But… why Kickman?

KickmanIn a few days, provided that the daily downpours cease for a while (not that I’m complaining – aside from the fact that the lawn has risen, zombie-like, and begun to grow again, we really needed the rain here in northwest Arkansas), the highest bidder – well, only bidder – of my eBay auction to get rid of my Kick arcade game (generally better known as Kickman) will be here to retrieve his loot. I’m grateful to him; the proceeds go a long way toward my attempt to kick (ha!) this whole self-published-author gig into driving gear. It’s fair to say that me getting that off the ground is far more important than something the size of a fridge sitting around in my room, still needing a new cap kit, still being here.

But why did I get it in the first place? There’s a story there.

Far back in the mists of ancient time (or, as I like to call it, the early ’80s), I grew up in the arcade. A variety of arcades, really, as this was during that brief and wonderful window where just opening an arcade in a part of town that didn’t already have one, even in a town the size of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was a perfectly valid business model. I’ve already chronicled some of my favorites here. As to how I came to spend so much time in the arcade, probably more than most kids my age, it’s simple: particularly during the summer, my brother was stuck with babysitting duty – namely, he had to look after me, his nerdy brother who was ten years younger. His friends hung out at various arcades. He could throw a wad of quarters at me and I’d happily not bother him for a while while he hung out with his friends. Problem solved. I lived in the arcade then like I live on the internet now.

The best place in town to hang out was Games R Fun, which was where you were likely to find the newest games out. 1982 and 1983 were awesome there: Ms. Pac-Man, Tron, Journey, Change Lanes (a game that, sadly, still has yet to be reborn via MAME), Joust, Star Trek, Zaxxon, you name it. And Kickman too. Despite the decidedly un-masculine side art and bizarre premise, my brother and I both spent considerable amounts of time playing Kickman. A lot of what I know about how to play those games came from watching him.

In a perfect world, I’d really like to replicate the game room at Gaston’s White River Fishing Resort, circa 1982 (Fantasy, Eyes, Warp Warp), of which I have special memories, but Rock-Ola was in and out of the coin-op business in the blink of an eye. I’ve got marquees for two out of those three games, but the chances of finding original dedicated cabinets are slim – I’ve got a better chance of locating a warehouse of new-old-stock copies of Air Raid. So, flush with the foolish enthusiasm of being a new homeowner and thinking that I’d be joining the ranks of my friends who were also arcade collectors, I bought a Kick machine on eBay. Fairly cheaply. Not as cheaply as I’m selling it for, of course, but there’s a recession on now. I could at least have a reminder of some of those arcade memories. (I’ll write about the game room as Gaston’s, and why it’s such a flashpoint memory, at a later date.)

In the end, though, it’s best for the Kick cabinet to find a new home. I’ve got a house to remodel (in some places, tear apart and put back together), and once the crazy enthusiasm faded and I’d joined the elite circle of Folks Who Had An Old Arcade Game In Their Home, the realization set in: I hardly played the thing. And then its monitor went on the blink and there was always – always! – a higher priority than fixing it, in terms of either time or money. This was even before the little guy showed up. Once there was a little one in the house, it was pretty much official: the machine would not be fixed, and was in the way full-time.

As much as I love console gaming, I’d love to be one of these guys who has a whole extra structure full of arcade games, but I’m a whole extra structure and a bunch of arcade games short of living that particular dream. And, I suspect, a few tens of thousands of dollars short too.

I have great console memories, but the best of those have something in common with most of my arcade memories: rather than being memories of time spent alone, they’re memories of time spent with my family, back when they were all there. And that’s what this machine was all about.

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