End of An Era

Personal Bits, Queer stuff, Toronto

RESPAWN! Look left, look right, GO!

Back when I was 12-15 yrs old, my Da use to take me with him on business trips to Toronto. I would love the 4 1/2 hour drive from Brockvegas to the big city and would eagerly sit on the edge of my seat as downtown came into view.

We’d either stay at my grandparents house or if it was a quick visit, a cheap hotel somewhere near the big malls. Breakfast at these hotels was always a C Plus orange soda (“Don’t tell your mother. At least it has Vitamin C in it”) and some greasy spoon fare. Then Da would hand me some money and drop me off downtown. He would then go off to his “business” meetings, which I now know were some sort of tryst-like affair that involved an intricate network of homosexual men communicating their desires by mail. Can you believe it? PRE-INTERNET! They actually wrote letters to each other! Meeting up took months! Chemical based, thick paper backed images were swapped! That must have taken so much effort to meet up…

I digress.

Getting back to me downtown: It’s a changed world, people. Back in ’79 – ’83, nobody would think twice about a 13 yr old walking around unescorted in the city. I use to stop by the shop where my sister worked in the Eaton Centre and have lunch with her. Or I would scope out the “dirty” books at The World’s Biggest Bookstore (family health issues isle – they had an open copy of Joy of Gay Sex).

But mostly I spent the money my Da gave me at Funland.

Funland was a massive arcade just north of Dundas on Yonge. It had the latest games in a big smokey room (when you could smoke inside) that went on forever. The front 1/3rd was filled with cutting edge technology machines: Frogger, Qix and the mind blowing Dragons Lair. I even remember a 3D “holographic” game where video was projected up onto nearly invisible blocks in a basin-like game, played in the round – true Logan’s Run stuff. The name escapes me.

I got pretty good at some games, but I can remember never, ever “finishing” a game, but I did watch lots of other guys complete a few story driven consoles. Despite not being good enough to go all out on any games, I was able to carefully drag out the $20 Da usually gave me over the course of a couple hours. It was heaven. Typical to my extremely boring life, I was never offered drugs, sex or crazy shit the entire time I spent there (the “family issues isle” is another story).

I see the Star mentions it’s finally closing it’s doors, blaming crime, the home gaming industry and crappy games.

I’m getting waaay too old. It closes on my birthday. I think I know what I want to do that night…

10 thoughts on “End of An Era

  1. Pingback: Dead Robot » Dead Robot

  2. Pingback: Dead Robot » Dead Robot

  3. Lew

    One of my best throwaway jobs was managing an Aladdin’s Castle for a year. Bally’s used to have them scattered in malls all over the US.

    Friday night at 9p when the mall lights went dark, the Master Key came out and I toggled everything to freeplay! It was during the golden age, too. Gauntlet, Defender, Track & Field, Tron, Tempest, D Kong… We even had a few pinballs left that were decent — not that crazy 8 flipper and quad ball crap — two or three flippers and a ball.

    That was a good time.

  4. Butchie

    Tempest arcade games are apparently more expensive than others because the knob mechanism was flawed and consistantly broke. That’s what I heard when I was looking to buy one.

  5. Jim M

    It’s currently disassembled because I just moved, and it probably won’t be re-assembled until I build my Jimcave in the basement, but it’s just a matter of plugging everything in. My son is being raised on the classics.

    When I was a kid I used to say “some day, when I’m grown up and rich, I’m going to have all these games in my house.” Well, I’m not rich and only partly grown up, but I did manage to realize that dream.

  6. Dead Robot

    Sean, if you find it, I wanna see it! And I wanted to see King of Kong too but forgot about it.

    Jim, you never cease to amaze me. That is one mighty schweet project. Is it still running?

    cb: I loved tempest too! I would get sore wrists (very telling). My dad gave me the newspaper article and we had a laugh about what was really going on back then. He totally rocks.

  7. cb

    As SOON as I saw that pic I was like… “Oooo Dragons Lair!!!!”

    I sucked at it.

    My game was Tempest— man did it get my adrenaline pumping!!! I used to play at “the Dark Star” arcade in my hometown in Iowa.

    OH- and I can’t believe you had a gay dad who would plan hookups with his kid in tow!!! AWESOME!

  8. Sean

    OMG, yes! King of Kong was on the Documentary Channel this weekend (or was it one of the movie networks…?) and it was awesome. Hilarious, sad and weird all at the same time.

  9. Jim M

    If you haven’t been in many years, prepare to be disappointed. My local arcade was called Fun & Games. Back in the 80s (the “golden era” that we were fortunate enough to experience) the place was huge and they had everything, including a 50 foot wall with nothing but Pac-Man & its various sequels. It was the shit and, of course, that’s where I first saw and played Dragon’s Lair.

    It still exists, though it’s not the same. I’ve taken my son there and I won’t take him again. It’s now a well-lit Chuck-e-Cheese type “family amusement center” where most of the games give you tickets that you then exchange for cheep, lead-filled Chinese-made toys. The few video games they do have are $2.00 a pop driving games or the same tired fighting games. My son isn’t interested in them, he just wants to gamble for toys. At least they have Skee-ball, or “Fun Ball”, which is the same thing without the brand name. I suppose it’s awesome for a six year old, and I’m just being a curmudgeonly dad, but it’s just not the Fun & Games I remember. It’s like finding out your childhood hero is now a holocaust denier.

    There’s a place in New Hampshire called Fun Spot (featured prominently in the documentary “The King of Kong”, which, if you haven’t seen it, you NEED TO) that apparently is still filled with the classics. One of these days I’d like to take a road trip up there.

    The solution, of course, is to build your own MAME cabinet. I have Dragon’s Lair (thanks to the magic of emulation and a bootlegged video that took me forever to find and download on the bittorrents) and many others in
    The Midlife Crisis Machine.

  10. Sean

    Man…Dragon’s Lair. They have that for sale in the US on Blu-Ray (along with Space-Ace, the pseudo-sequel from Don Bluth studios). I got J to look for it last time he was there, but he couldn’t find it. We’re heading to Buffalo when he returns and I’m gonna have to remind myself to look for it. Should be whizz-bang fun!

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