Growing Up Geek: I Spent The Early '90s as an Arcade Rat

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The last couple of Growing Up Geek posts I did were focused on some of the early films that I made when I was growing up. I still have a few I want to share, but I’ve hit a snag with some of the video transfers from DV to DVD to digital. I’ll eventually get these awesomely embarrassing videos up for you to watch, but I want to keep the Growing Up Geek show rolling forward, so here we go!

In the early ’90s, I was growing up in Glendale, CA. I spent a lot of time working and hanging out at a local stage theater, going to the movies, hitting up the local comic book store, and spending hours and hours at the local arcade. This article will focus on arcade life, because I was kind of an arcade rat for a few years. 

I got my first taste of playing arcade games when I was five years old playing Pac-Man at a cafe that my grandpa used to take me to. You can read about that introduction to video games here. Little did I know that when I entered my teen years, arcades would eat up a ton of my time (not to mention my parents’ money). 

The local arcade I spent my time in was a little place called Video West Arcade, which was probably haunted. It was a creepy, dark place, but it was filled with lots of awesome classic games that made for some good times and fun memories. All the windows were tinted black, and as soon as you walked in, you were punched in the face with the smell of stinking kids carrying B.O. and quarters. When you walked in and stepped foot on the floor, your shoes would stick on it from all of the snacks and soda that had spilled. 

The arcade was filled with all the classic video games of the time, and I spent most of my time playing games like Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, Splatter House, Star Wars, Gauntlet, Dragons Lair, Area 51, Primal Rage, Sunset Riders, Terminator 2, Samurai Showdown, Killer Instinct, NFL Blitz, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, and more. It was also fun playing the four player games like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NBA Jam, or even the six player version of X-Men! It allowed our little group of friends to all play with each other which was always fun. 

The arcade I grew up with tried to adapt and survive with the times, but ultimately ended up closing down. It’s hard to find a good arcade these days that still has these awesome older games from the ’80s and ’90s! But like video stores, arcades mostly just live in the memories of those of us that grew up with them in our lives.

It’s sad that my kids will really never know what it’s like to spend hours on end playing video games in an arcade like many of us did. These days, all the games they want to play are on their sweet-ass consoles and iPads. They don’t have to leave the house to play video games, but they also lose out on the socializing aspect of it. Granted, there are places like Dave and Busters, but it’s just not the same.

I met so many cool kids at the arcade and made a lot of friends…and enemies. Of course, there was going to be some kind of drama at the arcade! The temperaments of teenagers get high in the heat of battle, and if some of these kids lost they weren’t very good sports about it. Then heaven forbid you beat someone’s high score! I saw some of these guys throw crazy fits of rage over that kind of shit. I look back at those times now and I can’t help but laugh about it. People still throw fits of rage over video games, it’s just in the comfort of their own home now. 

I have so many fond memories of my arcade days pumping in quarter after quarter, playing some of the greatest video games ever made. I know many of you grew up with similar arcades in your lives. What are some of your favorite arcade games and some of your favorite memories of hanging out in your local arcade? Sound off in the comment section below!

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