This past weekend, I made a pilgrimage to one of my favorite destinations on Earth: Funspot, located near Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, USA. This place was a popular vacation spot for my family when I was younger, but it didn't hold quite the same appeal then that it does now. Indeed, Funspot got a lot of flack from 1988 to 1999 – but they knew that, in time, sticking to their guns would produce for them a unique attraction.
That attraction is a room filled with more than a hundred arcade games from the Seventies and Eighties. This is the arcade where Billy Mitchell achieved a perfect score in Pac-Man on July 3rd, 1999. He is one of many whose pictures are framed on the Wall of Fame, while nearby are hung original posters advertising new games such as Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. Along the perimeter of the main room are dozens of pinball machines, from Superman of 30 years ago to more recent devices such as The Addams Family and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The games cost what they did back then: a quarter, unadjusted for inflation. I went to Funspot with someone who had never been to an arcade before – in fact, before last month, she had never played any video game whatsoever. We split $10 in tokens and squeezed out more than two hours of entertainment. We then played air hockey and skeeball, exchanging our tickets from the latter for a Chinese finger trap and some Pixie sticks, before heading from the cold, dark hive of electronic activity out again into the glaring sun of midday to take on Funspot's go-kart track.
Throughout the weekend, I neither stepped foot onto Weirs Beach nor spent any moment of the fading hours of summer sunlight in the waters of New Hampshire's largest lake. I am home again now, thinking to myself of all that I've missed – not the natural wonders of New England, but the 20 years of arcades that have witnessed increased expense and decreased popularity. Fortunately, the fall of that empire can be, at least temporarily, reversed as decades past rise once again by this simple trek to Funspot – made possible by the determination and passion of people such as manager Gary Vincent, technician Randy Lawton, and donors like Curt Vendel, who detached themselves from their own precious gaming artifacts so that they could be made available to all generations at this living museum.