In an era when Nikes were new, skating rinks were popular weekend hangouts and Matthew Broderick was a teen idol, Pac-Man ate his way into the hearts of America and became an entertainment sensation at malls and department stores around the nation that welcomed something new called “the arcade.”
“Steven Powell began working as an electronics technician in the early ’80s repairing coin-operated video games like Pac-Man, Defender and Donkey Kong encased in large cabinets. Drop some change in one, and you could play until Pac-Man was eaten by a ghost or Defender’s humanoids were killed by aliens. <br/?
“I got to play all the games for free,” said Powell, who now owns the Brandon company Arcade Repairs & Restoration. “I never thought it would get to the point where home games would put arcade games out of business.”
Fast forward almost 30 years, and there’s a renewed interest in arcade games. Many dragged from location to location bear scars that reveal their age. Powell often buys them at auctions, where a battered game can cost around $800, but after they’re fully restored, they generally sell for about $1,600.
“They are getting really popular because you can’t find them anymore,” he said. “I believe a lot of it is nostalgia and sentimental value. They want something they grew up with in their homes to show their kids. They’ve got money now, and they want something from their past.”
On MTV shows like “Run’s House” and “The Hills,” arcade games have been featured lately as game room accessories. Powell said that’s where most people put them, and Ms. Pac-Man is the most requested.
Growing up, Madison resident Chad Rinewalt, 30, often went to the mall to play arcade games like Frogger, Donkey Kong and Centipede. For Christmas last year, he bought his wife, Kristy, a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game from Powell.
“I just got it because I played them when I was younger,” he said. “I built a game room, and my kids are really interested in playing games.”
They own a Playstation 2, a Wii and “every game imaginable,” Rinewalt said, but lately they’ve become interested in dad’s arcade collection, playing the Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede games that are now set on free play – meaning no quarters are required.
“I think they are worth more now than when they first came out,” Rinewalt said. “They are making a comeback.”