Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In the last of the arcades...

Shuma-Gorath is kicking Spider-Man’s ass all over the hellscape of his home dimension. I guess it makes sense, that a primordial nightmare evil that was ancient when the gods themselves were young might stomp all over an irradiated nerd from Queens; but this? Pathetic, like some geriatric lucha libre washout pulled on Spidey’s tights and bluffed his way through interdimensional security for a shot at the cosmic title. He doesn’t seem to have web-shooters, some kind of joint ailment is keeping him from ducking under Shuma’s tentacular blows, and the cheap throw that got him past Iron Man doesn’t seem to work on amorphous blobs. Looks like the dream dies here, El Arana.

Wow… good to see my capacity for conjuring bright-side narratives from broken toys is undiminished from the days when the jagged flange of metal jutting from my GI Joe’s wrist became an awesome cybernetic knife-hand. But, really, what else am I going to with a fucked-up joystick that won’t register a downward push? Scream and beat the shit out of the cabinet like the frustrated skid at the Bubble Bobble machine next to me? There’s more than enough negativity in the Calgary Greyhound terminal without me adding to (subtracting from?) it.

With all the petrodollars swirling around – every second overheard bus-station conversation is about wealth: "Hey, remember that bumper sticker? ‘Please Lord, let me have another oil boom and I won’t piss it away’?" – you’d think we could keep our goddamned arcade cabinets in working order. Where are our priorities? Are we that quick to abandon the fundamentals of our culture? How many Lethal Enforcers units with a frayed length of cable where one gun (usually the pink one) used to be can we walk past without acknowledging the problem?

The racing games seem to have it worst of all. Player One on Calgary’s Winding Heat sit-down might be OK, but something’s seriously gibbled in Player Two’s RGB situation. One of the channels has dropped out or something, leaving all the cars with these nauseous paintjobs and the road looking like a mud track, a Hershey highway. It’s motorsports in the Land of Dairy Queen: "There’s a nasty chicane just past the giant pineapple! Watch for falling chunks of fudge!" Meanwhile, back in Edmonton, a Cruisin’ USA upright offers a harrowing simulation of the optical experience of a night-vision soldier overdosed on Viagra. What is it about racers that makes their visuals go blooie? Is the action just too hot to handle?

Not all the games in these places are broken. Edmonton’s Revolution X machine, for example, appears to be in perfect working order for those who might enjoy an hour or two of machine-gunning the police-state thugs who’ve kidnapped Aerosmith while they wait for the midnight run to Peace River. And in Calgary, there’s a Wonder Boy in Monster Land cabinet (mislabeled in dot-matrix as Wonder Boy III) that’s functioning beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that this one dude happily continued away at it for the entire hour and a half I spent waiting for my connection, the bastard. God, to be near that wonderful game and unable to adventure within it! I pretended to play the nearby Demolition Man and The Shadow pinball tables (all the hits of ’94, here) for a while, just so I could listen to the Wonder Boy theme music, but I think the dude was on to me; even distracted by Wonder Boy’s epic quest, he must have realized that nobody could honestly play The Shadow more than once. And, besides, who am I to impose poorly-compressed Alec Baldwin samples on another guy’s time in Monster Land?

These places are the last of the arcades, final reverves of that particular atmosphere, and we’re letting them go to shit. Can we, like, start some kind of fund or preservation society, or something? All this money around, and we can’t be bothered to preserve a key part of our hoser heritage… it’s sad. Every Simpsons unit with the logo burned into the screen; every 1943 that glitches out so bad it can’t be played; every Operation Wolf with the aiming sensor so fucked it’s like you’re playing Parkinson’s Patrol is another knife in the belly of arcade culture.

No comments: