Last weekend, my best friend and I made a trip up to Disneyland. This isn’t unusual for us, as we only live a couple of hours away. “But Hawk,” I can hear you saying. “This is a nerd blog. Why are you telling us about your vacation when you should be playing Half-Life 2 and/or Portal?”
Because, my friends. Because I have found It. I have discovered my own personal Shambhala–a nerd Mecca unlike anything I had thought possible in this day and age. Now, I know my reader/viewership tends to skew a little young (younger than I am, anyway) because I LP relatively modern games, so not all of you may appreciate this as much as I did. You might find it interesting nonetheless, though–this is, in many ways, the story of where my love of video games came from.
I grew up in the 80s and early 90s. Although I just missed what most consider to be the golden age of the video arcade, the arcade culture was still very much alive and well when I was a kid. This is where I discovered video games–in various mall arcades, and also at the (at the time) very large arcades present in Chuck E. Cheeses. At first it was with games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Dig Dug, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers…all those. As technology progressed, the games got much cooler–that’s where I discovered things like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, the classic Simpsons and X-Men arcade games…even lame gimmick shooters like Area 51 would eat quite a few dollars worth of quarters over the course of a day at the arcade.
Of course, nowadays I don’t have time to go to arcades even if there were good ones still around. The few arcade-esque places in existence carry modern games–Guitar Hero cabinets, DDR, all those. And that’s not a bad thing, that’s just evolution–but it’s not the arcade I grew up with, and not one I’m interested in spending time in. Especially not when most of the games are upwards of a buck a play! (Seriously, one song on a GH cabinet costs a whole dollar–and you don’t even get to keep playing if you win! What kind of an arcade game is that?!)
Well friends and neighbors, after almost 15 years of searching for something I didn’t even know I really missed, I have found it. At the Disney’s California Adventure theme park (Disneyland’s younger and lesser-themed brother.) There, Disney has created something remarkable. It’s called ElecTRONica, and it happens every weekend. Now, this event would be pretty damn fun it its own right; it takes place on weekend nights and involves a really cool TRON-themed street party with techno music, live DJ and dancers, and even–and this is truly amazing for a Disney park–a bar. An overpriced bar sure, but it’s a theme park, what do you expect? The drink selection is not large at all, but it is fun, and they call come either in a glowing glass or with a cool glowing “ice cube” inside them. There are places to stand, places to sit, places to dance. To give you an idea of how good this was, I HATE going to clubs, I refuse to ever go to a rave…and yet I had the time of my life here.
What does that have to do with arcades and going back to the 80s, you might ask? I’m glad you brought that up, reader. In addition to the really cool street party, DCA has seen fit to include one more small piece of TRON-themed goodness at this weekly event:
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Flynn’s Arcade. I had noticed the sign during the day, when the place was all closed up, and had assumed it was just a cool bit of decoration or set dressing. NOT. SO. During ElecTRONica, the doors open and…
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, because we were too busy playing and listing to all the old 80s music being pumped in over the sound system to take any more pictures. It was like being seven again (in a world where you’re allowed to enjoy a beer at seven.) Every single game I remember from childhood was there–they even had an old school air hockey table!–and all of them–every single one–was only one token.
Yeah, token! They even had a token machine. Looked just like the ones I remember.
Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble, but I had to share it with you. If you’re in the neighborhood and get a chance, check it out–it’s well worth spending an hour or two. Because the games are only a quarter each, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and it’s just so much fun. Whether the place is a new experience or brings back memories like it did for me, if you’re in SoCal and going to the parks, put this near the top of your list of things to experience.