Chasing ghosts of the past
I’ve been self analyzing a lot lately, and much of it relates to the past. Reminiscing about the past has always been a bittersweet endeavor for me. On one hand, I smile and feel good about good times I’ve had, and on the other hand I feel down that those times are past and can never be relived. This came into much more focus recently, when I started scrutinizing the reasons for my arcade obsession, and I realized a fair amount of things. I’m sure much of this is common knowledge, and I did know this all to some extent before, but I’d never really focused on it until now.
I constantly romanticize the past. Even the bad times, I know look back at with nostalgic feelings, even though the times reflected upon were sometimes the worst of the worst. I get the whole “they made me who I am today” thing, but they just remind me of when times were supposedly simpler, a fallacy that I eventually realized. My life back then was not simpler to me back then, since my perspective was much different. Now, in retrospect, I see how much simpler they were compared to times now, but ONLY when compared. Let’s face it, being a kid can suck. Sure having the latest fashion or toy or whatever doesn’t mean shit to me now, and doesn’t affect my social relationships now, but it sure did back then. Little shit was SO important, which is something I think parents lose sight of sometimes. We write it off as if it’s of low importance due to our perspective as adults, not thinking to employ a bit of empathy and put ourselves in the shoes of a child. Anyways, I’m getting off topic. Stupid stream of consciousness. Turtles!
Soooo…yeah, my realization about the past in general was this: It isn’t that the past was so much better and the present sucks, it’s that I only think about random occasions in the past vs my recent memory of present. When thinking about good times had, I may think of perhaps a dozen days, not realizing that there were a few hundred days during that time span that were virtually uneventful. Sure, youth is exciting when people are finding themselves and experiencing new things, but there’s also a shitload of downtime and trial and error. That shit doesn’t get remembered. So I’m given this illusion of the past being a magical place full of excitement and wonder, which is driven by the fact that I’m presently not doing anything cool. Most of the time I’m at work, which blows. It’s not like past me was doing awesome shit day in and day out, and when it all boils down to it, I have just as much fun and good times now as I did back then. It’s all about perspective, I just feel like a stupid ass that it took me this long to figure that out.
Another thing I realized, which is more specific, has to do with my arcade obsession. As you probably know, I’ve been building a collection of old arcade games, putting together a small arcade in my basement. I now have 7 dedicated arcade games in various states of functionality, 2 multicades, and 3 pinball machines. I’m hoping that I’ll have everything completely functional by the end of the winter. That being said, I’ve been thinking about why I’m doing all this. Sure, I love arcade games, and having them is awesome, but I could’ve just settled for my multicade and left it at that.
So why do it? Well, I figured that out too, and the answer made me a little sad. See, I want to recapture my love of arcades from my youth. I loved going to arcades, playing games, hell even just walking around and watching other people play games. It represents some of the best and happiest memories of my childhood, even though I had no money and barely played them as a kid. I knew I wanted to recreate that experience, but didn’t realize the missing piece until yesterday. I was reading through some arcade forums, and came across a thread about what everyone’s preference is, to fully restore machines and make them perfect, or leave them as original as possible to preserve the machine’s history. In that thread, the answer was in a post that really rang true to me.
I like the stories that cabs tell with their scrapes, well-used fire buttons, old operator name/telephone tags. Sure, the specific stories are unknown, but there’s the same general outline – quarters lined up on the bezel or marquee, getting a laugh from your buddy as you fall just short of a two player high score contest, small crowds gathered around the new game in the arcade, etc.
If I actually had the skills and talent to restore, I would definitely have examples of minty fresh in the game room, but I would also have original 80s survivors of New Wave and Glam Metal, just like me.
My missing piece, it turns out, is people. The thing that made arcades so awesome was that it was filled with other people, playing games, talking about games, talking mad shit to each other, arguing over Chun-Li’s cheap ass block and throw strategy, etc… I can play games all night, and not get anywhere close to the same level of enjoyment I’d get from playing one game for 30 minutes with a friend. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some subconscious level, this was partially driven by a desire to be the center of attention, that people would want to hang out with me more if I provided something awesome they couldn’t really get elsewhere. I hope that wasn’t it, cuz if it was, it didn’t pan out. I’m older now, people have lives that don’t allow for an entire night to be blown driving to bumblefuck to play outdated video games they could download and play on their computer. This is also the main reason I sold the boards for my Mortal Kombat games. Sure, they’re a blast to play, but the real fun was always had when playing an opponent,with a group of people crowded around, quarters lined up on the bezel for those waiting in line for a shot at the current champ. The social aspect is what I miss most, and that’s not something I’ll ever be able to faithfully recreate in my basement. I’ll still enjoy what I have, and try to put up some killer scores to compete with other people in my arcade group, but in the end I’m still left with a small empty spot, and there are no more pieces left in the world that fit it.