On the navy base at Mayport Florida where I spent my teen years, there were lots of things to do. We had a Community Center with programming for the base kids, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a beautiful beach, a gym with Saturday night roller skating, but it was the Bowling Ally that captured our hearts. Here we ate hot cheesy nachos, bought $1 boxes of Marlboro reds from the machine in the hallway, and learned to play pool.
In the far back corner, there was a small arcade. It wasn’t much, just about 8 machines. Navy brats lined up to watch and play, Joust, Pac-Man, Qbert and Centipede. For years, our lives revolved around this place. Honestly, I spent most of my babysitting money on rented pool balls, but the arcade was the scene of serious competitions of skill as neighborhood kids competed and defended their high scores.
For my birthday, I convinced my family a visit to a vintage arcade would be the perfect gift. We met at Bertucci’s and caught up over dinner and then headed out to the arcade. I was not disappointed. In a small room with video games lining the walls, I saw some old friends. I played Qbert, badly as a kid and again last night. Space Invaders was a little wonky and soon had an “out of order” sign, but many of the games were there. Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris, and Centipede beckoned me from long ago.
Today video games are far more complex and nuanced. My kids have had the latest consoles since childhood. In their pockets, they carry phones which give them access to an unlimited array of games and puzzles. The arcade of my childhood certainly can’t measure up. Yet, there is something simple and sweet about these two-dimensional games. In the dim light of the arcade, with games beeping and chirping, and buttons slapping I introduced them to a slice of my childhood. Happy Birthday to me.
This is part of my 50 before I’m 50 challenge. I hope you follow along and join in the fun!