It seems that each day we can add something new to the list of things that today's youth will have to do without. Without naming names or placing blames let’s just all acknowledge the fact that we are not allowing the children of today to enjoy the same world we grew up in. Innocence is lost. The list of things that will be banned, forgotten or extinct, things of both biological and man made origins is growing rapidly. One item in particular that I added to that list the other day will not make headlines. It won’t be the focal point of a government agency or any kind of focus group whatsoever. This addendum will not inspire protests, rallies or radio talk show phone calls. But in my mind, it’s just as criminal and shameful as everything else we are cheating them out of. How is it that we can do away with making anything in this world today that will be worth collecting tomorrow? Can you imagine a world where nothing being made will ever be collectable? Can you imagine anything that Walmart sells ever being collectable? Can you imagine anything with “Made In China” stamped on it ever being highly sought after? Nothing being made today has soul. Nothing. What cheap piece of junk being made today could possibly be coveted in 20-40 years as today's youth look for a token from their childhood or teen years? What cheap piece of junk being made today will even last that long?
The only reason I can find any comfort in this at all is in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they will adopt our treasures to fill the void. These classic coin-op machines do not discriminate. I have yet to see someone of any age look at one of these jewels from the past without a smile erupting on their face. These machines cast spells, spells that are not easily resisted. And it is in this little known fact along with the lack of anything being made today worth collecting that I place my hope for their survival. Turn on a Gottlieb Kings and Queens and tell me it doesn’t have a soul. Turn on a 1950’s jukebox and tell me it doesn’t have a soul. Observe a row of classic arcade games lighting up the dark and tell me there isn’t just a little something more to them than the base materials of plywood and wire would suggest.
The power these machines wield is almost scary. We collectors are well aware of what they can make us do, forget, and remember. They can make us travel great distances, forget to exercise sound judgment, and remember specific places and times that we might otherwise forget. I can look at one of these machines and in an instant be reminded of holding hands with my friends’ big sister as we roller skated on Friday night at the rink. Nothing beats being a 5th grader skating with a 7th grader during couples skate. I can look at one of these machines and flashback to my Dad looking over my shoulder and yelling “whoops” through his semi-crooked smile, a smile forged from the the lack of control over the left side of his face, not the lack of character within, as another ball drained right down the middle without me even getting to smack it once with a flipper. Sure made it hard to justify another quarter when that would happen. I look at these machines and wonder if there is any rhyme or reason as to why some survived and yet others were sentenced to early deaths by operators and lazy, greedy collectors. If they really do have souls then can these things possibly be inherently good or bad and are they being saved or punished accordingly? Maybe those machines that were parted out or slaughtered by those sledgehammer wielding operators and sent to the landfills were the same ones that enticed that money Mom gave you for milk and bread right out of your pocket as you entered 7-11. And what about the games that were fortunate enough to be spared death by sledgehammer and find their way out of those dark, dusty warehouses and into our game rooms? Are they the “good”ones?
Ok, I am starting to drift a little here so back to the point. No matter what you believe, we have a moral obligation to establish a connection between these coin-operated relics and as many youngsters as we can so that hopefully one day after we are gone they will have something to call their own. We have sold out and we have souled out and we owe them something for it. And when my own personal expiration date comes and if I should be lucky enough to enter the pearly gates, I hope there are some classic arcade games, A Seeburg Hi-Fidelity juke, and a Gottlieb Wedgehead or two there waiting for me. There must have been at least a couple machines that were wrongly executed, bypassed our game rooms and made it up there. “Pearly Gates Arcade”, I like the sound of that. You can call me a dreamer. I’m sure I’m not the only one.