The Lost Arcade: documentary about Manhattan's last arcade

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As a former Dance Dance Revolution player and overall music game enthusiast, CTF was well regarded as a legendary East Coast destination (Arcade Infinity was the West Coast equivalent - also closed).

Alas I was never able to make it to CTF before it closed. (I did at least make it to Tri County Fair which was interesting in its own right.)


I was an arcade rat at the local mall during the summer. I loved the four person beat-em-ups like Shadows Over Mystara, The Simpsons and the X-men. Those and Addams Family Pinball. It was amazing how social the games were, especially when trying to bum tokens by offering to fill out the group in a game.


I was lucky enough to work in the small video arcade (now defunct) in Lakeside shopping (just east of London) for a couple of years at the height of the dancegames craze. I’d gotten pretty good before I came home from university, then discovered this tiny little place had a Korean-import Pump It Up machine, a rarity in the UK and preferred by freestylers for it’s centre/corners pad layout giving you more freedom to move around during tracks.

My shift pattern usually included a lot of 12-hour shifts and three days off a week, which I’d spend in the centre of London, religiously attending Sega World (nee Funland), the enormous arcade that occupied the top… I dunno, 5 floors of the building with it’s entrance on the top floor fed by the longest, most theatrical escalator ever. I got to know the top dancegamers there and we’d sometimes go to the tiny Las Vegas arcade round the corner if we fancied a game of pool, or we’d get a couple of buses to City Hall on the river to Sega’s new arcade for a change. I’d take all the tips and routines and style I’d picked up there back home and draw huge crowds at the windows of my home arcade, just by playing a video game.

All gone now.

(Edit: typos)


Video arcades? You young punks don’t know arcades. Nantasket Beach had a REAL arcade – maybe 50 or a 100 pinball machines and rows of various mech arcade games. Video… harrumph


I remember this arcade from the 80s. It had a coin operated machine housing a (live) dancing chicken. And one that played tic tac toe.

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Daaaang. Went to the place on a school trip in . . . 1976? Dancing chicken, tic-tac-toe chicken. (I may be imagining things, but one of those machines dispensed a fortune cookie as a prize.) Teenage punk kid who wanted to know if we wanted to buy a switchblade.

There was a Chinatown museum I would have loved to have checked out, but it was closed that day.

There was an great arcade in Penn Station that my cousin and I went to. It got sadder and seedier and eventually disappeared.

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While I was pretty good at dance games by virtue of being able to pass hard levels with high scores, freestyle was never my thing. That said the PIU layout and step charts made it so even someone with two left feet like me could do spins and shit that would make onlookers ooh and ash (even though it was simply the most efficient way to do certain patterns).

Killed by capitalism - real social interaction destroyed, to eventually be replaced by phony electronic social interaction.

I went to Chinatown Fair on a few occasions but only got the nerve to play one particular day. I don’t consider myself a great player but I’m not terrible. I barely beat some dude at Street Fighter III Third Strike and promptly got whooped by the next dude. It’s like I didn’t even have a chance. That place definitely sticks out in my mind, and I hope to go to Next Level one day, though it looks like it wouldn’t feel the same.

EZ2Dancer was probably my favourite of the dance games. The pad layout was simple and the hand action could be fun with a little imagination. Went to a couple of competitive freestyle events at Funland and the bar just kept getting raised in terms of how much freedom someone could squeeze out of a track without failing it.

Went on visits to other arcades with the Funland regulars in other towns, usually on the coast somewhere. I got fairly well known after I developed a three-track expert/mirror/double/stealth semi-freestyle routine for DDR Euromix (Holiday, Word Up and Stomp To My Beat, IIRC) and pulled off 100% perfect combo run through that nightmarish hard 4-track set with Afronova and End of the Century in it.

I didn’t just play dance games, I played everything. I was especially good at light gun games, often dual-wielding (even in Point Blank) and refining my knowledge of a game until I could complete it in a single credit. Never quite managed that for Final Fight, my record was 2 credits, but remember that Die Hard Arcade brawler? Got through that in a single life-bar one time. Owned* a lot of machines, including a Guitar Freaks, several House of the Dead machines, a bunch of retro cabinets (198k on Galaga was a good day) and a Derby Owners Club - much to the annoyance of some guys who traveled down specifically to set new course records on that with their uber-trained horses, just to find out I was 2-5 seconds a race faster than even their personal bests… front-runners FTW!

One day I’ll have to explain what a coin-operated video game was to someone before they could even begin to understand the war stories that have come out of places like that.

(Owned = occupied every spot on all available high score tables on a single machine)

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I never played EZ2Dancer. It just wasn’t available in any of the arcades that I ever went to. I played DDR, In the Groove, and Pump it Up heavily. I was never athletic and I was about 10 years older than most of the other players but I was pretty good. I could get full combos on all but the highest difficulty songs on singles, and I was pretty decent at doubles.

I also played most of the other Bemani games like Keyboardmania, Guitar Freaks, Drummania, beatmania IIDX, and Pop n Music. Even an occasional round or two of Para Para Paradise. I was never top tier at any of these but I was still pretty good compared to most. I was lucky to have a few good arcades nearby with a good selection. Alas they are all gone. I haven’t been able to partake in years. Then again these days I’d probably feel like some creepy fat old geezer playing DDR.

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