The Vintage Arcade Museum

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The Vintage Arcade Museum
by Mike Hulter, EDN

The Location is a Vintage Arcade Museum. It’s a Not for Profit, put together by lovers of arcade and pinball. It’s a combined effort of between 4 and 7 contributors, benefactors, and refurbishers. I ended up inadvertently interviewing the host, the manager, the main benefactor, and VIP002. The enthusiasm and joy that these people got out of it is what gives the place its vivid pizazz.

I loitered there soaking in the ambiance and listening to them greet everyone who came through the door, occasionally mentioning their new paint job, featuring light blue pin stripes in the style of Tron. The entire place is put together quite nicely, and all the machines have been beautifully refurbished, thanks to the team of Gavin and Chad. Gavin is the manager, and that night he had a bag full of quarters for those who couldn’t afford or didn’t expect to find a vintage arcade on Friday Art Walk in the Whitaker.

Gavin goes in and reworks the insides, special ordering specific pieces and working his way through a variety of machines, each with an array of antiquated technologies. I was lucky enough to see the inside of a couple machines. The first was an electro-mechanical, from the early days, when pinball machines were that big because they were full of wires and switches and boards and relays and such and so on. But after the dawn of the microchip, everything changed, and the extra space they had on the pin ball machines became used for art instead.

photo by endless laxlo

The strangest one I saw, and probably the hardest to work on, aside from the electro mechanical dinosaur, was Baby Pac Man. Up top it has the Pac Man screen, and you’re little Pac Man. But there’s a tunnel at the bottom, and when you go down the tunnel, you look down, and the bottom half of the game is PIN BALL!!! What?! And then you earn your power ups and specials and stuff in the pinball game, and then you go back to BABY PAC MAN!!! Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Gavin tells me it’s a bit odd inside, incorporating a majority of pinball parts, but then with this Pac Man monitor interface thrown in, with all this stuff between it to translate from Arcade to Pinball and back again.

taken by Michael Hulter

Each machine has also had its outsides completely redone by Chad, the host. The arcade is actually located in the waiting room of his photography studio. Chad is the resident photographer, owner, and originator of 425 Media, a multifaceted company that strives to… well, strives to do really worthwhile things like turn their waiting room into a Vintage Arcade Museum!! They also incorporate Chad’s photography, and the recording studio of Wax Trax.

photo by mouser nerdbot

Chad went into detail about his restorations, and even showed me the graveyard, which was the machines that either didn’t work yet or were still being beautified. He pointed out a couple personal details he added, matching button colors to the color of the coin slot and such, but a purist to the end, he refused to switch out the yellow track ball for a white one on the centipede game, and he’ll tell you why. “Because every track ball in every arcade ever has always been yellow.” They are completely replicating the entire experience of going to the arcade in the eighties. It’s dark. With just a couple black lights over head, The place is lit mainly by the glow of the games.“We want it cave like. Like Flinn’s, from Tron.” And they’ve succeeded.

The people who walked through would shriek like little kids, and shout out the names. “DONKY KONG!” And then whichever one I was interviewing at the time would get a big grin, and say something like “See? That’s like getting paid, right?”

At first they had their worries about being noticed. After all, Eugene has no Arcade.  It’s been left up to a local to stitch together a list that includes all the scattered family of pinball machines that can be found throughout town. Their fears of going unnoticed were short lived though, and now they feel quite confident that this is a much appreciated addition to the Whitaker. Within 40 hours of starting a fanpage they had 100 likes on Facebook. It’s almost like Eugene has been waiting. They’ve had to start turning away machines that people try to donate. Their new policy is “If it doesn’t work we can’t take it… Unless it’s Pole Position or Asteroids.” The enthusiasm of the team behind the project is immense and marvelous. Chad has given up the waiting room for his photography business, since most waiting rooms suck, and now his is by far the coolest waiting room anywhere ever. Gavin has given up hours, staying sometimes until 4 AM fixing machines. Dylan has donated a couple machines and is showcasing a couple more. This is a group of friends who have gathered their capacities and energies and built this thing for no other reason than it’s totally worthwhile, and will be appreciated by all.

Their record number one patron is a certain CHZ who has maxed out all scores and has set the record for time spent playing, maxing out at 27 hours. He is what they call VIP001. Another patron was once heard saying “Usually I spend $60 at the bar with my buddies to let off steam. I come here, spend $6, and I’m in bliss!!!” And they are. Every person who walked through the door was happily baffled to find fifteen arcade machines in a warehouse behind Ninkasi Brewery. “Is this gonna always be here?” One person asked. I immediately thought, “No, nothing is always anywhere.” But luckily Chad responded instead of me, and said “Yes! Always. Always gonna be here. Not always open, but always here.  yes.

Photo by Pink Sherbert Photography

They’re not doing it for money, they can’t even afford a coin machine!  but that’s why it’s gonna work. They’re doing it because it’s worthwhile. It was their first night open, which Gavin kept calling the Beta Opening. They also kept calling it a living museum.  It’s already got half a dozen pet names and unofficial monikers.  I didn’t notice the faint scent of spray paint until they mentioned the brand new asteroids freshly added to the walls. Chad was obviously quite proud of his handiwork.  It was hard to leave. I stayed for 3 hours. I wanted to play so bad, but I was doing a story, and didn’t want to get distracted, but now, as this story comes to a close, my telling of it can fade once more, and I am free to return to the revitalizing glow of of the Vintage Arcade Living Museum Location and its electronic distractions. I’ll get you, CHZ!!

The Location Vintage Arcade Museum
245 Blair
Eugene, Or 97401
(541) 683 1721
http://www.facebook.com/#!/vintagearcade

Michael Hulter spent his formative years in the Santa Cruz Mountains enjoying the serene redwood forest setting of the San Lorenzo Valley. He recieved his Bacheoler of Arts in English at UC Berkeley after which he quickly immersed himself in the culture and community of Berkeley's Caffe Med, the diner where Ginsberg wrote Howl. An avid writer and musician, Michael hopes to soon finish his "Premature Memoirs" and start playing music under the moniker Monkeyhands. When he's old he hopes to tour Junior Colleges teaching creative expression therapy.

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