New Hampshire may be synonymous with annual biker rallies
and kick starting Presidential primaries, but in our industry it's known as the mecca for classic video games. FunSpot, home of the American Classic Arcade Museum, sits comfortably near Laconia, New Hampshire, a small town that welcomes families looking for a wholesome adventure away from home -- and droves of gaming enthusiasts, of course.
The American Classic Arcade Museum is a non-profit organization committed to the promotion and preservation of coin-operated games and their associated history. The museum acts as the first floor to the three-storey mecca called FunSpot, established in 1952 by Bob Lawton and named "Largest Arcade in the World" by Guinness World Records
in 2008. We recently had an opportunity to tour the giant complex, which sports a bingo hall, mini-golf, 20 lanes of 10-pin bowling, and over 300 arcade machines ranging from the first coin-op
to modern day Daytona
Check out the highlights of our visit after the break, and make it a point to stop by the place if you're ever in Laconia. It's the only safe
way to travel back in time.
As we headed through (what we thought was) the main FunSpot
entrance, a handful of classic arcade stand-ups greeted us. Many were old and withering away, and some were even unplugged.
Naturally, we feared the worst. Had the mission already failed? Was this fragile sanctuary dead along with the era it was established to preserve?
Of course not!
Turning the corner we realized the room we had entered was not meant to be our first glimpse into the mission behind FunSpot and the American Classic Arcade Museum
. A row of machines from our youth, from Ikari Warriors
, padded the walls, surrounded by 8x10 pictures of arcade legends
who had spent hours in these very rooms in search of high scores.
As though, somewhere, an unseen patron saint of classic coin-op and pinball machine nostalgia was waiting for the perfect moment -- this moment -- to press "play," the overhead speakers crackled on and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing
" began to fill the room. Row after row of arcade machines stretched forth, organized and placed by company: Sega, Nintendo, Atari, Namco, and so on. Pinball machines hugged the left wall; machines dedicated to heroes of another generation like KISS and the Harlem Globetrotters
Tucked away in a far corner of the room sat the machine made famous by the documentary The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters
: Donkey Kong
. To our surprise, the top score held by Steve Wiebe was missing from the machine's leaderboard -- later it was explained that all machines are powered down at the close of each business day, resetting even the most historic of records. Since the release of King of Kong
, FunSpot has enjoyed renewed public interest. While the Donkey Kong
machine is usually the first stop for new visitors, Gary Vincent, one of the founders of the museum, told us that Pac-Man
remains one of the busiest machines on the floor.
Venturing down to the second and third floors of FunSpot transported us back to more recent eras with light gun games like Time Crisis 3,
team brawlers like The Simpsons
arcade game, and modern pinball machines like the Addams Family
-- which happens to be the bestselling pinball machine
of all time
. Further down, racing games flashed before us, including an 8-player Daytona
section. But what really caught our attention was the price to play. FunSpot depends on donations from generous collectors to entertain visitors, so we were expecting an expensive visit. (How many arcade philanthropists can there really be?) To our surprise, most games required a mere 25-cent token per play.
If you love classic arcades and are seeking an opportunity to relive your youth, or you're simply interested in witnessing the industry's evolution in all its glowing glory, we highly recommend stopping by FunSpot. It may be a trek for some, but it's well worth it. Check back tomorrow for our interview with Gary Vincent, co-founder of the American Classic Arcade Museum, where we discuss how technology has both hurt and helped the arcade scene and touch on violence in today's video game entertainment.