There was also an after school program in the neighborhood which had a big game room set up in the finished basement of an old elementary school building; they had a bunch of video games and a couple of pins, the first bowling shuffleboard game I’d ever seen, plus pool tables and a jukebox in the back section, all set up to free play.
Occasionally they’d clear the room by insisting that all the kids had to play some team sport together. I slipped out quietly on those days, lol.
They had a Black Knight there which actually played decently (this is ‘86/‘87 we’re talking about.) I recognized the layout from the Commodore 64 pinball simulation “David’s Midnight Magic” that I loved playing at home. I never knew it was based on a real pin! Black Knight was kind of the standard bearer for me as a kid - 2 playfields! 4 flippers! Magna-Save! MORE IS BETTER!!! (When I saw Grand Lizard a bit later in VA Beach, it was like “come for the Black Knight-ness, stay for the ridiculous flashing lizard head”)
Since everything was on free play at this place, you couldn’t set your quarters on the glass for the next turn. You just had to meekly ask the much-bigger-than-you kid “I got the next game?” The nicer big kids would give you a turn
That place also had the original TRON arcade game and the amazingly cool and addictive “I, Robot” There were otherwise no arcades within walking distance, so the whole big 80s arcade thing, as I mentioned earlier, for me was something that teenagers did in a different world. Arcade games in my experience were either at the boardwalk on summer vacation or at a Chuck E. Cheese when some friend had a birthday party, or *maybe* at the mall for 10 minutes. So, all these games at the after school lounge were brand new to me, even the old school vector graphic “Asteroids”.
I also used to delude myself that I would become an outstanding pool shark if I played every day.
I didn’t. But I imagined that I was cool during those hours; I often had that room to myself, rackin and cracking’, putting on songs from the jukebox. I felt like a deeply sophisticated 11 year old
Part of me would love to set up something like that for kids now, but pins are too damn over valued these days. I’d be watching those little punks like a hawk, all “HEY! EASY ON THE MACHINE! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT THING IS WORTH?!?!” Probably wouldn’t be the same experience for them