Arcade America

by David Lustig

The Best Little Arcade Club in California

If New York is known for its skyscrapers and Texas for its oil wells, then Mountain View, a small area in scenic Northern California, is certainly the arcade capital of the nation.

Because of its proximity to the so-called “Silicon Valley”, the Sunnyvale-Santa Clara-San Jose area where a large percentage of all videogame and computer-related products are manufactured, Mountain View perhaps has the hippest arcade-goers in the world. How, then, does an arcade such as the Central Park Family Fun Center, which is neither part of a chain nor jam-packed with every coin-op in existence, survive? (CPFFC has about 50 games. Though there is room for more, they prefer to keep their two-room, 3,000-square-foot location as wide open and relaxed as possible.)

“We keep only up-to-date machines,” explains manager Larry Kanzaki, “keep the place clean and insure a pleasant environment. We even have a place to sit and rest.”

Ah, but there’s more to it than that! CPFFC is actually an arcade club, and is operated on a membership basis. The entry fee is nominal—$1—and each member receives a card entitling him or her to a free game token on every visit. An extra special benefit of membership comes on an arcader’s birthday, when they receive ten free tokens!

Central Park has taken another step in this area that may be even more innovative: for every “A” or “B” a member gets on a report card in an academic subject, the arcade awards a pair of tokens. In addition, members are eligible to enter the weekly high-score contests.

The club’s youngest member, by the way, is four. Its oldest veteran is 70!

The most popular games are Tempest, Defender and Centipede, in that order. There is exactly one foosball table. Why not more? According to Kanzaki, “A few years ago, foosball was very big in this area, but not any more. It just died out. Pool tables seem to bring a negative aspect to the place and make it a hangout, so we don’t have them, either—and no jukeboxes.

The center’s biggest problems? People banging the machines and fervent arcaders reluctant to leave at closing time. Certainly not the type of difficulties Henry Kissinger need be called in on. In any case, Larry has found the ideal solution to the problem of compulsive gamers who just can’t quit: he pulls the plug at closing time.

The hottest new machines on the game horizon are, as far as Larry Kanzaki can see, Ms. Pac-Man and Hyperball.

What about more arcade clubs? The opportunities look excellent, especially when they’re run with the intelligence and sensitivity of the Central Park Family Fun Center.

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