Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Care And Feeding Of Arcade Games

Six Flags Over Mid-America has two video arcades: "The Great Escape" and "Pac-M-Inn" (later, "Grant's Gallery" to better fit the Missouri theme of that section of the park). Games oversees their operations, but we're mostly there to change dollars into quarters for guests and give refunds for erratic machines.

For the first year of my Six Flags career, arcade personnel are dispatched from a small backroom on the Spanish backstreet, halfway across the park. The operation later moves to a backroom behind the games next to the Ninja coaster. But wherever you're dispatched from, you end up largely on your own to walk a beat through the beeping and buzzing of the games with a key to get into their coin box for refunds or give free plays.

One of the foremen sets some ground rules, posted in a small backroom at each arcade above the cash box where we keep dollar bills guests turn in for change.
  • Smile, walk around, enjoy your job.
  • Don't let people dance in front of the jukebox!
  • You will immediately call for more change when you get down to $50 worth of quarters.
  • Don't let people bring in food and drinks.
Many of the games are at least two to three years out of date. People haven't yet developed an affinity for retro gaming, so it's not unusual to see some consoles sit and gather dust. In my second year, Six Flags turns to an outside company to lease better games, but they bolt up the coin boxes. Instead of digging out quarters, I have to write up refund slips for guests, which is a pain for both of us.

Up at "The Great Escape," we bring in a slew of ticket-dispensing games similar to what you now see at Peter Piper Pizza or Dave and Buster's. The prizes require an obscenely high amount of tickets, as you would expect.

"We were going to get Virtual Reality," somebody tells me, "but the company wanted 70 percent of the revenue."

At least twice a summer, we would have Games parties at the Great Escape, where somebody would be able to get into the coin boxes and put the games on free play. This would be Babylon, if we didn't have so many games riffing on Mortal Kombat.

Whatever happened to Pac-Man and Donkey Kong?

No comments: