This was an article I wrote as a submission to the Gameroom of the Month contest that Gameroom Magazine used to have. Before I could submit it, the magazine folded. I’d been procrastinating for years about writing this, guess it just goes to show you that when you wait, you lose out. Anyway, here’s the original article.
I’m sitting here in my basement. I just got done taking some pictures to use to submit for gameroom of the month, and I’m trying to figure out what I want to write. My family is with me. My wife and I are playing pinball, my kids are playing the bar top touchscreen, and we’re all listening to the jukebox. Isn’t a home gameroom all about creating a space where family and friends can have fun together, a place that combines nostalgia with exciting music, sounds, lights, and games? In my experience they are almost universally appealing. The younger crowd have not had the opportunity to see and play most of the games, and are immediately excited about trying them out. Most adults remember their experiences from their youth, and settle into a game pretty quick, or look to compete with someone else while having a few beers. It provides an icebreaker for people that may not know each other that well at parties, and a welcome retreat from the everyday stress of work and life.
I’m not sure when the bug hit me, but I know I’ve had it for much longer than I’ve had a gameroom. I grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s and spent a lot of time in the roller skating rink, various arcades, and 7-11s. Some of my favorite games were pinballs as well as Galaxian, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Asteroids. Ever since I first saw them I think I’ve always wanted to have these types of games at home.
A little over ten years ago, when I could finally afford a house with a big basement, and then could afford to finish it – the gameroom was my first priority. That year at Christmas, I took 2 weeks off and built myself a Mame arcade cabinet. Even though my woodworking skills are somewhat lacking, Lucid’s plans (one of the few available at that time) and MDF helped me turn out something I’m not too embarrassed by. Once the mame machine was situated in the gameroom I was ready for a pinball.
I went to a SuperAuctions auction in Kansas City with a budget of around $200, and picked up a Williams TriZone. Even though I had a friend who knew about pinball with me to advise, I still ended up with a very, very broken machine. When my friends and I got it down the stairs and into my basement, we plugged it in and it started to smoke. After about $600 in repairs and general maintenance I had my first pinball working, and I was totally hooked. I loved the look of the pinball in my basement, I loved working on it, and everyone loved playing it. The following Christmas, I bought a Rescue 911 “for my son” from FUN on ebay. That machine turned out much better than my first – in fact it was perfect (aside from having German instruction cards and coin labels) from day one – and aside from normal maintenance, I’ve never had a problem with it. I then moved to Toronto for a five year assignment, and started getting the itch for another machine. I found a project machine (Gottlieb Volcano), and the seller “helpfully” let me know it would be the same cost to ship two machines as one – I was also wanting something with a science fiction or space theme, and he had an Apollo 13 with 13 ball multi-ball. Needless to say, I bought them both.
The gameroom was really starting to shape up. In the mean time, I got a dart board mounted, some artwork put up, and found a bartop touchscreen game from a local vendor (Playdium). I added a pachislo and pachinko for variety. Something was missing though – and one night, after about 6 or 7 beers, I figured out what it was – a jukebox. Not a computer jukebox, I knew I needed a real, full size jukebox. I ended up buying a Rowe CD100-D on ebay that night. A friend and I drove to Detroit to pick it up. We almost had to make a very tough decision – we couldn’t fit both the kids, wives and the jukebox in the van at the same time. The jukebox was huge, and so heavy – over 400 pounds! Thankfully, my friend and I were able to get it in his van, and the families made it back home too.
Another year passed and I got the itch for an EM pinball. I found an absolutely pristine 1976 Gottlieb Jacks Open form a local vendor – Toronto Pinball Exchange. The nostalgia of the EM is fantastic. The sounds and mechanical feel are such a nice complement to the solid state games. Following that purchase I had to have another System 80 to go with the Volcano, and I had decided Haunted House was the one I wanted. It took a while to find the right deal, but I found a Haunted House from a local seller that was in decent shape.
At that point I had pretty much everything I could imagine I would want in my gameroom. I figured I was done for at least a little while, but a “friend” let me know that a guy he knew was selling 30 shuffle bowlers. Hmm, I guess I didn’t have everything I “needed” for my gameroom. I called the guy, and within a few weeks, I had a 1972 United Royal Hawaiian shuffle bowler. My wife just shakes her head. Now I must have everything I could possibly need for my gameroom, right?
We’re moving back to Kansas City soon, and I’m really looking forward to finding a new house with a great space for a new gameroom.