By tpm | June 16, 2016
The Galloping Ghost arcade in Brookfield, Illinois
Last Friday, a college buddy Jim and I made a pilgrimage to Brookfield to the Galloping Ghost Arcade. This is a little outside the sphere of what I usually write about, as this tech does not relate to mathematics or education, and it’s not even particularly new or “gadgety”, but I had such a great time that I’m going to indulge myself. I’m far from a hardcore gamer, but I’ve always been interested in games. Growing up as my parents allowed me (rarely) and as an adult as I’ve found time (somewhat more frequently, but only marginally), I’ve played the occasional home system or in arcades. However, I’ve always been interested in games.
In fact, as an adult, I’ve probably been just as interested in hearing the stories behind the games and the experiences other people had about the games I grew up with. So I’ve watched too many hours of YouTube programs like AVGN (James Rolfe), the Completely Unnecessary Podcast (Pat Contri and Ian Ferguson), Did You Know Gaming, and the criminally under-appreciated The Video Game Years. All this to say, while I’m far from a retro games expert, I can appreciate those that are. When I started hearing people from different parts of the country recommending Galloping Ghost Arcade as a place to visit, a place just a couple of hours from where I live, I wanted to check it out.
No single picture can capture the scope of the Galloping Ghost, which claims the title of the largest arcade in the world.
In every possible way, The Galloping Ghost lived up to and exceeded the hype. From the moment I walked into the arcade and paid my $15 cover charge, I knew I was in for a memorable evening. I glanced around around the arcade, already in awe, while it was explained to me that all games are set to free play. Though Galloping Ghost has a pretty solid snack and soft drink bar, that’s it as far as refreshments. The focus is definitely on gaming. As a result, the crowd was an interesting cross section of culture. While a couple of Gen-X’ers in their late 30’s were comfortably inside the norm, so too were there younger couples on dates, and families bringing kids out to play as well. You could tell there were some high caliber players on certain machines, but there were just as many like Jim and me who were button mashing more than we’d like to admit.
Casual gamers welcomed, but competitive gamers can compete for house or world records.
We decided we’d spend the first 15 minutes just walking around the place, quickly looking at everything it had. This turned out to be a ridiculous plan on a couple of counts. First, the place is so big and there are so many games (on the order of 500) that unless you just want to run past each one without really paying attention, 15 minutes won’t be nearly enough. Second, we found it impossible to walk through without stopping and playing a few rounds or sharing a story about our personal experiences with the games. So many times seeing one game would start a story, “I remember this, let me tell about about when I used to play it… I wonder if they also have this…,” and 5 minutes later we would see the other game we hadn’t thought of in years.
Row after row of cabinets, each neatly labeled with the high scores for both The Galloping Ghost and the world record.
And ultimately, that was the thing that was the best about my time at The Galloping Ghost. It brought back so many memories of different eras of my life. There were the games from the early 80’s, when my parents were dragging my along to various pizza places, skating rinks, and the like, and every place one of these places had a few games. My very first gaming experiences as a small child were with Track and Field and Pac-Man at a mom and pop pizza place in Peoria Heights, Illinois. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was allowed to venture out on my own to arcades like Aladdin’s Castle and Tilt at malls while my mom shopped, and I experienced cooperative games like games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters. Eventually, I remember the arcade at the student union in college, as home consoles were rapidly catching up to arcade machines, but I was still enjoying Wrestlemania and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Nostalgia abounds throughout the arcade.
The Galloping Ghost had all of these and so, so many more that I could reminisce about. I quickly found that some of the games I remembered fondly from my childhood held up extremely well while others weren’t quite the classics I remembered them as. I got to play several famous titles that I had only heard about before such as Tempest and Lunar Lander. I also found it quite amusing to realize that there was a copy of Ninja Baseball Bat Man on hand, and I made Jim watch the related AVGN episode on my phone before we jumped in for a few levels.
Like other rare games at The Galloping Ghost, Ninja Baseball Bat Man isn’t behind glass, but ready for players to enjoy.
If you’re in the Brookfield area, maybe to visit their famous zoo just a mile or so away, and you have even casual interest in video games, do yourself a favor and check out The Galloping Ghost Arcade. I spent about 6 hours there that flew by, and I felt like I had only scratched the surface of the place. It is truly an unusual and special place that is well worth the price of admission.