Coin-Op Vignettes

These are going to be specific memories of old coin-op games I played or hovered around as a kid. I wonder if I would have been so eager to play these games if I knew the deck was often stacked against you, and that some machines raised their difficulty if you were successful without dying, such that it was basically impossible to finish the damned things on one life. Still, you went to the arcade, even when consoles were around, because you knew you'd see a spectacle that you couldn't get anywhere else. Eventually consoles overran the arcades and I'm glad for it, since I believe it helped games grow up a bit, but there's something about just diving in and risking a bit of money to try to get a high score that still appeals to me.

List items

  • I never could figure out the mechanics for this; I guess it was too fiddly for my little brain. It wasn't until the Internets that I actually checked out a full play-through of the game and man, does it have a lot going on. It's probably one of the most charming designs for an arcade game, even if it tries hard to kill you by the third stage (when you can actually rescue Olive Oyl).

  • First game that scared me. I was in the Chuck E. Cheese, playing a game I thought to be similar to Time Pilots and therefore harmless, when the game started ROARING at me, and this horrifying demon face chased my poor little ship. I was so freaked I asked anyone else in the arcade if they wanted to finish my game, but there were no takers. I doubt they were scared, but I think this game taught me that it was OK to give up :)

  • I crushed many people in this game. That was my favorite mode of execution, if I couldn't shoot a light and have it drop on someone. I actually did manage to beat a level once and get into the getaway car.

  • We got pretty far in this game, but I'm not so sure we beat it. It ejected all your power ups when you died so other people could pick them up, but it was supposedly cooperative.

  • I've seen people blaze through this game by spamming the machinegun in a way I didn't even think was possible. Shows I probably should have been more diligent in experimenting, but there's something about having your quarter on the line that makes you play more conservatively.

  • First time I ever saw one of my teachers play an arcade game. Our physical education class had a bowling segment, so we went to the local alley. While waiting for everyone to finish up their games, he was killing people in Operation Wolf. The guy was a jerk, but I thought he was a bit cooler anyway just because he wasn't afraid to play arcade games.

  • Hard to beat this game for theme, but man was it brutal. I usually played the elf just because he could shoot and move quickly. His character seemed inspired by the elf in Hawk the Slayer for some reason.