If you’re anything like us, you crave a return to physical gaming experiences like expositions and arcades. The best of this week is a new 30-minute mini-documentary (embedded below) on the history of Galloping Ghost, a Chicago mega-arcade whose massive collection, full of rarities, got the Ars Technica spotlight years ago.
The story is mainly told by arcade co-founder Doc Mack, who sits in his arcade headquarters and recalls how the idea for an arcade started in part when he was a humble clerk at a Babbage’s in the 90s. Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon walked into his shop to buy video games, and Mack had the audacity to ask how he got into the game industry. A brief interaction ensued, and Mack read between the lines, “Wow, Ed Boon didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.” Mack took the meeting as motivation to realize that he would have to change completely to pursue his dream in the game industry and start his own company.
The documentary skips Mack’s exact path from Babbage’s to his own arcade, just hinting at “business ideas” he had along the way, before jumping ahead to a friend prompting him to co-founder and open an arcade in 2010. While trying to score classic arcade machines in the run-up, he was stunned to find that of the 80 locations he visited, none had a work cabinet for Mortal Kombat 2 (one of his well-known favorites) for sale. “That motivated me,” he says.
Following this and the story of a “barn find” of 114 dormant arcade machines in Iowa for a total of $5,000, the documentary settles into a groove of footage of customers diving into the games and offering their personal anecdotes, along with a breakdown of Doc’s decision to forgo typical things like “redeem tickets” games or quarters. (Galloping Ghost charges a flat fee to enter, after which all games can be played for free, no quarters required.) This footage appears to have been taken long before pandemic-related measures changed average attendance at arcades (a problem that has already wreaked havoc to arcades around the world), and this document avoids commenting on current events. It’s just about the games.
In the case of Galloping Ghost, that includes a number of rare and prototype games, including a few unreleased Atari games donated to Mack by arcade legend Brian “Rampage” Colin and a restored prototype of the unreleased Primal Rage 2† (When asked how the arcade rarities have affected things, Mack bluntly says, “A couple hitchhiked here from Oregon to play. Primal Rage 2.”) The rare games are briefly shown as examples of the arcade’s massive 750+ selection of cabinets — and the doc doesn’t even go into Galloping Ghost Pinball, the company’s sister site down the street dedicated to flipping of pins.
Check out the enclosed document below for more historical gold nuggets and funny anecdotes. And while the documentary doesn’t mention it, Galloping Ghost is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to expand its primary facility to offer more than 1,000 arcade machines.
List image by Nate Anderson