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Joystiq Interview: Gary Vincent, part two

Why did North America's love for the arcade die?

I think it's a combination of a lot of things. About the time when the NES came out and then the home system equaled the arcade, before that -- as you may know -- just pick any of the old consoles and it was nothing compared to what you could play in the arcade. All of a sudden the NES reached the level of the arcade and people realized they could play a games like that at home whenever they wanted. I think you also have to add in the "fad factor." When video games first came out -- which started in 1971 with Computer Space, the first coin-op arcade machine -- people were excited because it was this new entertainment.

But once Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids -- that era -- came out, it was extremely popular. At one time you could get anything with Pac-Man on it, bedsheets, dish wear, cereal. Pac-Man was popular because it was an actual character. But things changed, the fad wore off over time.

If you combine everything; video games looked as good at home as they did in arcades, the fad was gone, the "newness" was pretty much gone. There was a time in the early '80s that, if it had a monitor and a coin-slot, people would put quarters into it. Then, people started to get a little more particular... picky and choosy about what they would play. That's when there would be games that would come out that would be total flops. Back then you'd buy an upright for $3,500 or so and you'd put it out and no one would ever play it.

Whereas, you always hear the classic story that some old arcade games would stop working because the coin-tray was so full.

"Pac-Man was popular because it was an actual character. But things changed, the fad wore off over time."

Oh, sure. When video games started out big people thought, "Wow. I can make a killing by opening an arcade." So, they'd buy 600 square feet and throw 20-30 games into it. Then they ran it and it worked fine but then the legs gave out underneath it. The fad wore off and those types of arcades started closing. We've been opened here since the '50s. A lot of places at that time had a mix of entertainment that allowed them to survive.

It's just my personal opinion but I don't think you could open a video game arcade today and make any money. Any.

Arguably, the modern side of that is the internet cafe. It seems like a great idea, mixing internet culture with video games. I've even seen a few with console games available for customers to play with but it just doesn't work. They seem to be closing more than they are opening in North America.

It's true. Here we have about, I'd say 75,000 square feet here. We've got a mix. We have classic arcade games, pinball, prize games -- the games that spew tickets for prizes that the kids love. We have retro mini-golf, there's 20 lanes of bowling downstairs, 400 seat commercial bingo hall right out here in the parking lot. It's a mix. We're not putting all of our eggs in one basket. A variety of attractions to try to get the widest audience possible.

I came down with a few friends and they stopped in last night and told me the Donkey Kong machine was a mad zone. You can't get near it because people were playing it all day. Since The King of Kong, has that become the most popular machine here?

As far as classics go? Pac-Man always was the staple. You'll always see someone playing a game of Pac-Man. But Donkey Kong, ever since The King of Kong and such, everyone wants to come and play the Donkey Kong machine. It breathes some life back into the game. Now we have Donkey Kong 2, which -- I guess -- really isn't a classic. It's a ROM update to Donkey Kong but people love it.

"I don't think you could open a video game arcade today and make any money. Any."

The King of Kong isn't the first time you've opened the doors of FunSpot to a film crew, correct?

There have been others that have come here and filmed but then they never completed them, or whatever. I can recall probably about 2 or 3 other independent film companies that came here. They shot tons of footage and talked to people and i never saw anything come of it.

But then in 2005, that's when The King of Kong was filming here but also, Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade. They were filming at the same time. Actually, there was a third film crew here then but I guess they never went anywhere with their budget so they sold their footage to the folks from The King of Kong.

Then Altar of the Unnamed came, last year in March. We actually had to shut down the museum section for six straight days. They had two truck loads of equipment they brought in, they had a dolley track laid across the ground for camera work. It was fun to watch. A good learning experience.

How has the environment changed at FunSpot since those film releases?

We're doing the same we've always done. There hasn't been any enormous change but more people have found us because of the movies. It's great. It helps breathe life back into the classic games. Maybe it'll get someone who used to play 20 or 25 years ago to stop and say, "Wow. There is still a place out there with games that I can play and used to play."

I noticed quite a few machines are donated. Are donations where you get the majority of your machines?

[Image credit: Ryan H.]

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