Monday, June 21, 2010


As we approached the large yellow building, I began to get some butterflies in my stomach. Was I really here? It had taken 10 hours on a bus, and then another two hours in a car, but I had finally made it. The place had an electricity as I passed through the doors where so many greats had walked. As I entered, I was hit by those old familiar smells and sounds. The place was pretty empty because it was the middle of the afternoon, but there was still the faint droning of the bells and whistles of happiness.

I walked upstairs to the third level and headed to the back corner. As I turned down the last aisle, I finally saw it sitting there, waiting for me exactly as I had dreamt about it. I pulled a chair down the deserted aisle and took a deep breath as I sat down. So far I had come over 500 miles to get here, but now I was about to travel 30 years back in time. I pulled out a quarter and slid it into the machine. It wasn’t a Victor Hugo-like time machine that I was sitting in front of, it was a mint condition Donkey Kong, and I had arrived at nerd Mecca.

Funspot, in Laconia, NH, is the largest arcade in the world. It also has the most rhetorical slogan of all time “Funspot……the spot for fun!” Their mascot is a crudely drawn dragon named Topsnuf. Get it? Funspot backwards. I’m glad I clarified that he is a drawing. I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that they had a real live dragon roaming around the place. Funspot is huge. There is a pizza joint appropriately called the Braggin’ Dragon. There is a bar, a bowling alley, indoor and outdoor mini-golf, skee ball, pinball, bumper cars, air hockey, and of course, hundreds of video games. The real jewel is the third level where the American Classic Arcade Museum houses every game from the glory days of arcades in the early 80’s. ACAM hosts tournaments, has a wall of fame for high scores, and is the arcade of record for serious gamers.

But you already knew that if you’ve seen The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, the outstanding documentary about one man’s quest to set the all time high score. Now here I was. Sitting in front of the same Donkey Kong in the same empty aisle just like Steve Wiebe did in the movie. Ahhh, nerd dreams do come true. Playing Kong at Funspot immediately transported me back to 7th grade and Schlotsky’s sub shop in Dinkytown, Minneapolis playing video games after school. We also used to go around the corner to Valli’s pizza to play Missile Command after chess team practice (yeah I know. You’re dealing with an uber-nerd here).

After I got my Kong fix, I moved on to the holy grail of arcade games: Pac-Man. To be playing the same machine that Billy Mitchell had gotten a perfect game on was truly like reaching out and touching the Kaaba. At one point, I was playing Pac-Man while Pac-Man Fever blared through the sound system. Time traveler kismet. After wandering through the rows and rows of electronic memories, I decided it was time for some pinball. But first, a little pre-game was needed. I headed to one of the immaculate bathrooms by the indoor mini-golf, and took a few one-hitters of White Widow. I exhaled the last little remnants of smoke after holding my breath all the way back to the Addams Family game. Oh, sweet, sweet Addams Family. Quite simply the single greatest pinball game ever created. Very rarely is one thing accepted as the absolute, undisputed best. Addams Family is the ’57 Chevy of pinball. A timeless classic. It is audio visual heroin. All other pinball games pale in comparison after you get your first taste of Addams Family. It is Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods all rolled into one. Simply the best.

High as fuck, I was in the zone. I had become one with the machine. I scored over 162 million and became a “Family Member” on the board with the third highest score. Putting my initials in that Addams Family was the crowning jewel on my gaming scepter. As Twin Galaxy video game referee Walter Day says, “putting up a live score in a sanctioned venue like Funspot is what it’s all about.” I can die happy now.

As we walked away from Funspot for the last time on Sunday, we looked back and there was a rainbow going directly down behind the building. A fucking rainbow. I couldn't make this shit up. I imagined a big pot of tokens at the end of that rainbow....

After the weekend was over, I realized that we had created a new kind of tourism. You’ve heard of narco-tourism in Amsterdam, or sex-tourism in Bankok, well we had created Kongo-tourism in Laconia. My friend, Skunk-Fu, re-watched The King of Kong when he got home and realized that we had even rented the exact cabin shown as “Brian Kuh’s cabin” in the movie! (You can see the cabin in the first minute of this video)

Come to Laconia! Touch the joystick touched by Billy Mitchell! Try and beat Mr. Awesome’s Missile Command score! Admire the Wall of Fame photos of all the gamers you love to hate! Try and set a world record on Mappy! Listen to Kajagoogoo as you go Bezerk! Stay in Brian Kuh’s Cabin!

Now that’s a pilgrimage I can really get behind.

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