austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

He's only a boy named Charlie

Next big thing we'd wanted to do, and that I thought we had time for, was Nickelrama. We'd heard excited whispers about this. It's an arcade and game room, of a kind with Marvin's or Chuck-E-Cheeses or anything like that. Its gimmick is that all the coin slots take nickels. We had to see this gimmick. What we saw was a line.

The strategic mistake we'd made was that this was Saturday. During (high school) Spring Break. Roughly every person under the age of 14 was at Nickelrama, along with an appropriate fraction of supervising adults. They had a queue outside the front door, with a bouncer and all, making sure there weren't more people than the fire marshall allowed inside. After less time than we spent not getting Thai we were allowed in, to pay our cover charge and guess how much money we wanted changed to nickels.

They had pinball machines there. Not a few, either. There were something around twenty games present, mostly modern Stern games. They took more than a nickel each --- we didn't see anything in the arcade that was literally five cents, and almost everything was twenty cents --- but still, 20 cents to play any contemporary pinball machine? And by that I mean, like, since 1978? And this was for everything, including their newest game, Aerosmith. It'll be going for $1.00 a play most venues.

We enjoyed the slightly illicit feeling of putting in something not a quarter or a token to play. Also to gather intelligence about what if anything to do on the game, for the second round of the PinMasters pin-golf tournament. What we had worked out early on --- lock balls and go for Toybox Multiball --- seemed right. A month on, it looks like that's still the right way to play. bunny_hugger started getting the bad taste of the game out of her mouth as she got a Toybox Multiball going in good order when the game turned off.

Spontaneous resets happen to games. One had saved me when I was on the brink of losing Marvin's League finals back in February. But this was weird. The whole game turned off, no screen, no nothing, and it didn't restart. Nor did it react when we turned the game off and on again. I went to the counter where I waited behind a lot of people trying to redeem tickets, and feeling vaguely like I just don't know how to get anyone's attention. Finally I did and told the counter worker that the Aerosmith game had broken. She looked as if she had no idea what those syllables could mean together. I realize: the game is so new not all the staff knows they even have it. I try explaining again, framing it as ``the pinball machine on the end of the back row'' and she nods, promising to send someone to look at it, and that she totally believes me there's an Aerosmith pinball game, right, yeah, whatever.

While waiting for the repair guy the game restarted itself and seemed fine. We couldn't give any idea about what might have set it off. She'd had multiball going, which is often a strain on a pinball game's logic circuits, but she didn't have any explosively complicated sets of things going on as far as we could tell. He rang in a couple credits for us and asked us to report what we were doing if the problem happens again.

We had time for a couple games on that, and a couple on Batman 66, and even to look around the arcade at other attractions. We're not really video game people but we were amused by a four-player Pac-Man in which you can eat a power pellet and then chomp not just ghosts but other Pac-Men. Fun variation. bunny_hugger got me twice, and Inky once.

We heard of similar nickel arcades in Salt Lake City; maybe this is a new model for this sort of thing. It would have been great to spend more time there. We just didn't have it. Even with our abbreviated time there, though, we came out ahead: we played more than the admission charge's worth of games, and got some information about what the heck the rules for Aerosmith were, and I got to have a bizarre encounter with staff. What more could we hope for?

Trivia: By the end of 1925, the year after it began offering nationwide service offering regular preventative care, Otis Maintenance had 1,407 elevators under contract in North America. Source: Otis: Giving Rise To The Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen, Philip Ball.

PS: What Is The Most Probable Date For Easter? What Is The Least? The answers may surprise you!

Tags: dallas, pinball, world women's pinball championship
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