I spent a good part of yesterday at the 2002 California Extreme exhibition. It was like the single-largest 80's-style arcade I'd ever been to. Games everywhere. Games I remembered playing as a teen. Games I only barely remembered. Games I'd never heard of. There were one-offs and prototypes that had never gone into production (Beavis and Butthead, anyone?). There were rows and rows of pinball machines, so many that I couldn't resist getting in a few games. Collectors brought their games in to be played, and traders had various parts and widgets to sell. Boards, memory chips, display banners, etc.
But the high point, both in coolness and in geekery, had to be the LaserMAME set-up. This is a MAME system built to output to a vector graphics board instead of the usual raster graphics output. This is then fed to a laser projection system, and the result is, well... this. Tempest being played from 30-40 feet away, a "screen" that is 20-25 feet high. Using the side of the frickin' exhibit hall as the screen.
Of course I played it. How could I not? But the angle felt strange, looking up like that. I spent most of my time playing old favorites from my wistful high school years: Robotron, Scramble, Tutankham and I, Robot. I also made it a point to visit Bezerk, Wizard of Wor, Space Dungeon and Pooyan. No Xevious and no Lost Tomb, but they had Zaxxon. Sometime around 7:00 or so in the evening, they dimmed the lights to arcade-normal levels and cranked up the 80's rock-- Cheap Trick's "Surrender", Ramones, all the staples of the arcade experiences from my mis-spent youth. In all, I easily played more than $25 (the cost of admission) in games, assuming each was a quarter per shot.
They even had an original Pong, in the original cabinet. But I didn't play it.
Thanks to Kevin Greene for the tip on the event, and the pictures.
For every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong. -- H.L. Mencken