With over 400 vintage video games, nostalgia reigns supreme at the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, Illinois. According to their website, the Galloping Ghost is the largest arcade in the country. Twenty-five minutes from downtown Chicago, the arcade offers all-you-can-play gaming for just $15. People are advised to hold on to the receipt, because the arcade is open until 2AM. If hunger strikes, Tony’s Breakfast Cafe is right across the street after which people can head back to the arcade, flash that receipt and get back to gaming.
Though most people may prefer to play their video games in the comfort of their own homes, some folks still desire the arcade experience. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s likely spent a fair amount of time at their local arcade. One in Davis, California was called The Library which cleverly allowed a kid to say, “Mom, I’m going to the library…” and off they went to spend an afternoon but not among dusty old books. Instead they were gaming in two ways having “gamed” their parent and “gamed” away the afternoon. In Fort Lauderdale, there was a combination arcade, miniature golf course and mini Formula One race car track and between arcades and roller rinks, the 1980s offered kids and teens plenty of safe, fun places to be active.
Now that so many interactive gaming and activities are done on smartphones and computers, most of those businesses have closed. The Musee Mechanique of the famed Playland at the Beach in San Francisco almost went out of business. Thanks to a move to Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf, children of all ages can still experience those vintage and antique early versions of modern day video games. The Boardwalk at Santa Cruz also has a nice, big semi-open air arcade. Austin, Texas has ArcadeUFO and Pinballz, both of which offer excellent game choices. Pinballz is 13,000 square feet of pure gaming heaven. However, even their 200 games do not compare to the Galloping Ghosts offerings.
The arcade experience is like no other, which is why places like the Galloping Ghost are so important. According to their website, over 140 world records have been set there. Although a new type of arcade called a “Barcade” has been popping up all over the country, Doc Mack, owner of the Galloping Ghost, refuses to go that route. He feels that the addition of beer to an arcade muddies up the experience saying, “there’s too little focus on the arcade.” Offering beer also takes away the safety factor for minors. The arcade becomes a place for adults and is no longer focused on the young people and those who just want to play.
Many of the games at the Galloping Ghost, because they are vintage, show their age. Faded paint, chipped corners and unresponsive joysticks are to be expected. Some cabinets have been so “loved” that they have been replaced by generic cabinetry meant to simply house a still playable game. Mack explained that the cannibalization of parts and cabinets is a common practice that helps to keep awesome games alive. There are even some cabinets that house two games. Pac-Man Jr. and Super Pac-Man is one, Galaga and Galaga 88 is another pairing.
Generally grouped by genre, there is a room wholly devoted to fighting games, like multiple versions of Mortal Kombat. Shooting simulator games populate the back wall of the arcade. One row in the middle of the Galloping Ghost is entirely made up of early 1980s gems like, Tempest, Frogger and Missile Command.
Mack said that he can always tell when someone is entering the doors for the first time. It is like they are seeing an old friend who they have missed for over 20 years. That too is part of the value of the video game arcade; a sense of nostalgia. The Galloping Ghost Arcade provides gamers with both a healthy dose of vintage nostalgia and some good clean fun.
By Stacy Lamy