Saturday, February 28, 2009

Summer addiction

Cory Doctorow writes about arcades this morning on Boing Boing. It is a historical feature because, I suddenly realise, of course the advent of the games console has meant that there aren't any arcades, any more...well not around here. Although Chester, I suspect, has always been too sleepy for such things.

I remember loving arcades when really young; not the electronic games - although I trailed around Europe aged twenty in search of 'Galaxion' machines, and would watch with little attention while my three male companions got their fix - but the more old-fashioned games of penny shoves I usually encountered on sea-side piers. Perhaps they are still there. Maybe they are more long-lived than the electronic games - there is something timelessly alluring about the penny-shove.

Each time it seemed a 'certain thing'. The pennies would be teetering as deliciously as melting ice-cream. The next coin would be 'the one' to tip them all over the edge - a sure-fire winner. I'd line up the little ramp with the skill acquired over my wasted summer, wait for the ledge at the back to pull back - and let my penny roll.

It was a tense few seconds waiting to see what would happen; the timing of the rolling coin versus the movement of the shelf was everything. Sometimes it would land perfectly behind a particularly overcrowded part of the shelf, and I would watch without breathing as the shelf moved back into position. For a second or two there would be a slow-motion jostling before the coins would, once again, settle themselves - this time into a even more incredibly precarious position. But already my next coin would be at the slot waiting for its moment.

I can understand quite easily how someone could become addicted to such things; the strange satisfaction of watching one perfectly placed coin shoving the next and the next, and then the magnificent clatter of coins into the drawer below is something I recall even now. There'd be a frantic scramble to gather them all before anyone else did (one of my brothers), and then the carrying of the loot to the kiosk to be turned into something smaller and more silver. Ah, riches. It was probably much less than I'd gone in with, but it didn't matter. The sensible thing to do then, of course, would be to quit and walk away - but somehow that never happened.

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Blogger BarbaraS said...

That takes me back: there used to be such an arcade in a seaside village near here. Alas now closed... maybe they'll reopen it in these recessional days...

Sat Feb 28, 11:27:00 am  
Blogger Debra Hamel said...

Excellent post. Again. Galaxion was a favorite of mine! Only I didn't watch; I squandered my riches. Amazing what we can do nearly for free now, game-wise. Those Mario Kart races would I engaged in yesterday would have cost me a good $7.00 or $8.00 in quarters.

Sat Feb 28, 01:04:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Barbara, I think such a thing might well reopen in a recession - people need a place to go, which is why I think libraries might come into their own. Unfortunately they are closing them around here.

Thank you Debra, you're very kind. Yes, I am constantly amazed at what is available - and so much better than what there used to be. Space Invaders seems almost laughably primitive now.

Sat Feb 28, 02:12:00 pm  
Blogger jem said...

Great post Clare. Those old style penny-shove games remind me of a trip to Yorkshire to stay with my great Aunt and Uncle as a child. It was my first trip to the north, and I still associated arcades with there. My Uncle referred to them as 'gobbling machines' because I think my Aunt was a little too fond of them. There are still quite a few arcades in my town - thats the south seaside for you!

Sun Mar 08, 10:47:00 am  

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