Anyone who was a kid in the 1980’s will remember video game arcades and the biggest chain of them was Aladdin’s Castle. One of my fondest memories of growing up is of the Aladdin’s Castle arcade at Lakehurst Mall.
The last time I was there is going on 30 years ago but I can remember this place so clearly in my memory it’s almost like it happened yesterday. The thing that I think is a real shame is that kids today won’t get the experience of playing stand-up coin-operated video games. Well, most kids. These places still do exist: Ground Kontrol in Portland, Oregon is one example currently still in business. Gameland was in Lake Geneva, WI and closed about 3 years ago. That place had been in business since the heyday in the 1980s.
But even with places to go it just isn’t the same thing. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much of an …experience … it was. At Aladdin’s Castle the place was jammed from front to back with games. There were two rooms and it was loud in there. Between the music playing on the PA system and the games themselves it was impossible to hold a conversation. It was always jammed full of people so you’d be shoving your way to get through. If the games were popular enough there would be multiple games so that people could get their turn playing. You waited your turn by putting your quarters up on the game’s marquee (the lit sign that was at the top of every game) and everyone knew which quarter was theirs.
Oh, and it was dark. Light was provided mostly by the monitors on the games and black lights. There were posters up on the walls and the place had nutty carpeting.
I really miss those days for many reasons but boy do I miss places like Aladdin’s Castle. As great as games are these days most of them are a very solitary experience. It just isn’t, and can’t be, the same thing and it makes me feel sad to think it won’t ever be back.