I’ve always loved arcades, not the shopping ones, the gaming ones. The lights, the sounds, the atmosphere, magical…
Trips to Brighton and playing arcade machines on the pier were one of my favourite days out as a kid. I remember in the height of ‘Turtle Power’ they had the Classic TMNT Arcade Game cabinet there. Kids literally queued to play it. I vividly remember waiting my turn and getting to the front, stepping up to it was like approaching a giant robotic Santa with joysticks (ok, that sounds a bit weird…) My Mum and Dad stood and watched and so did the queue of kids, they wanted me to lose my lives as soon as possible, speed up the wait until their turn but as I progressed they wanted me to see me live longer to see latter parts of the game. Childhood is complicated like that.
I remember dying and pleading with my Mum and Dad for more money to continue. The big numbers on the screen were ticking down as my Dad fumbled for change, I was panicking, to me the machine was counting down to self destruct and if it blew we would be picking bits of games cabinet out of our faces for the rest of our lives, to them it was just a game. As I said Childhood could be so complicated.
To my Dad’s horror I grabbed a couple of pound coins from his open hand and fed the machine. He was stunned, some kids groaned, others stared intending at the scene. I didn’t last much longer, died and didn’t risk asking for more money! I was buzzing though, I’d played THE game of the time, I’ve always had fond memories of that cabinet…
Then I found it again on the Isle of Wight, Sandown Pier. It still lives there and I visit it frequently, it’s magic remains, I’ve played it alongside family, I’ve played it with friends and the buzz is the same everytime.
There is one time though that this machine nearly got the crap beaten out of me. For those that aren’t aware the cabinet has four joysticks allowing 4 players to play at once, representing each of the Turtles. If you have credits available the four player start buttons flash to indicate this. Ok… so, I’m a young boy wandering around the arcade room of a hotel we are holidaying in. I see the TMNT cabinet and 3 teenage boys playing it and the credit lights are flashing. So I think, they must not realise, I march up there take the remaining free joystick and press the credit button to join in. Don’t ask me why I did it! What I was thinking I don’t know!! I guess I just saw the free credit and thought I could join in!!! They didn’t agree though for some reason, they went apesh*t. They didn’t stop playing of course but they called me names I shouldn’t have understood at that age. Needless to say I ran and didn’t look back.