I have been in Portland, Oregon for three full days now, and I have to say the city is pretty happening, if not a little hip for an aging hipster like myself. My own struggle with identity aside, hip has its definite benefits, one of which I discovered last night with my friends Zach and Gabe. Ground Kontrol is an old school arcade that features coin-op giants from the golden age of video games (click here for a list of their games). This masterpiece of 1980s simulacra was a perfectly fashioned nostalgia machine.
The actual video games themselves were remarkable, however being an old school gamer I discovered emulators like MAME back in the mid-90s and have never stopped playing Pac-Man, Joust, Punch-Out!!, or Gyruss since. However, Ground Kontrol affected me on an entirely different level, the physical games stood next to one another in space and were arranged so that you were playing Pac-Man next to two other people playing doubles at Joust. You were in the game while at the same time within the arcade with others. I guess that is what made this place so amazing for me. The idea of being in a dark, wonder-filled arcade transplanted from the early 1980s playing games that not only stand the test of time, but more personally gave me a rush I had forgotten a long time ago. I mean, c’mon, playing Punch-Out!! in such an arena has me currently thinking intensely about how to out maneuver “Kid Quick” from Brooklyn to get to the penultimate battle against “Pizza Pasta” from Italy, not to mention the indomitable “Mr. Sandman” from Philadelphia. A concern that by no means seems as pressing when I am loading this game on my laptop in a florescent-filled office surrounded by people who are actually responsible.
The capper of the evening at Ground Kontrol -and the thing that will have me coming back to it in my mind again and again- might very well be the fact that while I was depositing quarters in six foot tall machine every three minutes, live break-neck speed metal (the bands were
“Rabbit” “Rabbits” and “Under the Mountain” “Under Mountains” -and they rocked!) provided the ear-pounding soundtrack for my trip through the darker, mustier arcades of another moment. Exhilarating!
Wow, what a wild trip through the Reagan 80s surrounded by some of the most powerful artifacts of my adolescence. Objects can speak!!!