In the five previous installments of the Diary of an Arcade Employee I have revealed the beginnings of the Arkadia Retrocade, from the announcement by Shea Mathis of his intention to bring an arcade back to Northwest Arkansas for the first time in 15 years to the obstacles of getting things up to Code so the doors could be opened to the public. With the last installment I left off with it being the day before the grand opening. Many obstacles were overcome by Shea to bring the Arkadia Retrocade to life, lots of sacrifices to his original vision of what the arcade would look like and thousands of hours of hard work and planning brought to fruition thanks to his dedication and the help of family and friends.
The first four chapters may be found by following the links below:
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 1 – The Announcement
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 2 – The Work Begins
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 3 – The Construction Continues
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 4 – All Hands On Deck
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 5 – Crunch Time
On November 10th, 2012 the doors to the arcade were finally opened to the Players of Northwest Arkansas…and they came in droves to experience the thrill of once again being surrounded by other players while attempting the High Score on Donkey Kong and Galaga and so many others. Of course for some this was the first time to experience that electronic magic that can thankfully still ensorcell Players of all ages today.
Now as I said in the last diary entry, I had to work the day of the opening so I couldn’t fully attend and bask in the joy of seeing the Players appreciate the hard work that was put in to bring it to life. But I did make sure to stop by for about five minutes to just snap a few photos before heading to work. Just those few minutes made me feel not only proud for what little I did to help but relieved that Shea’s vision was already being embraced by the community. It was a stellar first day when it was all said and done with a Player count of just a little below 300.
This diary entry is going to be a little different as I plan on showing you how some of the things that have changed from the opening of Arkadia last year, as well as share some of the aspects of the arcade I’m most fond of. In the last diary entry I mentioned that we have a vintage TV and Atari 2600 setup with a wonderful old sofa that would fit right in with the decor of any basement from the late 70s!
The collection has grown quite a bit over the last year in no small part to the generosity of the community as well as Flack and the Retroist himself, I believe at last count we offer 110 Atari cartridges for the Players to enjoy.
When the Arkadia Retrocade first opened its doors this was the basic layout for the machines. Shea had the arcade wired up so there would be a ‘Showcase’ row of games for the Players to see when they passed by the windows. In the beginning as you can see in the photo we had Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Mario Bros., Galaga, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man.
This photo was taken from outside through the window but you can see we had Sinistar, Gorf, and Phoenix in the corner.
On the opposite side of where we had Donkey Kong, etc. was Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Mr. Do!, Milipede, and Burgertime. In this photo you can see Tempest in the background as well as Time Pilot and Pengo.
The machines continued along the wall until it reached the Snack Bar, with games like Tiger-Heli, Operation Thunderbolt, Jungle King, and Battletoads to name a few.
The opposite row from the wall included titles like Shooting Master, Street Fighter II, Double Dragon, Willow, and Astynax.
Then of course we had our cocktail games on the deck. At the beginning we had Crazy Kong, Pong (A four player model), Popeye, Centipede, and Frogger.
A view from the office would have showed you this. You can see Shea Mathis with his back to the camera as well as his right hand man, the esteemed Andy Pickle leaning against Final Blow, and one of our regulars to the arcade, John M. who is probably looking to see if he still had the high score on most of the machines.
This is how the main floor of the Arkadia Retrocade looks today.
One of the first things Players requested at Arkadia was a Foosball table as well as an air hockey table. Shea was too happy to oblige them. In fact we’ve gone through two Foosball tables and three Air Hockey tables since the doors have been opened.
Does the ‘brick wall’ behind the air hockey table look familiar to you? That would be because Shea had selected that section of the building to showcase a machine he had hoped to obtain before the doors opened, but a month late is all well and good when the Arkadia Retrocade could offer this…
…as well as this.
I’m going to end this diary entry here for now, this is not the end of the series though, I hope I’ve given you a glimpse behind the scenes of what it took to bring such a wonderful place to life through these first 6 entries. With the next entry I will begin to share what it is like to be an employee in a fully functioning arcade!
Thank you all so very much for reading these diaries and I hope you will hop on over to the Arkadia Retrocade Facebook Page today and give Shea and the arcade a mighty congrats on its first year anniversary.
I will leave you with what is my favorite photo…this was taken just a few days after Shea’s announcement and you can see myself flanked by Shea on my right and Shannon on my left. It was the beginning of a time where the arcade held so many promises…and thankfully delivered on them.
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