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!!!
That’s so AWESOME! I’d love to be able to play on a vintage Asteroids or Tempest game. They just don’t make them like that anymore…
Woah! And they have Star Wars ’83! and Q-Bert! Joust! Defender! Oh, man… Star Castle. Sweet, sweet vintage arcade…
You said it, Darcy: Ground Kontrol is SWEEET! Not to mention the speed metal … I have to say that I had two high scores that evening on Pac-Man and Gyruss, it was a proud day for yours truly.
It’s good to know that your investment of quarters in the 80’s is still paying dividends now with the high scores! 🙂 I’m also digging the Track and Field game as well as the excellent spread of pinball machines. Now if they were playing a speed metal version of “Shout,” then we would have paradise.
The song “Shout,” with or without the 80s arcade games, has a little bit of paradise in every beat: “C,mon, I’m talking to you, so c’mon!”
Glad you had a good time. Those bands are actually called “Rabbits” and “Under Mountains.” They both totally slay, a couple of Portland’s best metal bands.
@Ground Kontrol Employee –
Thanks for the correction, you work in a place that is really quite special. Talk about an interactive time machine with a sick soundtrack!