Video Arcade Footage, 1981

Very cool stuff via The Retroist via atarigames1/YouTube. Watch the kid put his quarter on the Defender machine (1:04), say something to the kid playing (i.e. “Are you any good?”), then take the quarter down again. Intimidation was a foundational ingredient of early arcade culture.

The game sights and sounds (especially Defender), the wall art close-ups, the braces, the Nikes, the bemused mom handing out quarters—it’s a complete, high quality time capsule. I found another video at the same channel that’s shorter but equally fascinating.

It’s a 7-11 in the same year, 1981. Those dudes are us.

13 Responses to “Video Arcade Footage, 1981”


  1. 1 mike6075 April 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Great post. I remember what a big deal it was when a local deli or store got a new video game. I grew up on Long Island and hung out at the TimeOut and Galaxy game rooms at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa,NY. I would love to have footage of those places. These videos really capture the essence of those places. I still rmember putting my quarters up on the top of the game to call “next”.

    Kids today are lucky in one respect. With smart phones, everything is being recorded. I would love to be able to look back on my early days and friends no longer with us. Not a lot of pics from that era.

  2. 2 2W2N April 4, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Wasn’t it such a heartbreak when you looked up at the game you wanted to play and saw that long row of quarters?

    If the pics exist, Mike, I’ll find them.

    • 3 leftylimbo April 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      LoL, yes! It typically happened with whatever new cabinet arrived in the arcade or bowling alley. Had to have patience.

      • 4 leftylimbo April 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm

        Speaking of quarter dibs, there was also the opposite end of the spectrum, i.e., when Dragon’s Lair came out (which I believe was the first 50-cent machine in our local bowling alley)…everyone was so intimated by the new technology (and hesitant to invest 50 cents for an uncertain and most likely swift game) that we all just stood around watching it loop the demo mode, which was exciting enough!

  3. 5 mike6075 April 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Very true. It would stink to walk up and find that row of quarters on the top of the machine that meant you weren’t playing that game for a while. I actually remember going to the local Key Food supermarket early some mornings for a chance to play the new Asteroids game.

    As kids we actually used to stand around outside the store and offer to carry groceries to the ladies cars. The store had the metal bollards in place to prevent cart theft, so you had to carry the groceries to the car. Most ladies actually accepted the offer and you would usually get a .25 to sometimes a $1 tip for it. Then it was straight back to the arcade machines in the store. Those were the days.

    • 6 2W2N April 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      I loved Asteroids Deluxe, Mike. There was always a crowd around that machine.

      That’s really interesting about the shopping carts. They just roamed free here in California. Those things were (and are) everywhere. Awesome that you got tips!

  4. 7 leftylimbo April 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Man, there’s a lot going on in that arcade footage. You’ll hear about halfway through the video (when the asian dood is playing Defender) a man say “watch his firing hand, Mickey!” Defender’s fire buttons were super-sensitive, and one could fire a solid barrage of needle-like death if he/she could “flutter” his or her fingertips just right on the button. But it took some time to master, and for younger or less-experienced players the technique was surely something to watch and learn if they wanted to put their 3-letter name on the charts. Look at the difference in the asian dood’s “gaming stance” (leaning back, and firing hand held steady over the button) and that of the small girl who is shown afterwards (standing upright, firing hand gingerly on top of button using just one finger to fire).

  5. 11 leftylimbo April 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    The other great thing about that arcade video is the pristine quality. I’m so used to seeing worn VHS footage complete with bad tracking and desaturated colors…this clip totally blows them all out of the water. I’d dare say that was broadcast quality. I wonder what kind of camera was used?

  6. 12 hobgoblin238 April 7, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    This has convinced me that whenever I become a millionaire I will do a game room with the graphics of that place!


  1. 1 The Best Arcade Footage Ever. « Lefty Limbo Trackback on April 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm

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