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Power Member - Level 10
Whew, blogging consistently is difficult and so once again,
my appreciation and thanks to those who write so that I can read a variety of
thoughts about gaming. I may lurk to the
point that I hardly comment (work deadlines) but I am always reading. It's a new year with a new attempt at
Recently, I took a mega vacation to Las Vegas, Nevada based
on my girlfriend buying concert tickets as an anniversary present to my
all-time favorite recording artist, Shania Twain (we all have our favorites). While in Las Vegas my girlfriend directed me
to one of my other favorites, gaming.
She surprised me with the hotel Excalibur's "Fun Dungeon," an arcade
that includes an adjacent Dairy Queen. With
an arcade and a banana split, my vacation was complete. This Fun Dungeon featured two of my all-time
favorite arcade games which by their mere presence challenged me to step up and
play. Part of the challenge is that I
have never beaten either game, ever. I
have come close but in arcade gaming there is no second place, only first.
All of Las Vegas and I preferred the arcade.
I did not grow up in the arcade heyday. Sure, I begged for quarters when we came upon
the wayward arcade in the mall, airport, or most often, the bowling alley. We raced in car simulators revving towards
checkpoints for additional seconds of gameplay but I didn't memorize the arcade
layout or know the initials of those on the leader boards.
Not to post my age but I am what society dubs a
"twenty-something," specifically 27. As
a child, home consoles were still an expensive luxury and rather than in
arcades, I grew up gaming at Chuck E. Cheese where "a kid can be a kid."
My hometown Chuck E. Cheese and the Toys 'R Us I purchased my first console is across the street (not in the picture). Strip mall joy.
As the oldest of four siblings, I left my toddling younger
siblings in the germ infested ball pit and happily roamed the arcade with a
pocket full of tokens. My youngest
sister is 8 years younger than I so I remained in Chuck E. Cheese past the generally
accepted age bracket. I no longer
hungered for tickets for the prize counter.
Instead I searched the arcade for a "game" experience. I found that game, I would walk laps around
the other machines waiting for the right head space so that I could sit, stack
my tokens, and settle in for the complete gaming experience with...Star Wars
Trilogy Arcade. I am not a Star Wars
fanatic, I appreciate the movies and a friend convinced me to read a few of the
books but this arcade game made me feel like a true Jedi.
If I can ever afford an arcade game, this is the one I choose.
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade was one of my first experiences
with enjoying gaming as a game rather than for a ticket payout to buy candy and
a pinwheel. The machine is huge with
chair connected to a large and wide screen all accompanied with a flight
simulator joystick. There are three levels that can be played in any order and
each level is representative of a movie in the original trilogy. Yavin featuring space battles in an X-Wing
represents A New Hope, Empire Strikes back is in Hoth taking out AT-AT's, and Return
of the Jedi takes place in Endor shooting down Stormtroopers while engaged in a
speeder bike chase. The gameplay is primarily
an on the rails shooter that varies from vehicles to blasters to lightsabers.
Interspersed are two boss battles in which armed with a
light saber the player blocks blaster shots from Boba Fett and later duels light
saber versus light saber against Darth Vader.
The moment that the lightsaber appeared in the first person I was a Jedi
in an iconic duel, not on a plastic chair playing an arcade game with a
joystick. Not even Star Wars Kinect has
replicated this childhood dream brought to life of wielding a lightsaber in
battle with the same finesse of a joystick and big screen.
My nemesis. At the end, he just flies away undefeated. Lame.
However, the fights seemingly require a perfect score and
I've always missed a shot even with onscreen prompts when to attack and when to
block. Win or lose the game progresses
to the final segment of shooting down the Death Star. However, without winning the duels my
playthroughs remain uncompleted. Finding
the game is becoming more and more difficult as the aged arcade is removed in
favor of new technology.
Sadly, over the years this game has been removed from the
arcades I frequent. At the Fun Dungeon I
saw the game for the first time in a few years and I promptly sat down in its
well-worn captain's chair. However, the
controller was also well worn and refused to register my movements so I played
through my fifty cents and stopped after my first "Continue" screen while pining
the game's heyday when I would stack every token I had to ensure I would not
miss a single "Continue."
As a "young adult" I graduated to Dave and Buster's as the
adult Chuck E. Cheese where those of the appropriate age can game but with
beer. Nowadays the new games are mobile
tie-ins such as large HD screens featuring Fruit Ninja or Infinity Blade. The busiest games are a gigantic wall sized
Connect Four and a Deal Or No Deal simulation.
Funnily, my peers have returned to our Chuck E. Cheese roots gravitating
towards games dispensing tickets resulting in new games such as a gigantic
wheel to spin for obscene ticket amounts which replaced my beloved Star Wars
The arcade of my adulthood and current hometown.
However, I do like prizes.
I may complain of the prize machines replacing my beloved arcade games
but I step up trying to win too. Years ago I originally discovered the Stacker
game in a local mall. The Stacker
featured actual prizes such as $50 Best Buy gift cards and I couldn't find a
dollar in my wallet fast enough. After I
found the Stacker on a boardwalk with current generation consoles as prizes an
obsession was born. The Stacker is gaming at its simplest. The game comes in various sizes but the
premise is always a red (or blue) square grid divided into multiple rows of
squares and one big button. The game
begins with one row of three squares moving across the bottom line and the
player presses the big button stopping the squares in place. Now the player must stack the second set of
three squares directly atop the previous row and if a square is not directly
lined up the square falls away.
The most common iteration of The Stacker, the coolness level of the prizes vary.
Even with a perfect stack the rows are gradually reduced to
two then one square that must be stacked to the top and the blocks move faster
becoming more difficult to land squarely on the growing tower. As the tower grows higher it hits the "Minor
Prize" line that features typical arcade fare such as keychains or bouncy
balls. The player is given the choice of
accepting the minor prize and ending the game or taking their chances to play
for the "Major Prize" a few rows above. The
major prizes I have seen range from Ipads to Xbox 360's to Playstation 3's to
$50-$100 gift cards to video cameras to 32 inch televisions. Each attempt for a major prize is coupled
with the eternal hope of an amazing return on my dollar, if I win.
I have won the minor prize multiple times and gotten onto
the major prize often but I have never won the major prize. A quick internet search for images for this
blog resulted in multiple accusations that the Stacker is a fixed game set to
only allow a major prize winner once every few hundred plays. Eh, what arcade game is not rigged to induce
more money out of our wallets?
At the Fun Dungeon the Stacker was huge from floor to
ceiling with a platform for standing and a railing lean back on in order to
properly view the full screen. I was
aiming for the 32 inch HD television even with no idea how I would fit the
television in my already packed suitcase.
Casual or carnival-esque games may have a poor reputation for a lack of
actual gameplay. Yet, the Stacker
recalls the arcade heyday. As the blocks
successfully stack higher and higher anyone walking by stops and watches until
at a small crowd has unabashedly gathered more so than for any other game. A winner is rewarded with claps and cheers
while a losing game is mourned by the entire group.
The super mega edition with prizes so big each are behind their own cubby and winning unlocks the door.
The ongoing progress of technology has games at our
fingertips, literally, from smartphones to tablets to consoles. Not beating a game is due to a lack of
commitment, not a lack of opportunity.
Even some arcade games are becoming available as downloadable titles for
our personal devices. Other games remain
limited opportunities based on physically locating the game (in playable condition)
and keeping a ready supply of quarters (or in this economy dollar bills) in my
wallet just in case the chance to play pops up.
Come Superbowl XLVII on February 3, 2013 (Let's go
Washington DC and RG3! First NFC East
championship since 1999!) I will meet friends at my local Dave and
Buster's. We will eat and anticipate the
football game then my interest will wane between the first and third quarters and
I will wander the nearly empty arcade with no lines to deter my gameplay. I will reminisce near the gigantic spinning
wheel the loss of Star Wars Arcade Trilogy, perhaps try the wall sized Stacker
(the major prize is merely 500 tickets, I want my first win to net me an
unbelievably cool prize), and continue my search for a another "that" arcade
game to challenge me for years on end.
Do you have the unbeaten game that continues to taunt you
merely by continuing to exist?
Have you ever beaten the "impossible" game?
What's the best arcade or carnival prize that you have won?
Thanks for sticking around to the end of this blog!