The afternoon when I destroyed the Death Star in my X-wing fighter was a pretty big moment for me but, somehow, it went unnoticed. Maybe it was because the woman next to me needed her concentration for a takedown in Street Fighter 2, or perhaps it was Tron or Mortal Kombat or Asteroids. Maybe Donkey Kong, Missile Command or Pac-Man. I’m not sure – like I say, I’d just given the Empire a major kicking and there may have been fist pumping.
I was in Bend, a city in central Oregon that lies in the shadow of Mount Bachelor and the magnificent Cascade range, and is the jumping-off point for a huge range of outdoor activities. But I’d decided that, briefly, indoors was best. Opened last May, and owned by former Pixar employee Brett Pulliam, the Vector Volcano Classic Arcade is a joyous celebration of the 1970s and 80s, when gamers funnelled coins into favourite arcade games in a feverish bid to get their initials on the scores leaderboard.
There are 42 games in Vector Volcano’s arcade at any one time, but it refreshes the selection regularly by swapping in machines from its extensive collection. And, for those who have crazy “flipper” fingers, rather than joystick skills, the arcade also features a selection of pinball machines (including Flash Gordon and Terminator 2).
Perhaps the best bit is that coins (or tokens) are a thing of the past. Here, you pay $5 for an hour or $10 for a full day and play to your heart’s content, without needing to feed the slots. Obviously, the one- or two-player buttons do still need pressing – some traditions cannot be tinkered with.
This being Oregon, land of craft ale (central Oregon has 29 breweries, Bend itself has an eye- and mouth-watering 22), it’s possible to grab a beer or cider and sup while you play or ponder what game is next on the agenda. Most of Vector Volcano’s brews are bottled or in cans but there’s usually a couple of draft options, too; on my visit it was Boneyard’s RPM.
Naturally, this kind of retro fun has its appeal for people of a certain age but it wasn’t just thirty- and fortysomethings with faces frowning in concentration. Soon kids, who’d had the rules explained to them by parents, were lost in their own battles with Space Invaders, Rampart and Mario Bros. It was fun seeing players engrossed in their games rather than isolated with their home consoles … almost as much fun as blowing up the Death Star. Almost.
• Vector Volcano Classic Arcade, 111 NW Oregon Avenue, vectorvolcanoarcade.com