Arcade After Dark
Mike is busy reading the latest arcade magazine. He is looking at the new machines and wondering what new machines to get. He has done well at the arcade and has a surplus of money that is burning a hole in his pocket. As he looks through the pages at all the ads, he sees a machine that catches his eye. It is unlike any game he has ever seen. Instead of the usual pixels, the game uses animation. Not just any animation, but Hollywood quality animation. The game is called Demon Realm and looks incredible. He sees the blurb at the bottom that says "Coming in June. Reserve your today!" He grabs his phone and calls his distributor. "Is Frank there? Yeah, this is Mike at Main Street Arcade. Yeah, I'm fine. I just read the latest issue of Quarter Muncher and saw an ad for Demon Realm. When is it coming? Next month? Can I get an order for one? It's how much? Five grand is allot. A fifty cent game. Yeah, I will take one. Yeah, I can put a check in the mail today. Great, save one for me and I will send out the check now. Thanks!" He then gets off the phone and quickly writes a check for five grand. He hates to spend that much on one video game, but he feels it will be a huge hit. He has read in earlier issues about how they were experimenting with laser disc in video games and he was excited. Now they have a finished product and it looks great.
A week later, he receives a package in the mail. It is from his arcade distributor. On the envelope, it says "Display immediately." He tears open the box and finds inside a bunch of promotional material for the Demon Realm game. There is a folded up four foot standee of the hero of Demon Realm, Red Locks, with a giant sized gun in his hand, a smug smile on his face and a head full of bright red hair that is spiked. Also included are posters, postcards with info about the game and a sticker for the door that reads "All Hell Breaks Loose this Summer. Demon Realm." Mike smiles at the stuff and quickly displays it. With five grand invested in the game, he wants to make sure to generate some buzz.
Later that day, Danny walks in to find a four foot standee of Red Locks, Demon Hunter looking at him. "What the hell is that?" he says as he looks at the wild looking guy with the giant gun. Mike proudly comes over and hands him a postcard. "It is the new laser disc game I bought, Demon Realm." Danny looks at the postcard that boasts "Disney quality animation. Fast paced action and the Next Generation of Gaming." He hands the postcard back to Mike and says "Is this how you are spending the money you won from me?" Mike laughs as he says "Speaking of that, I need the money I won. This game cost me five grand." Danny chokes when he hears the amount. "Five grand? Are you insane? You can buy two new games for less than that." Mike smiles as he says "But this is the next generation of video game. And it's a fifty cent game." Hearing this makes Danny shake his head. "Kids are never gonna pay fifty cents for an arcade game." With that, Mike's hand goes out and he says "Wanna make it double or nothing?" Danny grabs his hand and shakes it as he says "I bet you don't make the money back on the game." This makes Mike laugh "Are you saying ever. I'll tell you what, lets make it fair. I say the game makes back the money in less than six months." Danny shakes his hand good and hard as he says "I will take your bet, double or nothing." They both look at each other with smug looks on their faces.
Later that night, the gang comes out of their machines and walks around the arcade. As Toyboy and Toygirl take a walk around the arcade, she notices the standee. "What's that?" she says as she stops in front of it. "It doesn't look friendly." Toyboy says as he looks at the size of the gun. "Should we be scared?" she says as she starts backing away from it. Neither one knows if it is real or not. As they slowly step back, they bump into Billy the Block who is also out for a stroll. "A new game is coming." he says as he looks at the large standee. "How do you know that?" Toyboy asks. Billy laughs as he remembers how oblivious Toyboy was to the promotional material they had for the Toygirl game. "Because this is what they call promotional material. This here is a standee." Billy says as he walks over and knocks on the cardboard figure. A muted knock can be heard from Billy. Soon Roadkill Bill and Jumpy the Clown come over and see the standee. "Is that your son?" Roadkill Bill asks Jumpy. Jumpy shakes his head no as he makes a face. "You have to admit, there is a resemblance." Jumpy just stuck his tongue out at him. Captain Moon Man looks at Red Locks with his familiar square jaw, smug look on his face and military outfit. He also sees the ridiculously big gun that is as big as Red Locks and laughs. "A real man doesn't need a gun that big." Cap says as he laughs at the standee. Roadkill Bill comes over and says "Feeling inadequate?" Cap turns to stare at Bill and says in an arrogant voice "Not standing next to you, little rat." Bill laughs at this weak insult and quickly follows with "Thought maybe your pea shooter was looking kinda puny next to a real gun." This irks Captain Moon Man who quickly responds "It's not the size of the gun, but who is wielding it." Once again, Bill is not bothered by the response and quickly comes back "That's what all the men who have small guns say." This really sends Cap over the edge as he is very proud of his gun. Sure it is typical space marine issue, but he keeps it in top shape. "And people who have no guns at all are the first to poke fun. If you ask me, you just have gun envy." Bill isn't used to this much banter. Cap has usually given up by now. He must really have touched a nerve. Common sense tells him to back off before it escalates, but Roadkill Bill has never been accused of having common sense. He fires one more salvo "The only thing of yours that I am jealous of is that you get to be in such an easy game. A two year old could learn to play your game." This is all that Cap can handle and he takes off after Bill. Bill runs off, laughing the entire time. He loves to get Cap to chase him as he knows the armored soldier can never catch the nimble squirrel.
As everyone else leaves the standee, Ace comes over and looks at it. He smiles as he looks at the detailed drawing and how great the character looks. He thinks back to the many posters and standees he has seen over the years. The picture always look so realistic or so detailed. Then the game comes out and looks nothing like the standee. He even remembers when he saw a poster for his game. He laughed so hard at the well drawn man with the fancy bi-plane. He always wondered where the aviator goggles and scarf in the poster went. He never had either one. Just a plain hat and an old trench coat. As he walks away from the standee, he laughs as he says "Cannot wait to see how different he looks."
A few weeks go by as the interest in Demon Realm grows. Each day the kids ask Mike if the new game came out. But the day for it to arrive is finally here. As the delivery truck pulls up to the store, the kids all stop playing their game and head out to see if Demon Realm is here. Word has spread about how detailed the graphics are and the kid's imaginations have gone wild. As the truck driver comes out, the kids surround him and start asking "Is Demon Realm here? Is Demon Realm here?" He laughs as he says "Yeah, we have one on the truck." The kids all starting cheering as they begin to argue about who gets to play first. There is fierce competition to be the first to play a new game. Mike has to go through this every time. And like always, he brings over a hat and lets the kids put their name on a piece of paper and drop it in the old ball cap. He then shakes up the names and draws the first name. "The winner of the first person to get to play Demon Realm is ..." He always takes a few seconds to announce it as he likes to build the suspense. When the kids start whining for him to continue, he finishes "...for the first time ever in Main Street Arcade history, the winner is Teddy." All the bigger kids turn around and look at little Teddy. The poor boy has never won first game. Heck, he's has never even won second game. They all consider him the unluckiest kid in the neighborhood. But today, he is the king of the arcade. Today, he gets the coveted job of being the first to play the most anticipated game in the arcade since Toygirl. A giant smile comes over his face as he says "What a great way to spend my only quarter." Suddenly a sad look comes over Mike's face. "Teddy, it's a fifty cent game." Teddy looks confused. Every arcade game has been a quarter. What makes this game different. And what bad luck. He finally gets to be the first gamer and he doesn't have enough money. All he says is "Oh." as he turns around and starts to walk out of the arcade. The other kids feel sorry for a second, but then they start yelling "Pick a new name!" As Teddy walks towards the door, a man overhears the conversation and walks over to Teddy and hands him a quarter. "Get the high score, slugger." he says as Teddy takes the quarter. A huge smile comes over his face as he says "Thanks mister!" He then runs over and says "I have two quarters! I have two quarters!" The other kids all start booing as they thought they had another chance at being the first.
Ten minutes later, the game is unloaded and taken out of the box. As the kids look at the huge game, they are amazed. What is really amazing is how cool it looks. The extra large screen is surrounded by cool graphics of Red Locks with his oversized gun and lots of awesome looking demons. One of his pictures has his catch phrase in a word balloon "Let's take the fight to evil!" The kids notice that there is only one button and a joystick. One of the kids says "One button? That's not next generation." The other kids laugh as they notice this as well. Another kids notices that there is only one joystick. "No two player? That sucks." But Teddy ignores it all as he clutches tightly to his two quarters. The rest of the kids are lined up behind him, five deep, to be the next to play. But he is at the head of the line for the first time and is so proud. As Mike plugs the game in, the monitor starts to flicker. Then sound pops out as the game starts loading. They hear the theme song start playing, which sounds like something from an adventure movie. After a few seconds of music, the title comes on the screen "Demon Realm" and the game talks "Demon Realm." Then a picture of Red Locks appears and he smiles and says "Let's take the fight to evil!" He looks just like a cartoon character. Teddy then walks up and puts in his two quarters. As he quickly reads the instructions, the other kids are cheering. He then hits the start button and begins the game. As the game starts, the kid's jaws drop to the floor. For the first time in their life, they see a video game that looks just like a cartoon. Teddy's eyes are huge as he moves Red Locks into the Demon Realm. He also finds out how tricky the game is as he dies quickly. Within three minutes, he has used up all three of his guys and only made it two screens. He was able to get past the demon gate and into the fortress. Then he was able to beat the demon guards and get into the next room where he lost his last guy to a trap that burned his guy to a crisp. As his game finishes, the next kid steps up and begins playing. Teddy is then barraged by questions from his friends "How was it Teddy? Did you like it? Is it hard?" Teddy just smiles and says "It's the best game I ever played." He then walks away with a huge smile on his face.
For the rest of the day, there is a crowd around Demon Realm. Everyone is either watching or waiting to play the game. Word has spread through the neighborhood about the game with the incredible graphics. While the game play is nothing special, no one seems to care. All they talk about is the amazing graphics. And for the first time, the rest of the games in the arcade look primitive, even Jungle Drums. While some people are playing the other games, most of the customers are around Demon Realm. At the end of the night, Mike finally gets the arcade closed up and opens up the machine to count the money. After he empties the machine, he starts counting the change. It takes him awhile but he finally comes up with the game taking in nearly $70.00,. He is amazed at how well it did. But being a fifty cent game and most games only lasting four minutes, it is not hard to believe. He laughs as he thinks about how he will not only get the money back, but also will win the bet with Danny.
Arcade After Dark © Tom Zjaba
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