Invading Spaces

Invading SpacesBuy this book in StoreStory: Author (and contributor) Rob O’Hara discusses the basics of collecting arcade games, from acquiring them to repairing them, and along the way tells many a tale of his own adventures in arcade collecting, from acquiring the very same beloved arcade machine he played in his own youth to a few eBay seller horror stories.

Review: Rob O’Hara knows a couple of things about collecting arcade machines. I knew that before reading this book – there’s something about his back yard outbuilding full of working classic machines vs. my one broken-down machine uselessly taking up a refrigerator’s worth of space in my game room that says he’s definitely got the jump on me in this hobby. “Invading Spaces” is where he shares that obvious wealth of knowledge with coin-op newbies like myself.

Several years ago, I bought a book published by Schiffer that purported to be a guide to collecting arcade games. However, that book was written and published just prior to the early 2000s explosion of interest in 1970s/’80s video game paraphenalia, and as such it concentrated on collecting pinball machines from the mid-20th century, touching on video games almost as an afterthought. “Invading Spaces,” on the other hand, is aimed much more squarely at the generation that grew up gobbling dots with Pac-Man and shooting down Space Invaders – or at least members of any generation who are enamored of those classic quarter gobblers.

One of the most useful parts of the book deals with the acquisition of old games – in essence, it sends the reader a message, in gigantic neon letters, that there is life beyond eBay…and that the best deals often aren’t found there, plain and simple. Another chapter deals with a subject that some would-be coin-op collectors might not think about until they’re suddenly sitting on more or less foreign soil with a refrigerator-sized video game they’ve just handed over money for: getting the machine from here to there. The guide to transporting and moving games covers everything from best practices for loading a machine into a truck or trailer, to moving it into the house.

One issue that remains controversial in the video game collecting community is addressed throughout “Invading Spaces” – MAME cabinets. As much as anyone can with this hot-button subject, O’Hara deals with it as even-handedly as possible, pointing out that, for some people, a MAME cabinet is indeed the way to go. This topic crops up throughout the book, including a discussion of retrofitting an existing classic cabinet into a MAME machine (the mere suggestion of which has actually caused wars to break out on some video game collecting internet forums). This is a much more useful look at the subject than taking a strong editorial stance on one side or the other, allowing the reader to make their own informed choice – and yes, the reader is even informed that retrofitting an old Scramble machine may bring diehard arcade fans out with pitchforks and torches.

The section of the book covering repairs is an area that I – with my broken Kickman machine – have personally found most daunting. A lot of web sites, actual vintage arcade manuals and other sources are quick to tell you that touching the back of the monitor in just the wrong way CAN KILL YOU (the all-caps and boldface comes directly from the manual to my old arcade machine, published in 1981 by Midway). Rob O’Hara addresses this directly, too: is it possible? Yes – but if you take a few simple precautions, you have little to worry about…and even if you do get it wrong, you’ll probably just get knocked on your butt with a tingling headache and an arcade collector’s war story to tell. I still haven’t had the chance to reach into the back of my machine and install a cap kit on my monitor, but I’m a bit more relaxed about knowing that there are ways to do it that won’t mean “game over” in the literal sense.

Oh, and there are stories in this book too – there’s not only peppered throughout the informative text (which helpfully keeps what could’ve been a bone-dry read very casual), but there’s an entire section of arcade-related stories at the end of the book that just didn’t fit anywhere else – but were also too good to leave out. (Trust me on this, you’ll be chuckling about the Black Knight for a few days.)

Year: 2008
Author: Rob O’Hara
Pages: 172