 degrees on Saturday? Morgan said it wasn’t too hot out there on the water bumper boats. I can tell you, it was pretty hot standing on the sidelines, watching the bumper boats.

After the boats, Morgan spun a few laps on the go-karts before I called a heat mercy rule and split. It’s amazing how much bribery one can get out of a $2 snowcone.

Also, all you Apple haters can suck it. The iPhone 4S takes amazing pictures when you forget to bring your DSLR camera …

This weekend marked the 9th annual Oklahoma Video Game Expo (OVGE) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I attended the first show in 2003 as a spectator, but have participated as a presenter (almost) every year since then.

Along for the ride this year were my friends Robb and Steve, who I previously mentioned flew in from Colorado and New York (respectively) to attend the show. Robb Sherwin is, among other things, the author of the award winning interactive fiction game Cryptozookeeper. Steve and Robb have known each other since the BBS days.

Photo by Brandon Staggs

Since our local NBA team (the Oklahoma City Thunder) are currently in the NBA Finals, I decided to go with a basketball theme this year.

Due to a slight table misconfiguration I only ended up with one table instead of two this year, but we made it work by just cramming everything together and leaving a few things under the table. From left to right we had my NES playing Double Dribble, my (blue development) PlayStation running NBA Showtime, and my Commodore 64 running a couple of different games, including One on One and Street Sports Basketball. I wouldn’t say I had the most popular table at the convention, but lots of sports fans stopped by to play a few quick games of basketball. At the table I also had a playlist of basketball-related songs and sports anthems going throughout the day, playing songs like “Basketball Jones,” “We Will Rock You,” and of course the parody song “Beard Like Harden.” I apologize to the people across the aisle from me who got bombarded with this music all day long.

Along with all the console and computer games available to buy and play, there were also several pinball machines and arcade games set up to play at the show. These are machines that are brought in by private owners and set up for people to play for free all day long. They’re a great hit every year and really add to the show.

Besides games, there were a lot of other game-related items on display and up for sale, including these animation cells over at Drew Stone’s table. I probably should have bought one of these when I had the chance.

Photo by Earl Green

You may notice that I’ve had to borrow a few photos from my friends Brandon and Earl for this post. That’s because, before I knew it, the show was winding down. I only got out from behind my table a few times, and when I got home I found I had only taken a dozen or so photographs … so I went to Facebook and borrowed a few from other people. I added the ones I took to my photo album of the show along with theirs, renaming them to give them proper credit.

Photo by Earl Green

Photo by Earl Green

Although OVGE is pretty console gaming-centric, Ed Martin brought another giant stack of retro Apple computer hardware, along with an impressive spread of classic boxed text adventures.

Several local groups and websites were on hand this year, including Nintendo Okie who did a live podcast from the show. They did a decent job of capturing some of the in-show action going on throughout the day.

Brandon Staggs also uploaded this video of OVGE 2012 to YouTube. He did a great job of capturing all of the booths there. You can catch my basketball-themed table just after the 2:30 mark.

Thanks to everybody who came out to OVGE this year and everyone who stopped by and said hey. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of OVGE, and I know people are already talking about what they will be bringing to next year’s show. I know I am!

OVGE 2012 Photo Gallery: LINK