Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Champlain College FunSpot Trip: A Picture Journal

What do you call a mass of 70 college students converging on the largest collection of classic arcade games in the world.  You call it awesome, because that's what is was. Teaching video game history is no easy task.  Unlike other forms of media, how you experience games, especially older games is unique.  While you certainly can play classic arcade games via emulation, nearly all of the context gets lost.  Providing that context to students who have no practical knowledge of that era has been next to impossible.

Thank god for FunSpot and the American Classic Arcade Museum.  With over 300 working games and pins (AKA Pinball) covering the early 1970s up through 1989, the ACAM let our students experience more in a few hours than days of lecture and discussion could accomplish.  Here are some highlights:

Computer Space (1971)
Galaga (1981)
Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley (1984) - Gangsta Style.
Rows and rows of old machines.
With 70 students, the place really felt as vibrant as the arcades of yesteryear.
4-Player Gauntlet (1985)
Rockin' the old Pinball Machines.  Those yellow cups are filled with tokens.
Stun Runner (1989)
Donkey Kong (1981) - Very obscure game :)
Xenophobe (1987) - Sark and Tron look on.

Later that day we met with Bob Lawton, the owner of FunSpot, and Gary Vincent, the president of the American Classic Arcade Museum. They were a fountain of knowledge about games and the state of the industry back in the 70s and 80s. After hearing about our Game Development Program, we were invited to the repair shop where we saw some of the machines they are trying to get up and running. In addition to the 300 working machines on the floor, Gary has around 100 in a warehouse in various states of disrepair. Locating parts and material is painstaking. Many items aren't manufactured anymore. Once a vintage vector display blows, it's gone for good.

Meeting Bob Lawton.
Space Fury (1981) - Being restored
Gary Vincent explains the hazards of old monitors.  Turns out they catch fire.
Missile Command (1981) - Rare sit-down version.
Gary shows us restored control panel artwork for the rare game Flower (1986) 

Parts and materials for old arcade games.
They even have old consoles and computers.
All tuckered out, we climbed back into our buses and made our way back to Burlington, Vermont.

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