Some col­lect for fun, oth­ers for profit. For

Gary Vincent, cu­ra­tor of the Amer­i­can Clas­sic Ar­cade Mu­seum, it’s about pre­serv­ing the rich his­tory of the ar­cade – and, cru­cially, mak­ing it avail­able for oth­ers to not just look at but ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a mis­sion that be­gan 17 years ago at the leg­endary Funspot ar­cade.

How did the mu­seum get started? The mu­seum started with an idea I had in the fall of 1998. I’ve al­ways been a his­tory buff – I was one of those kids that liked go­ing to the mu­seum or the his­toric attractions that ev­ery state has, whether it’s an old sea­port or what­ever. Those things al­ways in­trigued me – I was al­ways amazed at how peo­ple were able to gather col­lec­tions to­gether of old things. So it got me think­ing, and I said to Bob Law­ton, the owner of Funspot, “Do you have any ob­jec­tion if I take what’s left of the old games here and put them in the cor­ner up on the third floor, to kind of make a mu­seum?” He liked the idea, so that’s what I did. In late ’98 I started mov­ing games around and putting them all to­gether up here. We did the first tour­na­ment in May of 1999 and it was like a con­fir­ma­tion to me that it was a good idea, be­cause peo­ple loved it.

Peo­ple have of­ten asked, “Well, why do you leave a game as rare as Com­puter Space out on the floor where peo­ple can play it?” And I say, “Well, you know, that’s what they were made for.” That was the in­tent – for some­one to play. If we put it be­hind some red vel­vet ropes with ‘do not touch’ signs, peo­ple would be able to see it and take pic­tures of it, but they would have no idea what the ex­pe­ri­ence is like. I’ve com­pared it to hav­ing a film mu­seum where peo­ple come in and look at roll after roll of film and metal can­is­ters on top of shelves, and when somebody says, “Oh, I’d like to see that movie,” the re­sponse is: “Oh, no – they’re too rare. You can’t watch th­ese movies”. I guess there is a need some­where for some­thing like that, but I al­ways thought you should be able to ex­pe­ri­ence it. And that’s what we’ve done all along here.

What’s the rarest item here? Maybe our Death Race game. I’m sure some­one will see me say this and they’ll say, “Well, I know so and so has one, and this place has one,” but ev­ery Death Race I saw un­til the time we ac­quired ours was ei­ther a white cab­i­net with black graph­ics or a black cab­i­net with white graph­ics. Ours is a yel­low cab­i­net with black graph­ics – I’ve never seen a yel­low Death

Race. And it’s orig­i­nal.

Was that a do­na­tion or a pur­chase? We bought that off of Ebay. I think we paid $1,500, and then had to have it shipped here. The game had led a rough life, you could say. When we got it, we couldn’t even take it off the pal­let – the mo­ment we tipped it back on the hand truck, the bot­tom fell out of the cab­i­net with all the gas ped­als and ev­ery­thing at­tached to it. So we had to push it back onto the pal­let, ratchet-strap it back down and bring it, pal­let and all, up to the stor­age build­ing at the back of the prop­erty where it sat for prob­a­bly a year and a half be­cause I didn’t know what we were go­ing to do with it.

Then we just made the decision that we were go­ing to re­build it. A lot of peo­ple helped with that. I started post­ing pic­tures on www., which caught the at­ten­tion of Brian Jones down in Florida. He said, “Wow, I wish I had side art to scan for that – no­body has scans of it.” So I told him I could ship him what was left of the side, be­cause I wasn’t go­ing to use it. We had al­ready had to re­place the two sides of the cab­i­net – one was bro­ken in half and rot­ted off on the bot­tom; the other one was rot­ted off on the bot­tom, and both top cor­ners were bro­ken off the cab­i­net. I said to Brian, “I’ll warn you ahead of time – it smells re­ally bad.” It was like a com­bi­na­tion of old base­ment and swamp. Any­way, I sent the side of the game to Brian in Florida and he scanned it, and then Rich Lint from This Old Game [thisol­dgame. com] out in Ore­gon saw the thread on KLOV and said, “Hey, if you can vec­torise those images, I can make screens for that.” So Brian did that, and then Rich got in touch to say, “Hey, I was plan­ning on com­ing out this year and I’d love to silk screen your cab­i­net for you”. I thought, wow, this is amaz­ing. So we brought the cab­i­net in the shop here and he silk screened both sides of it. I was just so thrilled that somebody would do that. What sort of re­ac­tions do you get from other fans of clas­sic ar­cade games when they walk into ACAM? My favourite thing is al­ways see­ing the ex­pres­sion on some­one’s face when they first visit, be­cause there aren’t many places like this. In the main room, we have pretty much noth­ing in there that is newer than about 1988/1989. All of the posters on the wall are of games of that vin­tage; all the mu­sic that plays in there is


the same vin­tage. For them to step into that room is kind of like step­ping through a time por­tal. I just like to see that big smile when peo­ple walk in and ex­pe­ri­ence that. Most of the first-time vis­i­tors have ei­ther never ex­pe­ri­enced the hey­day of an ar­cade or they haven’t been in one in 20 or 30 years. It’s a great trip down mem­ory lane for them. I al­ways en­joy talk­ing to peo­ple about that.

What sort of things keep you mo­ti­vated? I think the pos­i­tive in­put I get from peo­ple who come here, and the vol­un­teers that come and help, are al­ways a great mo­ti­vat­ing force. And then, find­ing one of those ob­scure things that somebody will just call you about out of the blue, say­ing: “Hey, I have this and I can drop it off to­day.” It’s like, OK, AWE­SOME! [Laughs] You get re-en­er­gised be­cause somebody was think­ing of you and the mu­seum. Pre­sum­ably one of the big­gest is­sues in the fu­ture will be CRT mon­i­tors, be­cause they’re get­ting harder to track down. Oh, yeah. And now you see peo­ple putting re­built, used mon­i­tors on Ebay for over $200, and peo­ple are buy­ing them. That is a prob­lem. I mean, you re­ally, re­ally don’t want to put flat screens in th­ese ma­chines. You can tell that it’s got a flat screen. Does it play? Yeah. Does it look the same? No, not re­ally. So that is a prob­lem. I have gone to the dump sev­eral times my­self and stripped tele­vi­sion sets for pic­ture tubes. That’s a messy job, and it’s very time con­sum­ing, but what can you do? No­body makes pic­ture tubes any more. No­body’s go­ing to start mak­ing them again. A lot of com­pa­nies have sprouted up mak­ing re­place­ment boards for pin­ball ma­chines and such, which is fan­tas­tic. I’ve con­verted a lot of those that had acid dam­age on the boards or just be­came flaky and un­re­li­able. It’s like: $200, buy a new board, stick it in, prob­lem solved. That’s nice and easy be­cause you can put that board in a box and ship it for about $4. But CRTs are big, they’re heavy, they’re dif­fi­cult to ship with­out a ton of pack­ag­ing. And where’s the need? I don’t think you can gen­er­ate enough need to war­rant mak­ing CRTs again. The chances of those com­ing back again are slim to none.

What’s your Holy Grail game? I would love to have a Sega Periscope. It came out in the 1960s; I be­lieve it was ac­tu­ally the first game Sega man­u­fac­tured. And it is a mon­ster – it must be at least four feet wide, about seven feet tall and about eight feet deep. Ab­so­lutely a gi­ant game but, if somebody said you could have what­ever you want, I would want one of those. Given its com­plex­ity, surely restor­ing one of those would be nearly im­pos­si­ble. The thing is, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the old electro­mechan­i­cal games and the mod­ern videogames – and this is in no way meant to dis­credit the ef­fort it takes to de­sign a videogame, be­cause the ef­fort is huge – but you could almost say that every­body is play­ing with the same hard­ware nowa­days. You’re sit­ting at a com­puter and you’re writ­ing code for a game, but you look at some of the old electro­mechan­i­cal games – somebody couldn’t sit down and just write a pro­gram for that. Take a look in the back of this one [points to cab­i­net] if you want to see some­thing. It has light­bulbs, plas­tic see-through scenery, pro­jec­tor lamps, mo­tors, gears, chains, belts – even this old game, which is Drive Master from 1969. For the life­like audio sounds, it had a ta­ble-model ra­dio mounted in the front of the game with what looks like an eight-track tape in it that is about a third of the size of a nor­mal eight-track tape. I’ve never seen the for­mat be­fore in my life. That’s what they were us­ing for audio. And it’s all re­lays, and somebody had to en­gi­neer that so that ev­ery­thing would work to­gether. I guess ev­ery era has its dif­fi­cult things, but with those old electro­mechan­i­cal games, it seems you re­ally had to build some­thing with your hands. It was a lot more phys­i­cal, to get it to the point where you could pro­duce it and it would ac­tu­ally run.

What lies ahead for the mu­seum’s fu­ture? We greatly en­joy do­ing ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams. We have a pro­gramme with Cham­plain Col­lege, and I’ve had smaller school groups – in­di­vid­ual class­room size – in here. I’ve had groups here with at-risk stu­dents, try­ing to re­fo­cus them into a bet­ter, more pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. Shar­ing ev­ery­thing, the his­tory and so on, with stu­dents is re­ally nice, and it’s some­thing I en­joy greatly. So I think we’ll be get­ting more into ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes in the fu­ture.

Name Gary Vincent Lo­ca­tion Weirs Beach, New Hamp­shire Three favourite coin-ops CrazyClim­ber, AlpineSki, Disc­sOfTron (en­vi­ron­men­tal ver­sion) Cab­i­nets in col­lec­tion 250 on the mu­seum floor,

plus 175+ in stor­age

Alpine Ski (Taito, 1981)

and Crazy Climber (Nichibutsu, 1980)

Orig­i­nal flyer for

Disc­sOfTron (Bally Mid­way, 1983)

With 250 work­ing cab­i­nets on the floor, the Amer­i­can Clas­sic Ar­cade Mu­seum is sim­ply un­ri­valled in its field

The Disc­sOfTron en­vi­ron­men­tal cab­i­net

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