The Dream Arcade

Funspot is the stuff of legends. Located in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, it is the world’s largest arcade according to Guinness World Records. It’s also home to the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM), which contains 300+ classic arcade games from the very first coin-ops up to the turn of the 21st century. And if that’s not enough, Funspot is ground zero for serious arcade competitors, as seen in the movie King of Kong.

The ACAM arcade area of Funspot houses the classic games, and it’s one of my favourite places on Earth. There’s an otherworldly atmosphere in the arcade created by the perfectly subdued lighting, and the 80’s tunes playing overhead. Walk in at 10am on a Tuesday and you’re instantly transported to any given Saturday night from 30 years ago, with a feeling that there’s no place else to be but here, and nothing else to do but play some games, shoot some aliens, and maybe save the world.

Games in this row include: Phoenix, Q-bert, Krull, and Sinistar

Games are arranged into rows, and grouped with similar titles. You’ll find a block of vector games, and then a block of Atari, and a block of Laserdisc games. As for what you can find here… the answer is “just about everything”. Popular games like PacMan, Galaga, Donkey Kong, etc. are obviously here, but so are obscure and rare machines like Mad Planets, Quantum, and Death Race. The number of games is nearly overwhelming, and the impulse to play them all is usually thwarted when you discover a really cool game that you can’t stop playing.

On this particular trip, I found myself playing a lot of Race Drivin’ (no surprise there), but also a game I’d never played called Bagman. It’s a little hard to describe, but the basic idea is that you’re a criminal trying to avoid the authorities as you load bags of money into your wheelbarrow. It’s a game that seems easy at first, but is in fact pretty tough. In other words, it’s a typical classic arcade game design that sucks you in and demands that you try again and again to win.

Games in this row include: Ghosts n Goblins, Zaxxon, Congo Bongo, and Super Cobra

So Funspot’s got the games, but there’s something else at play here. Every year, Funspot hosts the International Classic Video Game Tournament which draws players from around the world. As seen in the movie King of Kong, Funspot is a place where elite gamers go to set world records. This is hallowed gaming ground, and it’s open to the public. Imagine if a baseball fan could walk right onto the field at Fenway Park and take a swing at the Green Monster. That’s what it’s like to stand in front of Funspot’s Donkey Kong machine and play a game. You’re playing on the exact machine that Steve Wiebe played on in King of Kong. Play the PacMan that Billy Mitchell recorded a perfect game on, it’s there right now waiting for you even if Billy Mitchell is now persona non grata.

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