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Arcade Fun at California Extreme

We fell into an electronic entertainment time-warp known as California Extreme this past weekend. Here's a glimpse of what we saw.

Where else are you gonna find a Gallagher arcade machine? 
Where else are you gonna find a Gallagher arcade machine? 
This past weekend Jeff, Dave, and myself took the drive down to the Hyatt Regency in sunny Santa Clara to check out California Extreme 2009. Put simply, California Extreme is an event where collectors of classic arcade games and pinball machines can put their goods on display for an audience of classic arcade appreciators. There's a $35 admission fee, but once you're in, you can play all the games you can handle for free, until you either collapse or they kick you out.

I've been aware of CAX's existence for a few years, but I don't think I was prepared for how giddily I'd respond to the actual event. We originally went with the intentions of shooting a bunch of material--interviews and such--though the second we walked through the double doors and laid our eyes on the literal hundreds of machines, it became immediately apparent that we could not resist the siren calls of all those games, demanding to be played. So, my apologies in advance for both the quantity and the quality of our CAX video coverage, particularly since I'm having a hard time articulating just how much fun it was having access to all those games.

It was, basically, the best arcade I had ever been to, stocked with obvious classics, obscure gems, prototype and bootleg machines, and a bunch of stuff I'd simply never heard of. Most of the arcade machines were from that late-70s/early-80s golden age of the American arcade, though the pinball tables on display went much further back. For the most part, there was an underlying logic to how the floor was laid out, whether it be by vintage, technology, or theme, making it easy for me to go from playing Punch-Out!!, to Super Punch-Out!!, to Arm Wrestling. You can see a long list of what was on display on the CAX website, though that list isn't 100% definitive, as there were a few no-shows, as well as a few surprises.

These guys were playing Warlords for money. No words for how awesome that is.
These guys were playing Warlords for money. No words for how awesome that is.
The show wasn't without some minor disappointments. Jeff was bummed that the Cloak & Dagger machine was in as poor condition as it was; I was bummed that the Beavis & Butthead prototype cabinet on display was actually set up to play Die Alien Scum!!; and I think we were both pretty thoroughly disappointed with the crummy gameplay in Marble Man: Marble Madness II. I now understand why that game never went into production.

For all the free-wheeling fun there is to be had, there's a dangerous edge to CAX, as some of the machines being shown are actually for sale. I came incredibly close to buying a Missile Command cocktail cabinet--going so far as to hitting an ATM, emptying my checking account, and making an offer--and Jeff was vocally playing with the idea of buying the Black Hole pinball machine on display. To paraphrase Dave's description of the event, we basically spent six hours walking around in circles in the dark, and it couldn't have been more of a blast. This is just a brief glimpse of what we saw, you can expect to hear more about it on this week's Bombcast. One thing's for certain, though; I'll definitely be back in 2010.

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