Being a child of 80s, a disproportionate amount of my time was spent in video game arcades and they have a special place in my memory. I am not talking about the later, sanitised franchises like Timezone. The arcades of the 80s were menacing electronic caverns inhabited by degenerates and drug dealers with skinheads out front picking fights.
The closest things these days to the old arcades are net-gaming arcades although this is only because gaming is involved. The best ones in any town are the Asian run cafes which are usually open 24hrs a day – handy to know if you ever find yourself homeless.
For some reason, the Asians only play one game – League of Legends, with pixies and dwarfs and shit. They will sit for three days straight playing this dumb game and drinking Red Bull.
The funny thing is though, you can be in the most clean, ultra-modern net café and when you go to the dunnies, there is piss everywhere. I don’t know what the fuck it is with Chinese blokes and pissing on the floor, but it is like they yank their pricks out at the door of the cubicle then pretend they are hula-hooping.
Hong Kong had the biggest arcades I have ever seen in my life. Throughout the 80s, video games were so popular in HK that whole basements of city blocks were dedicated to them.
One of the largest, Pac-Man arcade in Causeway Bay even had a full size dodgem car set-up in a darkened corner. It was fenced in by floor to ceiling chicken wire and you had to drop tokens into a turnstile for entry.
The basement ceiling was only seven foot and a haze of smoke sat at the five foot level. Conveniently, cigarettes and San Miguel beer could be bought at one of the many vending machines.
Most of the games were in small cabinets and were placed back to back and formed a maze in the dank basement. The only light was provided by the games and each had its volume turned up full.
The worst thing about Pac-Man Arcade was the dunny; it was a small room that was never cleaned which wasn’t that unusual in Hong Kong. What made this toilet so memorable was the smell; every day the owners would throw a couple of buckets of pure ammonia into it to “clean” it. This made it very difficult for me and my pals to “chase the dragon.”
I once witnessed an effeminate Chinese businessman dart in with a handkerchief held over his mouth and nose. He unzipped and snagged out his sub-standard pecker and was trying to squirt out some urine before taking a breath. Half way through his weasel, he took a breath and promptly upchucked – no shit, that is how fucking bad the smell was; it was like chemical warfare.
Two different Triad gangs controlled the drug trade in Pac-Man Arcade and sold smack, ice and Mandrax. The demarcation zone for the gangs was particular video games and every so often they would attack each other with small meat cleavers. I once saw a bloke by the dodgems get a cleaver through the middle of his outstretched hand – slicing down between the middle and ring finger. So as you can see, Pac-Man arcade was pretty much a teenage boys dream – unless you were a wimp.
On one of my trips to India I was staying in a small village that had no electricity or paved roads. The main road had wood shacks along it and one of these was an arcade.
The proprietor would sit out the front on a generator that was used to power the arcade. As he saw me approaching, he would fold up his paper and get the generator going.
Inside, there were about fifteen old games, all the ones from the early 80s that I had grown up playing. The local kids would crowd around me when I played and I would dazzle them with my rad fuckin vid game skills.
Seeing as the games were only a rupee each, I would crank up the credits on the games so that the kids could all play. This sort of made me feel like the pied piper of video games although I was taking a LOT of acid at the time.
One day, a few hours after eating 450 micrograms of the stuff, I smeared on down to the arcade. No-one was about and it was bucketing down rain that turned the dirt road to mud. It was just me and the owner in the arcade and I walked up to an old driving game, Turbo and dropped in a coin.
What happened next is like something out of the movie Tron – I literally got absorbed into the game and its circuit boards became my brain and therefore I couldn’t go wrong and I played flawlessly. It was a moment of perfect synchronicity. The game went on and on, I couldn’t make a mistake. Eventually, I just walked away from it, perfect record intact. When I turned around, half the syruploving arcade was filled with wide eyed Indian boys watching me in stunned silence.
In the 70s, I lived in a small town in Central Queensland. Despite its small size, the town still had a notorious pinball parlour called ‘The Fun Parlour.’ In the late 70s video games started to appear in the Fun Parlour. For the most part they were shit, until 1978 when Space Invaders arrived. The new vid games were like magic to me and my mates and we quickly became obsessed. Despite the fact that the town only had six thousand people in it, a new arcade opened to meet the demand. Everyone called the new place the ‘New Fun Parlour’ and the original one became the ‘Old Funny.’ These establishments are where the video game revolution happened in Yeppoon and the first time I saw ‘blood and guts’ in a video game was when me and about 20 others were crowded around a new game called Frogger.
Every day after school, me and my mates would smear on down to one of the funny’s and beg, borrow or steal “chennies” (20 cent pieces). Being in primary school though, we were brutalised by the older cunts from high-school who hung out there too. They would force us to fight each other and steal our games from us, which is all a part of growing up I know but one day I would like to go back there and leave them in a pool of blood burping up their smashed internal organs.
Internet Cafe, Toronto, Canada.
In the late 90’s I started going to an internet cafe in Toronto. They suddenly became viable gaming centres because of first person shooter game, Counter Strike. The net cafe I went to was originally a video store specialising in Kung-fu movies. They put four computers in the back and when they saw how popular they were with the kids from the local high-school, they placed 20 back to back down the middle of the store. This was in a neighbourhood that had the nickname “Crackdale” and all the kids from the high-school were little shits with heaps of attitude. People that came in to hire movies were absolutely disgusted by the language the kids used while playing the games. It was really funny though, because at the time Parkdale was being gentrified so you would get these wimps in looking for movies and all you could hear was gunshots, explosions and aggressive teenage boys screaming out obscenities that would put the Marquis De Sade to shame. Most of the kids were Jamaican or Vietnamese although there were a few cracker ass crackers. My player name for Counter Strike was “see_Kyle.” I quickly became good at the game and would torment the kids by stabbing their character after killing them and doing the “teabag” move which was considered very disrespectful. One time, my housemate came looking for me and when he walked into the cafe he witnessed a bunch of Viet and Jamaican boys screaming out “fuckin’ see Kyle!” and “Aaw, see Kyle you asshole!” Which made him comment to me, “your life is like one big performance art piece” which I found rather humorous.