Classic Arcade Museum Offers Something for the Retro Gamer

Gary Vincent recalls having fond memories of the beachfront arcades during his childhood. Later in life, he decided to take that passion in the arcade business on August 20, 1981, at Funspot.

According to the arcade’s website, he says he experienced firsthand the heyday of the video game arcade and its decline.

When the video game boom of the 1980s faded away, many game manufacturers, operators, and arcades went out of business, and much of the history and games themselves were sent to landfills. Several smaller game manufacturers’ history was lost as a result.

How the Classics Came Back

On the ACAM website, Vincent writes that the 1990s moved on and he heard an increasing number of people comment on how few remaining “classic” games still exist.

He decided the world needed for a facility where people could come and experience yesterday’s games.

In September of 1998, the American Classic Arcade Museum was born.

In 2002, ACAM was incorporated as a non-profit organization, and its collection now features over 300 games.

As you go throughout the museum, little plaques above some of the machines display who donated them. Several rare games are scattered throughout the museum.

From One Classic to Another

From “Donkey Kong” to “Mario Brothers” to “Pac-Man,” there is something for every generation of gamers. The game manufacturer’s games are lined up in sections in the museum.

Just like in times past, you go to a machine, purchase “tokens,” and you are on your way to gamer heaven.

“I remember playing “Donkey Kong” in the arcade back in the 1980s,” Frank Smith said. “I remember it only cost me a quarter, and I could easily spend a few hours playing it, level after level.”

His wife Patricia was at the ACAM with her son Nicholas and recalled playing “Moon Patrol” back when she was a child.

“I remember how difficult that game was to play on the machine. It still is difficult, even to this day,” Patricia said. “I always got stuck at one particular part.”

Funspot has been the largest arcade in the world since 1952. It was established as the Weirs Sports Center, an indoor arcade, and a miniature golf course on the second floor of Tarlson’s Arcade. What makes this arcade unique is the variety of games and the setting.

The museum is one small part of Funspot, situated on the third floor of the building. The floors below it are filled with newer arcade games, skeeball, bowling, mini golf, pinball, racing games, and much more. There is something for everyone of all ages.

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A lineup of retro arcade games is displayed at the American Classic Arcade Museum in Laconia, New Hampshire. Photo by Nicole Zappone.

A few of the games that are showcased at the museum are “Breakout,” “Q-Bert,” “Exidy Max-A-Flex System,” “Charley Chuck’s Food Fight,” and “Triple Hunt.”

The History of Steve Jobs and “Breakout”

Breakout” was created by future Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and released in 1976 by Atari. After graduating from high school, Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in the fall of 1972. Only six months into college, Jobs decided to drop out and become homeless for over a year. Jobs was routinely dismissed as a “hippie,” due to his hairstyle and nomadic lifestyle.

In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, Jobs said, during that period, he slept in the dorm rooms of his friends, collected and recycled soda bottles for cash, and got free meals.

When Jobs moved back to California, he immediately started to look for work to finance a trip he wanted to make to India to study Zen Buddhism. In 1974, Jobs started with the gaming company Atari.

Al Alcorn, the designer of “Pong,” was the manager that interviewed Jobs. Alcorn believed Jobs had exaggerated his skillset and lied about prior employment at Hewlett-Packard. Despite all this, Jobs was hired as employee #40 and had a reputation for being arrogant.

In his 2011 speech at the Game Developers Conference, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell stated, “Steve was about to be fired because he didn’t work well with others. So I said, ‘I will put you on the engineering night shift,’ which we didn’t have, but I felt that no matter how prickly someone was, it was worth working around. He was eventually put on night shift to minimize his contact with other employees.”

Jobs finally managed his goal of visiting India, and when he returned from his trip in 1975, Atari re-hired him. While away on his journey, the “Pong” home console hit the market and was an immediate success.

Jobs volunteered to take on a project that nobody wanted to tackle. Nolan Bushnell and VP of Engineering Steve Bristow had an idea to make a single-player game based on the gameplay elements of Atari’s first coin-op arcade, “Pong.” This would involve batting a ball against rows of bricks. The game would come to be known as “Breakout.” But so far, no other Atari engineer would take on the project.

“Breakout” is just one of the many classic games from the 70s that is on display and is playable at the museum. Its history one of the nearly forgotten ones of yesteryear.

Gaming enthusiasts and historians, as well as fans of the history of electronics, computers and coding will all find something to catch their interest at the American Classic Video Arcade Museum in Laconia, New Hampshire.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.