McGinnis: Midway Arcade evokes gaming nostalgiaWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
From the moment I walked in, the arcade felt just like it should. Beeping noises and loud sound effects emanated from every corner of the room. Bright, flashing lights enticed all who visited to part with just a few of their quarters, for a chance at catching that elusive high score. A cornucopia of games, most of them old classics, all stared at me, beckoning nostalgia forth, recalling a simpler age of begging Mom for quarters and plunking them into anything that caught my fancy.
The trip into memory ceased, confronted by the reality of today. True arcades are a dying breed. Most games nowadays are found as a tiny adjunct to another attraction — a theater, a bowling alley, guys in cheap mouse costumes, what have you — and the games themselves are never the main focus anymore. The console wars have all but stomped stand-up video games out of existence, and only a few fleeting success stories — Dance Dance Revolution, for example — keep them from being forgotten entirely.
But here, at the corner of Sylvania and Holland-Sylvania, was an honest-to-goodness actual arcade. Midway Arcade, the sign said. It operates in conjunction with Casey’s Frosty Boy, an ice cream parlor run by Casey Wagner, who along with her husband, has owned the building that houses it for about 15 years.
“My husband and I both like arcade games,” Wagner said. “And so, we thought, an arcade where some of the games are a little bit older…that maybe some of these kids haven’t seen and would like to peruse them and perhaps play them.”
The somewhat retro concept is music to my vintage-loving ears. The only real conceit to modern gaming is a Golden Tee Golf machine. The rest of the space has a purity to it — this same place could have existed ten years ago, exactly as it is. The arcade opened back in June, but I haven’t had the chance to stop in…until now.
Casey herself made change for me, and I prepared to take a few coin-related trips down memory lane. First up was Skeeball, one of my childhood passions. A full 9-ball game was still just a quarter here. I smiled a Cheshire cat grin of glee as I rolled for the first time.
The glee lasted about 10 seconds as my point total was a personal embarrassment. I used to be good at this, I swear. But now, days of past glory were washed away by the reality of being painfully out of practice. I finally sunk a ball into a higher ring on my last try, but my final score was still so low that, if my childhood bullies were anywhere around, they’d probably beat me up on general principle, even though I’m now three times as old (and big) as I was then.
I fared better on Whack-a-Mole in the corner, though I still felt less accomplished than I did in my youth. I guess all those hours playing games that required almost no muscle movement save for thumbs and the occasional index finger have let the rest of my gaming skill atrophy. Even a simpler passion — pin ball — saw me fare no better. The machine even gave me a free play (I assume out of pity), but still no avail.
But the smile never faded. Despite my struggles, I was having a blast. There’s just something about the atmosphere of a real arcade that speaks to a member of my generation, probably any generation. It’s not about how you play. It’s about playing, period. Spending time with friends sequestered in a man-made cave, surrounded by machines whose only purpose is frivolous joy — and the eternally beckoning bragging rights of the high score, of course.
Before I left, I eyed Skeeball one more time. I walked over and plunked in my last quarter. This time, I thought, I’ll remember. This time, my old skills will not desert me. This time, I have an eye on respectability. I hit start, and once more, nine balls clumped down into their slot. I picked the first one up, smiled to myself, and began.
How did I do? Let’s just say I should have quit while I was ahead.