Funspot – American Classic Arcade Museum

Funspot in New Hampshire, the largest arcade in the world.

Funspot in New Hampshire, the largest arcade in the world.

Several weeks ago, a friend was planning a trip out to New York to visit, and we were kicking around ideas of places to go and see.  As we were both 80’s-Kids and huge fans of The King Of Kong, we decided to take the 6 hour drive up to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and cross a visit to Funspot (prominently featured in the film) off our Bucket Lists.  So, in the morning we caffeinated and headed across New England.  The drive was stunning, with gently rolling hills and brilliant autumn colors.  Lake Winnipesaukee is a major tourist destination in the region, but we arrived after the summer-season had ended and had virtually the entire place to ourselves.

A lonely chair, eagerly awaiting a gamer.

A lonely chair, eagerly awaiting a gamer.

The first thing to realize about Funspot, is that it’s big, awesome, and like stepping back-in-time to 1985. Wandering around the place under sensory overload, with the sights and sounds of my youth coming together in a single place, I took stock of their inventory.  “Nice, an original Tapper, not Root-Beer Tapper and, holy crap, a sit-down Star Trek machine, I haven’t see one of those since…”  This went on for the first 30-45 minutes of being there.  After loading up on tokens… yes, Funspot still uses tokens, and games are one token to play, no inflation here… I knew just where to go first.

"There's a Donkey Kong kill-screen coming up if anyone's interested"

“There’s a Donkey Kong kill-screen coming up if anyone’s interested”

Donkey Kong.  The machine that Steve Wiebe hit the world record on, and held it for a day (mutters under breath, “Billy Mitchell…”).  I’m not sure the machine was “possessed”, as claimed in King Of Kong but was in outstanding condition, and I was able to hit the daily high-score.  Not 1M+, I was King-Of-Kong-for-a-day, posting a sad 45k score, but making it to first pie factory.  Not too shabby after 30 years away from the game.  Mitchell’s “perfect game” Pac-Man machine was also in like-new shape, and a blast to play.

Beware, I Live!

Beware, I Live!

Sinistar was one of my favorite games, I’ve always gotten a kick out of the attracts/taunts the game throws out – “I hunger, coward!“.  Like all Williams games, in my opinion, Sinistar is ridiculously difficult.  I managed a decent score, but, on Defender I couldn’t even get passed the second screen.  The one game I looked for at Funspot, but never found, was the Defender sequel, Stargate (increased difficult and more buttons, I’m down!).

"Come back for more...with the Wizard of Wor!"

“Come back for more…with the Wizard of Wor!”

Wizard Of Wor was another game that would taunt players with a digitized voice, which was very unusual in 1981.  This is one of my all-time favorites, being one of the first games to allow players to co-operate against the game, or go head-to-head.  Next to WoW is a version of Mappy in great shape.  I always did like Mappy, but, looking back in the Arcade Game Industry now, the game seems – to me – a harbinger of things-to-come, the “Pac-Man effect”, as it were.  Take a ‘cute’ character and have them run through a maze, chased by other cute characters.  The originality of a Donkey Kong, or an Elevator Action, or a Frogger was rapidly disappearing, replaced by a constant chase to recreate the success of Pac-Man.

Steal the plans, I'll meet you in the basement.

Steal the plans, I’ll meet you in the basement.

Funspot is outstanding, and, if possible and you’re a old arcade game geek like me, then put a visit on your To-Do list.  Know that these are 25-30 year old games and some are rotated out for servicing, and it’s possible that one or two of your favorites might be down.  Some of the games have screen burn-in, and the joystick on the Zaxxon machine was tragically non-working.  But, compared to the environment and experience of Funspot, these are minor quibbles.  It was a wonderful trip!

Welcome to fun!

Welcome to fun!

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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