When Restaurants Had Their Own Mini Video Arcades

I can remember a time when my restaurant preferences revolved around the presence of video arcade games and not what kind of food they served. I grew up in a small rural town in PA and it took a little bit of a drive to get the true video arcade experience. It was a 20-minute drive to get to the mall and a good 45 minutes to the nearest Showbiz Pizza Place. Being surrounded by upright video games was not a normal occurrence for me, but I luckily lived in a time when arcade games were so popular that several local restaurants had a couple machines.

My earliest video game memories involving begging my parents for quarters while we waited for our food. The larger town about 8 miles away had a sub shop with three games that were positioned back by the restrooms, two upright cabinet-style machines and one cocktail Pac-man table. It's the only table machine I remember playing on a regular basis even though I wasn't the best pellet chomper. The fact that you could set your plate of pizza and drink on top while you played was such a bonus (that is if the owner didn't mind.) One of the cabinet machines was 1942, the vertical-scrolling airplane game. I loved the action of the game and the ability to do the loops when situations got too intense. The other game I remember playing there was Rolling Thunder, the side-scrolling shooting adventure against hooded bad guys.

There was a local ice cream shop that had two arcade games that could cool you down on a hot day. 10-Yard Fight definitely felt like the grandfather of football games even at that time, so not many quarters ended up in its belly. The real treat was the side-scrolling action of Kung-Fu Master. I loved punching and kicking your way through all sizes of opponents, snakes, and dragons to get to the next floor. I remember being so excited when you climbed the stairs to the next floor and also extremely frustrated at how difficult it was to get to the 5th floor and rescue your girl from Mr. X. However, drowning your defeat in a milkshake was a nice consolation prize.

Another sub shop within biking distance had one of my all-time favorite arcade games, Spy Hunter. In fact, I was absorbed so much by knowing the game was there that I can't remember ever buying a sandwich or so much as a piece of candy from the shop, but did they ever take my money. The unique steering wheel controls, the oil slick, the machine guns, the Peter Gunn theme...Spy Hunter was truly a unique gaming experience.

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