Galoping Ghost gives arcade games extra life


The arcades occupy a a unique place in the history of video games. In the late 70’s and 80’s of last century a series of hits such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donki Kong introduced new game mechanics and bright, crisp pixel graphics. In the 90s of the last century there was a boom in fighting games Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Virtua Fighter demonstration of avant-garde graphics and gameplay.

This was the place to be, a time when the pinnacle of video games, from textured polygonal graphics to peripheral control entrances (including steering wheels, light guns and dance mats), could only be found crammed into impeccably designed cabinets, complete with their spectacular frames and tents. Arcades avoid hardware limitations largely because of their ability to optimize hardware specifically for a single game. Home consoles and computers had not yet caught up.

But with the advancement of technology, the avant-garde found its way to a new generation of console hardware – especially in the late 90’s with the release of sixth generation consoles, including PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and Sega Dreamcast. Then the online games started, which further fueled the death of arcade games. These days you will still find some arcade cabinets at Dave and Busters and Chuck E. Cheese. Of course, on real the arcades were often dark, narrow, and sweaty, with the smell of an overheated chain. Trying to find one these days is proving to be a difficult task, but there is hope!

Photo: Daniel Hull

In the quiet suburbs outside of Chicago, Galloping Ghost Arcade aims to preserve this unique period in gaming history by assembling an impressive range of cabinets. It makes sense that Galloping Ghost Arcade has found its home in Brookfield, Illinois. It is located right in the middle of a thriving arcade game scene, with people passionate about retro games. Chicago was once the headquarters of the heavy arcade games Gottlieb, Bally, Midway and other prominent publishers of arcade games from the 90’s. From this post, the arcade game offers over 851 games (and more!).

A humble beginning

Galoping Ghost began in 1994 when Doc Mack, owner and founder, had a chance encounter with Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boone. A lifelong gamer, Mack wanted to become a game developer. “[Boon] he told me how difficult it would be to get into the industry, ”says Mack. “So I went and did my thing. The same “do it yourself” attitude will prove the main fuel that drives his company. He was only 18 when he founded Galoping Ghost with the intention of developing his own fighting game, Dark presence. Although the title has not been released yet, Mack’s company has never slowed down, contributing to a number of projects, including Galloping Ghost Arcade.

The history of the origins of the arcade begins on a website for tracking arcade locations called Aurcade. Mack thought joining the local Chicago arcade culture would be a worthwhile endeavor. “We thought we would contribute a lot of data that would help our own production by finding out where we would sell our arcade games.”

Mack searched bars, restaurants and various other companies looking for arcade cabinets. In his search, he made a sobering discovery. “So many of the machines couldn’t be played – the buttons and sticks didn’t work, the cathode ray tube monitors had faded,” says Mack. Most of the cabinets were in poor condition, once a prized technology left to fall apart in the corner of a washing machine or pushed near the toilets of a family restaurant. But Mack says, “That made me write a business model for what would become the Galoping Ghost Arcade.”

Mack found an ad on Craigslist that sold 114 machines, all stored and neglected in a warehouse in Denison, Iowa. “We drove there, talked to the man, and found out there was another warehouse full of games in Tennessee.” Mack added 87 more machines to the Galloping Ghost collection; these cabinets formed the basis for the grand opening of the arcade on August 13, 2010. “We opened with 130 machines and since then it has been constantly expanding the arcade.”

Unique

Among Mack’s 851 acquisitions (and counting) there will certainly be some rarities and one-of-a-kind machines, including prototypes of unreleased titles. Primary rage was a dinosaur fighting game developed by Atari Games in 1994 to compete directly with Mortal Kombat II and other fighting games of the time. Its success prompted Atari Games to quickly set about developing a sequel. This game would be Primary Rage II, but was postponed after Midway bought Atari Games. Midway is evolving Mortal Kombat, and on Primary Rage IIThe cancellation’s was probably a move to crush any competition with the company’s pride and joy franchise.

Photo: Daniel Hull



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