ALERT - PLEASE READ THIS FIRST
As our fundraising efforts have largely failed, we're pulling the plug a little early. Please do not donate at this time. We're still working on trying to make this arcade happen, but clearly an IndieGoGo campaign is not the way to do it. Please read the last two Updates for more information. If you're still interested in helping make this happen, then please join our Facebook Group to keep abreast of our progress.
ALERT - PLEASE READ THE ABOVE FIRST
Once upon a time, video arcades littered the landscape. It was easy for people in urban areas to find a half-dozen arcades within their area, and even rural areas had a few machines. These days, though, arcades are becoming something of a dinosaur. Home consoles have been serving up a nearly-arcade-quality experience for over a decade, and as a result, the player base for arcade games dwindled. In an effort to retain their customer base, many arcades switched over either to specialty machines that required special control schemes that couldn't be easily replicated at home (gun games and rhythm games, in particular), or quarter-gobbling “ticket redemption” games. Some few arcades tried to stay true to their roots, and most of those have gone out of business. And many of the locations that still have machines are dirty, and their machines are in poor repair.
But there's one arcade experience that cannot be replicated on a console at home - pinball. While virtual pinball games like Pinball FX2 and Pinball Arcade do an astounding job of replicating the look and general physics of pinball games, by their very nature they cannot, and will not, ever replicate the tactile feel of playing pinball. Pinball fans know that the tactile sense is a very important part of playing pinball!
With that in mind, we want to bring the thrill of pinball back to our area. There are a few arcades in the Los Angeles area that have some pinball machines, and a few dozen bars, bowling alleys, and pizza joints that have one or two. But there’s only one in all of Los Angeles County that focuses on pinball, and that one is focused more heavily on the much older electro-mechanical machines, rather than the newer (and more popular) solid state games. To play the more recent games, you either have to search them out one by one across the region, go north to the Bay Area for an annual pinball convention, or much farther northeast to Las Vegas for the Pinball Hall of Fame (which I recommend to any pinball fan anyway).
I intend to create a pinball arcade in the South Bay, ideally not too far from LAX, and therefore easily accessible for visiting pinball fans. This fundraising drive would help get the machines needed to properly stock the arcade. We are dedicated to providing a top-notch gaming experience for everyone who walks through our doors.
The arcade will be set up as an "admission" format. There will be a flat fee for entry, and all of the machines will be set up for free play. We will also have a small snack bar, of course.
The general plan is to have two to four very new machines like Stern's X-Men and AC/DC; Four to six "top-tier" older machines in excellent condition, such as Twilight Zone, The Addams Family, Monster Bash, The Simpsons Pinball Party, and/or Star Trek: The Next Generation; and eight to twelve "lower-tier" pinball games, such as Road Show, The Machine: Bride of PinBot, Earthshaker (especially thematic for a SoCal arcade!), and The Getaway: High Speed II. Ideally, we want to have around twenty machines to start.
If we can manage it before we launch, we intend to have every machine set up with a headphone plug - in addition to the normal speaker music and sounds, players will have the option to plug in their own headphones in order to be able to hear the table that they're playing clearer, blocking out background noise from the other machines. That will enable them to focus on the call-outs and audio cues that the machine gives them.
If everything goes according to plan, we should be opening in Spring 2013. When we reach the initial goal of $100k, we will pay for six months' worth of lease on our space. Every 25k we go over that will add another six months to the lease, pre-paid - that means that if we hit, say, $150k, the arcade will be open for a bare minimum of a year and a half, guaranteed. We'll also have other guarantees and bonuses as we hit stretch goals, but we'll talk about that later.
Who are we?
Okay, so you want to know who "we" are. That's a fair question.
I am Jason DuVall. I've been playing pinball and video games for my entire life. One of my earliest memories is of standing on a bench, watching my father play a pinball machine, and being scolded for leaning against the machine to get a better view. I have a very colorful history, from being a Las Vegas Blackjack dealer to working for Interplay (a now-defunct computer gaming company). I love gaming in all of its many and varied styles, and I've been involved in gaming in one facet or another for over 20 years. I currently volunteer as head of the Video Gaming room for the Strategicon group of conventions - Orccon, Gamex, and Gateway. My favorite machine is Twilight Zone.
My partner is Polly Aylor. She refers to herself as an, "old-school girl gamer." Her first gaming experience was when her parents bought an Atari 2600... for themselves. She has been playing arcade games for over 30 years, and still doesn't understand people who think that there are no girls (or women!) in gaming. She is also a volunteer for the Strategicon group of conventions, with experience in the Role-Playing, Video Gaming, and Registration departments. Her favorite machine is Addams Family.
Always a creature of art, Jenn Kampmeyer honed her skills in everything from modeling clay to crayons, though colored pencils will always be her first love. Also a writer, she learned character creation from table-top gaming and through that hobby made friends with first Jason, and later Polly. Now she lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and is glad to be reunited in this terrific project. Who knows? If successful perhaps it will mean a return to the lands of her birth!
Once the funding is well under way, we will have positions open for a webmaster and a technician. Once the project is running smoothly, we may have a few positions open for arcade staff, as well.
Additional plans for the Arcade:
As part of the purpose of this is to expose more people to pinball, we will be involving local charities, such as The Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach. In particular, 50% of the first month’s gross proceeds will be donated to the BGCLB, and 10% of net profits for months after the first will be donated to similar local children’s charities. We will, of course, be encouraging these charities to bring their kids out to play some pinball, too!
I realize that not everyone who is interested in pinball can donate here. Some people live too far away for it to matter, and some just can’t afford it. But if you have any love for the hobby of pinball, get the word out, tell others about this project! It’s a steep hill we’re climbing, and we need all the help we can get. IndieGogo has some great tools for sharing, and you can make a difference.
If you want to contribute in some other way than straight cash - if you have a location that you think would be suitable for us, and are willing to reduce the lease rate, or if you have pinball machines that you would donate or reduce the price on - please contact us.
Also, we want to make it clear that we are committed to seeing this project through, even if it takes several attempts to hit our goal. No matter how successful this campaign is, all funds will be dedicated toward making this project a reality, and all donation rewards will be honored once we reach our goal.
All images used with permission or under Creative Commons licensing. Header image used with permission, Copyright Ars Technica 2009.