Arcade History

I've been collecting arcade games ever since I graduated college and moved into my first apartment. Born from a long-held childhood dream to own a DDR cabinet that I realized in 2011, I started collecting when I got my Neo Geo cabinet and never looked back. I'm now at over 40 cabinets and while I've slowed down due to space, I don't think I'm done yet. My collection focuses on Konami's BEMANI series of rhythm games but at this point I have many more non-BEMANI classics and modern games, mostly from America.

My general arcade collection is well intertwined with my BEMANI collection, so if you are interested in the full story you'll want to read my BEMANI History page as well.

2010

Neo Geo and Centipede cabinetsNeo Geo cabinet

After I graduated from college I started thinking about owning an arcade game or two. I'd gotten some inspiration from a party that I attended in SoCal called SC3. SC3 is a backyard party that is still held a few times a year focused on game collectors of all types. Back then, I'd been invited by a friend of mine who worked at Game Dude in Van Nuys and attended for a few years purely as a videogame enthusiast.

I did a fair bit of research and realized that arcade games didn't actually cost all that much if you were careful and looked around. My first cab was a Neo Geo and I timed the purchase with a move into my first apartment out of my dad's apartment. I lived in San Diego at the time and I bought it from a guy who had owned it since he was a kid. It was home use only so it was in pretty decent condition. I spent quite a few nights after work playing through Metal Slug and Puzzle Bobble, absolutely in disbelief that I had an actual arcade game in my house. A few months after the Neo Geo came home I started looking around for a Centipede cabinet. I'd grown up playing a clone of Centipede on a Tandy 1000 computer, taking turns with my mother when one of us died in-game. Aside from a few instances at SC3, I'd never seen or played a Cetipede cabinet but I knew I loved the game. A few weeks later, a Centipede popped up on craigslist in pretty good condition and I met with the buyer to purchase it.

After bringing home the Centipede, I called it quits until I moved out of my apartment because I really couldn't fit more games in the limited space I had. In lieu of purchasing new games, I managed to track down and repair a broken Millipede board with a conversion harness which I ran occasionally in my Centipede cabinet.

2011

Crazy Taxi and Others

Mid-year 2011 saw me moving from my apartment to a cheaper condo. Along with this move came a few hundred more square feet and a detached garage! Now that I had the space, I started hunting for a DDR cabinet to fulfill my childhood dream. In the interim, I bought a storage unit full of spare parts from a fellow collector in order to see if I liked reselling. It turns out that I absolutely hate it but the purchase was not without perks. Inside the lot were several rare parts that eventually went to fixing games that I acquired, and the person that sold it to me became my friend and also alerted me to a DDR cabinet for sale on eBay!

After picking up the DDR cabinet for the garage I started going to a local auction called Captain's Auction. The DDR I bought was housed there, so when I bought it I got curious as to what else they might have. The auction has since grown to be massive and prices have gone way up along with it, but at the time absolute steals could be had. I showed up to every auction, hanging out with other collectors and networking, and set my eye on acquiring a Crazy Taxi cabinet. I was able to win one and take it home that year and put it in the garage next to my DDR. The rest of the year revolved around working way too hard at work and looking for BEMANI games to purchase, so I didn't end up grabbing any more non-BEMANI games.

2012

I spent 2012 mostly hanging out at Captain's Auctions and playing the games that I owned. For years I'd been searching for a Warlords Cocktail of my own after playing the game religiously at various SC3 meets. Given the game's rarity, that was proving to be a difficult search. However, I didn't give up and constantly poked around various spots online looking for sales. Through some lucky searches on craigslist, I connected with somebody who was parting out a Hawaiian collector's massive collection. Inside that collection were three separate Warlords Cocktails. I was able to nab one for a decent price and arranged to pick it up at the next Captain's Auction (this was quickly becoming the go-to spot for side deals and local pick-ups).

Since I didn't want to rent a truck, I had my friend drive with me and we hoisted it into the back of his convertible while the top was down. It had become somewhat of a thing among my friends that I was searching aggressively for a Warlords cabinet. So, at the auction that day a few people came up to me and jokingly pestered about whether I'd found my Warlords yet. To each of them I answered that I totally did and its sitting in the back of a convertible in the parking lot. The response was universally incredulous and one by one each person demanded that I prove my outlandish lie to them. So many people ended up coming out to see the cabinet that we ran the battery flat on the convertible putting the top down and up repeatedly. We ended up needing a jump to get home.

2013

This was the year that I moved from San Diego to the Bay Area. As a result, I didn't do much cabinet purchasing this year at all, and got absolutely zero non-BEMANI games added to my collection. Instead, I did a lot of yard work to make my place presentable and integrated into a new city and job. I nabbed a few new BEMANI games and ended up repairing one of them with parts from the previous storage unit purchase.

2014

I started back on the hunt in 2014, looking for unique games to add to my collection. At this point I was narrowing my focus to two areas: BEMANI games and games that had unique play styles in the arcade. That could mean drivers, gun games, games with unique input methods, or games that just weren't ported to home consoles. In the summer I road tripped down to Los Angeles to pick up a ParaParaParadise cabinet that a friend bought and attented another Captain's Auction. On a whim, I bid on a CarnEvil that was at the auction and ended up winning it for cheap! I brought it home in the truck with my friend's cabinet and tuned it to get it working.

The same friend bought a Panic Park cabinet from a mutual pal in Sacramento. He had no room in his garage so he asked if he could leave it at my house for awhile. I did a bunch of restore work on it and got it running and then bought it off of him when he decided he didn't really want to own it. That turned out to be a very lucky move. I had a falling out with him some years later, after he trashed one of my cabinets at CAX and botched a cabinet import order he took my money for and then got bored of. Had I not bought it off of him when I could, I'd likely have had to return it to him and miss out owning a wonderful and quirky game.

By the end of the year I had decided to move to South Bay. Most of December was spent packing up hundreds of marquees, console games and arcade games to move them to Fremont. Fremont offered cheaper rent per square foot as well as the ability to get out of Richmond and be closer to a new job that I also landed at the end of 2014.

2015

2015 was much like 2013 for non-BEMANI games. I spent most of the year getting my house organized after the move and didn't end up acquiring any new non-BEMANI arcade games.

2016

Quantum and Others

After attenting SC3 in SoCal early in the year and being dismayed to find out Steve's Quantum was broken, I decided that it was a game that I had to add to my collection. As luck would have it, a reproduction cabinet showed up on craigslist. However, the seller was asking for way too much money and I ended up letting it pass, continuing to watch online sales like a hawk. The cabinet got relisted a few months later for several grand less and I went to talk to the seller. I ended up buying it in non-working condition and taking it home to repair. Almost a month and lots of parts later I had the game up and running perfectly! Aside from the cabinet body which is a reproduction, the entire affair is original, working parts and completely tuned up! The dream of owning a holy grail was now complete. I could play the game whenever I wanted instead of waiting for the next SC3! I wound up taking it to CAX that year because the organizers wanted to have a side-by-side comparison against an original.

2017

Taiko and BishBashi in GarageRhythm Heaven and OthersNintendo Vs. Restoration

When 2017 rolled around I was dealing with a botched import that my ex-friend was supposed to be handling. That ended up with a happy ending when another friend took over the container. The Taiko no Tatsujin cabinet that I'd paid for back in summer of 2016 finally arrived at my house in May! In the midst of that order another group import that I was part of came in and I received shipment on both Rhythm Heaven and The*BishiBashi cabinets. Ever since playing both of these in arcades, I'd wanted them to own them so I could play them at home! Rhythm Heaven is actually a port of the GBA release but the game is so fun I had to get it in arcade form.

After a few more BEMANI games came in I ran completely out of space at home, so my friends and I looked into and eventually rented a warehouse for extra space. Later in the year, I bought a gray Nintendo Dual Versus cabinet in rough shape in order to restore it with a friend. It took until 2018 to finish restoring, but we at least got it back to life and only needing cosmetic work. I also started collecting JAMMA boards this year, with the plan of eventually purchasing a candy cabinet or two to run them in. For the time being, I had a Neo Geo to JAMMA adapter so I was able to play the games that I did find in my Neo Geo cabinet. I also played a few of the vertical games I purchased on a friend's Astro City cabinet that she was keeping at the warehouse.

2018

The GridRestored Nintendo Vs.Candy Cabinet with Pocket Fighter

Since I had plenty of space again thanks to the group warehouse, I started to try to recreate an amazing experience I'd had for several years at CAX. I always loved playing The Grid with my friends, and having a complete 6-player setup at CAX was icing on the cake. I started trying to track down cabinets in order to set up my own 6-player Grid experience. I continued working on the Nintendo Vs. restoration, and tracked down a single The Grid cabinet at Captain's Auction in late April. I ended up road-tripping the cabinet back along with some parts for a Beatmania Mini that I was restoring. Along the way, I helped another friend in Los Angeles move a Beatmania IIDX cabinet and got to check out a bunch of spare parts in Captain's warehouse. I also tracked down an In The Groove Dedicab through a friend, which I brought to the warehouse and restored.

The Grid Being Played

A few months later, a 3-Grid setup showed up at Captain's Auction and I again road tripped down to purchase and bring it back. I now had 4 of the 6 Grid cabinets that I wanted to own which was enough to start having friends over to play. We played the game fairly constantly through the rest of the year. I also finished restoring the Nintendo Dual Vs. cabinet in time to bring it to CAX. In September, a single Grid cabinet showed up on eBay and I won it and arranged shipping on it. I also bought a pair of candy cabinets from a friend who was storing them at the warehouse. I now owned a New Astro City and a New Net City with a JAMMA harness, both in horizontal configuration which I used to play my ever-growing JAMMA collection.

Working on making the warehouse itself comfy and habitable took a lot of time. Restoring the numerous games that I acquired in 2018 also took a lot of time. However, it was worth it for all of the additions I made to my collection. I finished the year out with a respectable arcade setup at the warehouse and a few meet-ups with local collectors.

2019

The Grid Six Units

I'd almost run out of space at both my house and the shared warehouse so it was time to call it quits. Well, mostly. I had set aside room for one last The Grid cabinet in case one showed up. And show up it did! In April I road tripped down to Captain's Auction one last time to purchase and bring back a single Grid cabinet that showed up. It was a long auction and I didn't end up winning the cabinet until around two in the morning, fifteen hours after the auction started. With that, my Grid setup was finally, finally complete! Since I'd completely run out of room, I started to spend more time tracking down JAMMA boards and upgrade kits for candy cabinets instead of full arcade games.

Storage UnitGarage Candy Cabs

In August, a few of the friends who were part of the warehouse group announced that they were pulling out at the end of the lease term in October. I could not afford to rent the warehouse on my own and there were too few people left contributing, so I made the tough decision to instead rent a storage unit and shut down the warehouse. Unfortunately since I had no space at home, almost all of the games that I'd restored ended up going into storage. That included the six The Grid cabinets, the ITG Dedicab, the Nintendo Dual Vs., the Beatmania Mini, a third DDR Solo that I'd picked up from a friend, the Dance Evolution, and finally my Pop'n Stage cabinet.

Given the utility of a few candy cabinets versus a single Pop'n Stage cabinet, I decided to put the Pop'n Stage into storage. This made just enough room at home for my two candy cabinets that were at the warehouse. I rearranged the garage into a series of three rows with the space freed up from the Pop'n Stage which opened up just enough room for a third candy cabinet. I ended up acquiring a Vewlix L from a fellow collector a few months later which was a dream to own! I rotated the monitor vertical and put a Naomi in with a netboot setup so that I could play the various shmups that were released for the system and then called it quits for the year.

2020

Garage staged for movingThe Grid back at last!Basement setup

After a lot of squinting at the garage layout I determined that I could barely squeeze a fourth candy cab into the space. Somebody in a Facebook group I was in at the time posted about a group import that he was arranging and I hopped on to nab a second New Net City cabinet. Soon after, I left my job and then California went into complete lockdown due to COVID-19. Faced with confinement in an incredibly expensive, deteriorating house in a drastically overcrowded city, with no job holding me to a state that was due to burn itself down from negligence, I made the decision to move across the country with my partner and her brother. For several months every waking moment of my life was occupied with staging games, packing boxes and worrying over the logistics of packing up four semi-trailers worth of belongings.

The Grid replacement keypadMonkey Ball restorationUnloading one of four trucks

All of the stress and inevitable damage was totally worth it, however. The house that we settled into was newer, much bigger and far more affordable than anything we'd ever occupied in California. I spent the summer making improvements to the house, unpacking almost 200 boxes and moving over 40 games into their new spots. About halfway through the summer the New Net City I'd ordered way back in January arrived. When I had spare time I restored it, converting it from a generic JVS cabinet into a dedicated Monkey Ball setup. I also set my sights on restoring the Grid setup, again. Just one year in storage and the PIN input pads were completely unresponsive on all six cabinets. This time, instead of pulling the PIN pads apart and cleaning them I decided to design and fabricate replacement PIN pad circuits. The new PIN pads ended up working wonderfully and the Grid setup was once again ready for action.

The Present

Game BoardsGame Boards

Including all of my BEMANI games, I am the owner of 32 unique arcade games. If you count duplicates as well as all of the individual Grid cabinets, I have 41 individual cabinets. I have my classic holy grails (aside from maybe upgrading the reproduction shell of my Quantum to an original some year) and have finally hunted down enough cabinets to put together a 6-cabinet The Grid setup to play with friends. I'm already close to full up at the new house so I am focusing my efforts on collecting JAMMA boards and artwork. I started with Puzzle Figher 2 Turbo, Battle Garegga, Hexion, Karate Tournament and Mr. Driller boards and I've collected about 20 boards overall.