Welcome to My Basement Arcade, my personal blog to chronicle my love of restoring/collecting classic arcade games. The blog will also touch on a few of my other passions including console gaming and vintage vinyl but the primary focus will be on my classic arcade game collection. I am a self proclaimed computer geek and video game junkie and have been as long as I can remember. I think to best explain these terrible vices in my life, we need to travel back in time…to about 1975.
I remember the day like it was yesterday, my sister and I woke up on Christmas morning and walked into the living room. Attached to the television was a brown box with two round knobs, a couple of switches and the strangest image I had ever seen on a television set. Turns out, it was a Sears Pong game, in full black & white glory. We played that game like there was no tomorrow.
My parents, unaware of the monster they were creating, continued to feed my addiction. In 1979, we received a slightly used Gottlieb Grand Slam pinball machine as a Christmas gift. It was a thing of beauty, with a back glass that would give anyone a severe case of vertigo. Between that, the Pong console and a bumper pool table, we had our own bona fide game room.
Around 1980, arcades were becoming the rage. Mom joined a bowling league and I would often tag along as the bowling alley had a killer game room. While mom bowled with her team, I’d spend 2 hours playing the latest arcade games like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Battlezone. I’d only occasionally bother her in an attempt to bum more quarters.
It was around this time that the Atari 2600 become a hot item and like all the other cool kids, I had to have one. If I had a dollar for every hour spent playing Space Invaders, Pitfall, Adventure, Ka-boom, Breakout and the terrible port of Pac-Man, I’d be retired and living on a tropical island.
In 1981, I picked up my first personal computer, a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. Sure, you could play games on it, but it also introduced me to another feature just as fun…programming. Every few months, I’d pick up a new issue of one of the latest computer magazines that had some programming code in the back. After a few hours of typing, you were supposed to have a functional program. Alas, like my typing on the blog, it never worked that way and you’d spend another two hours tracking down your typing errors. Once the code was finally functional, you’d be greeted with a snowman and 2 or 3 animated snowflakes. 256 byte computing at it’s best.
By this point in my life, I think a conspiracy was developing to actually get me out of the house. As luck would have it, a new arcade was built in a shopping complex not too far from my house. Every Friday and Saturday night, we’d be there, in line to play our favorite games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Track & Field, Front Line and Jungle King while the cool kids were break dancing out front. We brought quarters, they brought cardboard.
In 1982, I purchased another computer, one I am still kicking myself for selling. I was fearful that all of my arcade time would lead people to think I was actually social. I had saved for months and purchased a Commodore 64, complete with “official” monitor, 5 1/4″ floppy drive and printer. The hours logged playing One on One Basketball, Summer Games, Castle Wolfenstein, Lode Runner, Leadboard Golf, Zork and Star League Baseball would have probably been better spent working on homework.
Since 1975, a computer or console game has constantly been running in my house. Pong, Atari 2600, TI 99/4A, Commodore 64, NES, Sega Genesis, Playstation, Gameboy, Gamecube, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and more computers than I care to list. I’ll even admit to owning a Packard Bell once.
The computer fascination naturally led to an interest in the internet and website development. I’ve done a number of personal and commercial websites and for a number of years ran a pretty popular website called thedvdlist.com. I started it when DVD’s first came out as a comprehensive listing of all available and upcoming DVD releases. The database included screen aspect ratios, sound track formats, actor listings, etc. It started as a static based site and evolved into a fully searchable online database of DVD information. As more and more vendors came online the site wasn’t really necessary anymore and required far too much of my time. The site was referenced by a number of other online DVD sites and was even featured in an issue of Forbes magazine as one of the top DVD reference sites.
Soon after abandoning thedvdlist.com, I developed a personal website which was basically a collection of ramblings with no real purposed. In 2005, I had a chance to pick up a non-working arcade cabinet for free and was once again reminded of the simplicity and fun of the games from the golden era of arcades. My personal website became the spot to share my restoration attempts and progress with other people. The site soon became entirely arcade focused and shifted to jeffsarcade.net, before landing on mybasementarcade.com.
As for the classic arcade games, my kids don’t get it, your kids probably don’t get it, but for those of us that grew up in the era, these are some of the greatest games ever made. You might see me online playing GTA V or Mario Kart 8, but you’re more likely to find me in the basement pumping quarters into Donkey Kong or perfecting the comb method in Track & Field. If you played the game back in the day, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I hope you enjoy the blog. You might even get a blast from the past as I talk about my growing album collection (Pac-Man Fever, anyone?).