Tag Archives: The Quarters

The Good Old Days


My obsession with retro video games started with mine and Liam’s trip to The Quarters a few weeks ago. That’s no entirely true. While not often one to fall victim to nostalgia, I have always been a fan of the video games of my youth. Let’s say that my most recent obsession with retro video games started with our trip to The Quarters. It was just such a fun walk down memory lane.

XBox 360 (Skyrim/Fallout)

My second step on the nostalgia tour took me to my XBox 360, where I planned (yet again) to play and attempt to finally beat Skyrim or Fallout 3 or both. I already wrote an article about my latest experiences in Skyrim, so I don’t have to repeat myself here. In addition, due to the drive tray issues on my XBox 360, I haven’t even loaded Fallout 3. Oh well, best laid plans and all of that.

That’s not entirely true. I did test both games to make sure that they loaded.

While Skyrim didn’t (spoiler alert if you haven’t read the other article) quite sate my appetite for recaptured youth, that’s not unexpected. I only ever played Morrowind from the Elder Scrolls series and that was well after I had become (at least in the eyes of the law) an adult. I never liked Morrowind much. I did like Skyrim very much, but it also came into my life during quite a difficult time, so maybe I just need to recalibrate the game in my brain space to a happier time.

Nintendo GameCube/Sega Dreamcast (Pokemon Colosseum)

Those of you who follow and read the page regularly know that the Nintendo GameCube was a big storyline through the holidays around here. The short, short story is that Liam wanted one for Christmas, we didn’t buy one because I was confident that we still own ours, and he ultimately felt jipped by Christmas. That led to our trip to The Quarters. It also caused a wild search around the house for our old GameCube.


Liam also found my old Dreamcast, which further supported my theory that the GameCube must be somewhere around the house. I have my PS1, PS2, DreamCast, and Game Boy Advance. I know that I sold my N64 to a local YMCA youth program, and we gave our Wii away to a gift exchange for needy families. That is all consoles (not including the more current ones) that I have owned at one time or another. All except for that dang GameCube.

I don’t know what happened to you little buddy, but know that you are missed.

As one of our ideas to sooth Liam’s broken heart over Christmas, I decided to load up the Dreamcast. I discovered that it has a loose drive door and that it won’t load games consistently. I did get House of the Dead to the loading screen. Other than that, it keeps kicking me back to the main menu. Oh well, best laid plans and all that.

Liam did finally collect enough money by selling some gift cards he got for Christmas to buy the system and the game that he wanted for it, Pokemon Colosseum. I’m glad that we could help him come up with the money to buy it. I’ve never seen him so happy about a game. I suspect that when he’s my age, Pokemon will be one of his go to games for warm and fuzzy feelings from his youth.

Nintendo 64 (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

I loaded this one on a whim a couple of weeks ago. It is probably my second favorite Legend of Zelda game that I’ve played behind A Link to the Past. Quinn got kicked out of the living room one night while Christine was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the older boys, so he took a seat next to me and watched me play. It has become an almost nightly date for me to sit down and play Zelda while Quinn watches and they watch Buffy or Stranger Things if it is just Christine and Aiden.

Most people hate the water temple level, but I’ve never had much of an issue with it. I am, however, currently stuck on the Jabu Jabu level.

Game Boy Advance (Pokemon Pinball)

I can’t fully explain my interest in these types of games. I do know that I played the heck out of Sonic Spinball on my Genesis when I was younger. I also grew up with a father who couldn’t really get into video games, but loved a good pinball machine. I remember going to the boardwalk and he would go up and down the line of pinball machines with his handful of quarters until he found one that he liked. Okay, maybe I can fully explain it.

The thing that I can’t explain is with all of the games that I have available to me on this system, why is this the first one that I play? I have a history with Pokemon all the way back to the first games and I played and enjoyed Pokemon Sun a couple of years ago. But, I’m not crazy about Pokemon like Liam. I don’t know. There’s just something about this game that calls to me. Maybe it just is the connection to my dad, pinball, and those memories.

Atari 2600 (Various, but mostly Frostbite right now)

And so, we return all the way back to my beginning with video games, the Atari 2600. This is the first console I ever owned, bought by my parents for Christmas one year? Maybe? I honestly don’t remember how we ended up with one in the house, but it was so cool to be able to “play the games from the arcade” in my living room. Sure, Pac-Man wasn’t even close to an accurate port, E.T. is routinely blamed for killing the console, but Mario Bros and Jungle Hunt both looked and played as close to their arcade brethren as the limited 2600 hardware allowed.

I know I ask this every time the subject comes up, but what was so bad about E.T.? I loved the game and it is one of the first games I beat.

Jungle Hunt, especially, holds a place close to my heart. I played the game in the arcade one time, plugging quarters into the machine until I finished all of the levels. I don’t remember how much money it took, but it must have been at least 5 and maybe even 10 dollars. Well, I split my head open being a dumb kid. My parents said that because I was so good when I got the stitches in my head, I could get a prize. I chose Jungle Hunt for the Atari 2600 so that I could play it at home and not have to keep dumping quarters into it.

Frostbite, Pitfall, and the other Activision titles are just very good games. I especially played Frostbite and Pitfall so much as a kid. One of my most vivid memories is playing Pitfall all the way to the end at my grandmother’s house. I don’t remember if she also bought a system or if I brought my system with me. I just remember playing it until the timer reached all zeroes.

Post Script

I’m not going to go full “back in my day” mode and argue that games were better then than they are now. That is simply not true. Graphics on modern systems are better. More memory and storage allows for better and deeper stories to be told by games. Sure the games were fun then, but they are fun now, too. The fun of games from my childhood are the fun of children. It’s the repetitive and familiar fun that will get old after a couple of weeks or months. But, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Just Like Old Times?


This year was a tough Christmas for Liam. He discovered the big reveal about the big man. When he talked with Christine, he said that he already knew a few years ago, but this year it became official when Christine said that he wasn’t going to get Santa presents anymore. I never grew up with Santa, so I can’t fully sympathize with what he’s going through, so Christine has just continued to deal with the fallout. In my defense, I did have a couple of ideas to help him. One, I offered to purchase the gift cards that he didn’t want to give him the cash for his desired “Santa” present, a Gamecube for Pokemon Colosseum. Also, I suggested that he and I go to the Quarters in Hadley (also, he wanted to buy some books at Barnes and Noble with one of his gift cards) just the two of us to get out of the house and have some guy time together.


We’ve been to the Quarters at least once before. I’m pretty sure we were there twice, but I definitely remember one other visit for my birthday a few years ago. Christine got a Groupon deal and we used it on one of their Super Cereal Saturdays. They sell it as a way to recapture the magic of cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not usually much of a nostalgia guy, but there are some aspects of my youth that I treasure and want to relive. This is one of the ones that got me big time.

After all, our generation (I know, generations are an idiotic way to define a group of diverse individuals, but bear with me on this one) are the absolute masters of nostalgia, both real and imagined. Generation X, if you believe in such a for some reason, constantly looks to the past to define their present and future. Heck, we were the ones who tried to relive Woodstock without ever actually having been there, except through the copies of the record in our parent’s collections. That might be one of the reasons that I generally push back on nostalgia. Well, that and the fact that things really weren’t better “back then” by and large.

Make America Great Again, amirite?

I’ve already discussed comic books as one of my nostalgia triggers. I’m also planning an end of the year extravaganza for the weekend. So, I suppose something about the end of the year and my looming 42 (the answer to life, the universe, and everything) birthday have me looking back. Like comic books, arcades and arcade games hold a special place in my past. Unlike comic books, which gave me a quiet escape in a fantasy setting from people, the arcade was a social experience for me.

My friend Kevin, who you may know from our lost episode 2 of the now far too long dormant podcast, and I used to spend almost all of our free time and money at the arcade. I say almost all because the remainder of it was spent at McDonalds or the movie theater. It started for the two of us with stupidly epic battles on the first Mortal Kombat machine where neither of us knew a damn thing other than the graphics were killer and so was the violence.

We graduated to MKII, then unfortunately, MK3. All the while, we dabbled with other games like Primal Rage, Virtua Fighter, and Street Fighter. When one or the other was on a winning streak against other competition, we moved on to single player games like Super Mario Bros and Tetris. As our sphere of influence grew because mutual friends became more interested in sports than nerdy pursuits, we got together a 4 man group to tackle Gauntlet, X-Men, The Simpsons, and TMNT.

Arcades were big enough to place honorable mention old schoolers in the corner to give us youngsters a history lesson.

When I went off to college, Kevin and I lived together in a tiny apartment above a store that my extended family owned. When Kevin had to return home, I found myself taking the bus out to the mall to hit up the arcade because I missed having him around. Even today, the love affair with video games continues. We sent each other Steam games for Christmas this year. I chose an old school style D&D dungeon crawler to remind him of the days that we wasted on his old PC playing those games after school.

So, the pull that I felt towards the Quarters every time we drove or rode by on our bikes was real. Almost every game in there has some memory or another attached to it. If it doesn’t, then I wanted to try the game and see if I could make it memorable. Once again, what got me back into the arcade was a promotion. They offer unlimited tokens on Tuesdays from 5 until closing for 5 dollars. It isn’t a bad deal either. As a barcade, they are open until 1 am. I didn’t think that either of us could make it that far, but we were both still ready to play at 9:00 when I finally decided to play Dad and start the drive home.

When this is one of the faces you see from your teenager and he speaks exclusively in YouTube videos and memes, you just have no idea.


It’s often difficult for parents to know if they are doing right by their kids. As I’ve discussed with Kevin on more than occasion, you don’t know if you’ve screwed them up until it is too late. But, I’m positive that this was the right decision. Liam seemed to have a great time, I had a great time, and he thanked me for taking him out. That almost never happens voluntarily anymore.

Things get busy (“And the cat’s in the cradle”) and, as our terrible podcast schedule (what podcast schedule?!) shows, we lost track of time. But, I really have to start making a conscious effort to do these things. I joke about Liam becoming a teenager, mostly because it is a defense mechanism against facing the reality that he isn’t a “kid” anymore. He’s growing into the adult that he will someday be. While I love watching it happen, I also find myself doing what I never thought I would.

I never thought I’d miss the days when…fill in the blank. But, when I look at Liam now, I don’t see that crazy little boy who changed my life 13 years ago. I see a young man who is still changing my life, but in vastly different ways. Every now and then, I have to take a breath, push that pause button, and revel in the silliness of youth. There will be a time, sooner than I I’d like to admit, that it won’t be there for a few years.