(Topic ID: 155433)

Decorating an Arcade

By WaddleJrJr

8 years ago


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  • 23 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 years ago by Tommy-dog
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    #1 8 years ago

    I'm currently working on opening a business that will be half retro video game store and half arcade. I'd like to have the arcade be decorated and theme'd as to replicate the feeling of an authentic 80s/90s arcade, however there's one problem I have with this... I wasn't alive back then and have no idea what said arcades were like (other than stereotypes that I don't know are necessarily true).

    So with that I come to Pinside to ask, what are the stand-out features to you of the decor to these arcades, and what would you expect to see in an arcade when you visit one? (besides the games of course)

    #2 8 years ago

    Clouds of stale cigarette smoke. Think grungy pool hall.
    80"s movie posters could be a good start.

    #3 8 years ago

    Blacklights, neon signs, fluorescent carpeting, ceiling painted flat black, Flock of Seagulls playing way too loud.

    #4 8 years ago

    Just dark with the glow of video games. Most of the ones I played in were in "industrial" kinds of locales, so you really didn't want to see what they looked like with the lights on.

    #5 8 years ago

    In the Northeast US, Dream Machine was a large chain in the 80's. If you do a Google search of Dream Machine Arcade you get a few hits and a few websites with pics..

    http://thearcadearchives.com/2011/09/21/raygunn-dreams-of-dream-machine/

    #6 8 years ago

    I've thought about blacklights but ruled it out because they're not particularly safe for your eyes.

    Not sure about overall dimness, I feel like I'd be getting complaints from competition players about it being too dim.

    #7 8 years ago

    I modeled my home arcade on the arcades of the 80s i grew up in. But it's "inspired" only, as I took liberties like new LED lighting, and all new games, not the same games I grew up with. So in a lot of ways it might be in the spirit of what you are thinking.

    You can check out the photos here:

    www.frolicsarcade.com

    #8 8 years ago
    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    I've thought about blacklights but ruled it out because they're not particularly safe for your eyes.
    Not sure about overall dimness, I feel like I'd be getting complaints from competition players about it being too dim.

    If you have some neon or bar signs scattered about, or more than a couple of games, all you really need is some dimmable lighting scattered overhead and somewhat behind the players, that way you can then adjust that up or down as needed. I've got what amounts to being a string of incandescent bulbs set just behind and above the players, this provides diffuse light coming from all directions to minimize reflections. It's works very well for me. The ambiance is kind of an "amusement park/carnival" feel with the style I chose.

    globe-lights-1_(resized).jpgglobe-lights-1_(resized).jpg

    #9 8 years ago

    Brick walls with decapitated pinball heads or arcade marquees of games that aren't in the arcade, LCD TVs playing pirated 80s movies, a chalkboard with high scores, and lightbulbs that look like they're from the 1920s for some reason.

    pasted_image_(resized).pngpasted_image_(resized).png

    Wait that's the barcade look, not the arcade look, hmmm.

    #10 8 years ago

    I could get some marquees and posters and such. Should it be more of a clean presentation or should they be more crooked/strewn about?

    #11 8 years ago

    Poster frames are acceptable. Most 80's arcades were a bit clean and set up for teens/families.

    #12 8 years ago

    My favorite arcades in LA in the 80s and 90s were dark, smokey, and smelled like urine in the hidden corners. You might not want to be too realistic.

    Check out pics of Game Underground in Natick Ma. They are half game store half arcade. They have a cool huge mural on the inside that evokes classic arcade nostalgia.

    #13 8 years ago

    A cool feature that I remember was when Dragon's Lair premiered, and they had a monitor on top of the actual game so other people could see the gameplay since it was so new/neat. Would be cool to have a screen or two on the walls that could showcase different games as they're being played. If you could setup a camera to do the same with pinball that would be great.

    But yeah, agree with the others, dark, dreary, a little creepy as I think about it today. When lights came on it looked much different and gross with all the gum pressed into the carpet and cigarette burns.

    Wall murals like somebody said above would be cool. Obviously they should be arcade/pin related, but in a graffiti style would be neat.

    #14 8 years ago

    In everyones memory, they were magical dark blue rooms with black lights. The reality was that 90% of them were hastily converted from a previous failed business and just kept the dingy white walls and scratched up linoleum floors.

    Light boxes with game marquee's would be a great way to carry your theme throughout the store without a ton of work.

    #15 8 years ago

    Giant murals are very cool.

    SuperElectric_0029_(resized).jpgSuperElectric_0029_(resized).jpg

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    #16 8 years ago

    The arcades of the 90s, for me, were just empty store buildings or stores in the mall. Mr. Gatti's was a favorite. There just wasn't many decorations though. The games were the focus and the arcades in the malls were just dimly lit places. I remember multiple levels in the mall in Bloomington with a couple of steps onto a raised platform. Round steel rails lined the steps. Gatti's had some abstract shapes on the wall and was more well lit.

    #17 8 years ago

    Murals would be cool but expensive, plus considering that I've got the place pretty well filled up at this point it'd probably be challenging to add at this point.

    The video monitors idea is neat, and I do have a pinball camera rig, but my setup requires a computer and I really wouldn't want to leave one out there all the time.

    Is a jukebox worth having or should I use the space for games? It's not a particularly large building.

    #18 8 years ago

    My brother showed me this - http://www.amazon.com/Space-Invaders-Black-Game-Screenshot/dp/B00P9KLQU4

    I like the look of that. The floors are a faux wood type thing, so they're not currently carpeted. Perhaps game-themed rugs like that would look nice.

    #19 8 years ago
    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    My brother showed me this - amazon.com link »
    I like the look of that. The floors are a faux wood type thing, so they're not currently carpeted. Perhaps game-themed rugs like that would look nice.

    I have one. Good quality too.

    #20 8 years ago
    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    Murals would be cool but expensive, plus considering that I've got the place pretty well filled up at this point it'd probably be challenging to add at this point.

    If painted murals are out, you good do something using decals. Thinkgeek used to have them where you could setup a huge Asteriods screen or Space invaders... Amazon has some now:
    http://www.amazon.com/Blik-Asteroids-Wall-Stickers/dp/B004D618XK/ref=sr_1_1
    http://www.amazon.com/Nintendo-Wall-Graphics-Super-Mario/dp/B001JK6EXW/ref=pd_bxgy_201_img_3
    http://www.amazon.com/ATL-Vinyl-Wall-Stickers-Donkey/dp/B004AVYY8Y/ref=pd_bxgy_201_img_2

    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    Is a jukebox worth having or should I use the space for games? It's not a particularly large building.

    Juke boxes are cool, Video player might be better showing Music videos. If going for an 80's/90's feel you could stock it with just that music, not sure if you're looking to have guests pay or you control whatever is playing/showing. I'd like to do something like this with my gameroom but haven't got more than concept yet.

    #21 8 years ago

    Based on a lot of pinhead's game rooms, you should just visit a strip club and do that.

    Anyway, 80's arcades in the city were dirty, gross, dark places with stained walls, the cheapest flooring possible and a surly clerk perched up high doling out quarters with an expert flip. Aesthetics were secondary to sucking quarters out of you.

    However, out in the suburbs there were a few "nicer" arcades in malls. The problem there is that the decor is super dated to the late 1970's and early 80's, and it hasn't aged well.

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    If you really want that "vintage look", fine - but I suspect your target demographic likes the "idea" of the old arcade look more than the "reality" of it now. When I was eleven I didn't care that the arcade was a shithole, but now I would really rather not hang out in a place with bad lighting and dirty floors.

    #22 8 years ago

    Hm yeah it sounds like it'd be much harder to mimic designs of the arcades, and rather just take designs that feature elements of the 80s/90s. Perhaps running some LED strip lighting as seen in Frolic's arcade would be a nice effect.

    Also those decals do seem like a possibility, very fairly priced.

    #23 8 years ago
    Quoted from jwilson:

    your target demographic

    Good point. What is the target demographic? There's a reason these places don't exist anymore. My arcade is a monument to myself because it is only a fake business and no concern with ROI or what the market wants. It would be really dangerous to open a business and not understand the market or just be hopeful.

    #24 8 years ago

    Target audience is anyone who's in the market for retro. Likely the main audience is going to be the same as the demographic for most retro gaming/arcade/pinball communities, males age 25 - 50.

    A lot of those higher class 80s arcade decor styles are super cool, and I honestly think would do very well with the reviving "retro" markets, however they'd be expensive and impractical, so the more subtle touches with lights, posters, etc. will be much more effective considering cost.

    #25 8 years ago

    Back in the mid to late 70s just about every shopping mall had at least one large arcade. Some had more than one. One thing is constant from the 70s and early 80s when arcades were prevalent. They were dimly lit and had groovy carpeting (usually dark designs with some purple). They also had cool lighting effects. Some had mirrored disco balls hanging from the ceiling. Some had black lights. Smoking was not allowed in a lot of the mall arcades but there were drink holders on a lot of machines. As kids us guys used to go there primarily to play pinball and to hangout with friends and try to pick up chicks.

    Those were the days!

    After about 1983 you started seeing the big arcades go bye bye. The writing was on the wall that the era was coming to an end.

    I'm cheap so I always try to find bargains. When you look for carpeting you have two choices. You can use rolls or the squares. Both are pretty-expensive though if you buy brand-new from a retailer. I did an arcade room in my last house in Roxana, IL. It was about a mile down the road from CP Pinball. I looked for carpeting for it for a while until I stumbled upon an ad on Craigslist. It was from one of the casinos across the river in downtown St. Louis and it had several rolls of new leftover carpeting. Some casinos look a lot like arcades. I got a huge roll of neon purple striped carpet that was absolutely perfect for an arcade for dirt cheap price. I still have a big 10' x 18' chunk in a roll left-over.

    One thing I always have on the walls of my home game room are framed pictures of all the promotional flyers for my games. I have two of each so I can display both the front and back sides. I have them mounted in colored 8 x 10 frames by the machines. Pretty-cool IMO but that was not the case for commercial arcades in the heyday. Just something I like to do.

    #26 8 years ago

    I don't know how big your place is but first impressions are always key. When someone walks in the door, everything they see should look retro. Once you get past the entrance everything can just have a retro flare.

    #27 8 years ago

    Look for motel carpet. Very durable and somewhat tacky but looks good in a game room. You want it to be loud. Ceiling must be black and the room should be dark with the flicken seagulls, Duran Duran and Boy George playing in the background. You also must have a Ms Pacman machine if it's 1982.

    #28 8 years ago

    Screw your vision get some Black lights and UV carpet. Total arcade experience.

    Plus you don't have to have the lights on all the time. Just special occasions like when I stop by to play some AMH and WOZ

    #29 8 years ago

    This is very tacky but would work.

    image_(resized).jpgimage_(resized).jpg

    #31 8 years ago

    Yep everyone who was there pretty much has it right. It wasn't pretty. Your representation of what it would have been like if it had been really cool will be better than your representation of how it really was.

    Nonetheless, the 80s were a great time, sorry you missed it. I plan on going back.

    NapoleonDynamiteTimeMachine_(resized).jpgNapoleonDynamiteTimeMachine_(resized).jpg

    #32 8 years ago

    God I loved Aladdin's Castle at the mall. The memories, the one at the closest mall by me was open till like the mid 2000's.

    I was only pretty much born in the 80's but I got to see some booming arcades (well not as crazy as the 80's) and it was pretty cool.

    I will remember the mortal kombat times very fondly. I was young but that pixely bloody violence was an amazing thing at the time. Our parents would of hated it and did, but back then they would just drop us off and leave. Nowadays people won't let their kids out of their site.

    #33 8 years ago
    Quoted from timtim:

    God I loved Aladdin's Castle at the mall. The memories, the one at the closest mall by me was open till like the mid 2000's.
    I was only pretty much born in the 80's but I got to see some booming arcades (well not as crazy as the 80's) and it was pretty cool.
    I will remember the mortal kombat times very fondly. I was young but that pixely bloody violence was an amazing thing at the time. Our parents would of hated it and did, but back then they would just drop us off and leave. Nowadays people won't let their kids out of their site.

    We had an Aladdin's Castle in Bloomington College Mall. I remember playing The Simpson's and House of the Dead.

    In Bedford, there used to be an arcade in the old Stone City Mall. I still remember playing a really big screen version of Street Fighter: The Movie the game. It wasn't very good but was reminiscent of MK and did leave an impression.

    #34 8 years ago

    Anyone remember "Just For Fun" in Arlington Heights, IL?

    #35 8 years ago

    Something like this?

    Oculus mame.

    NewRetroArcadeV2_4-1024x576_(resized).jpgNewRetroArcadeV2_4-1024x576_(resized).jpg

    The arcade in the mall I went to in high school 1989-1992 had dark blue and purple walls and a black ceiling. Black light carpet and just a few black light tubes here and there to make the carpet kinda glow. But the ambient light was mostly only lit by the glow of the machines.

    Kinda like the pic. But not quite.

    Any actual arcade not in a mall was just run down and dirty. Rubber mat floors or checkered tile.
    Usually black or blue walls. Water and nicotine Stained drop ceilings.

    But the benefit of growing up in the 80's arcade boom was every convience store had arcades or pins.
    The 7/11 by my gradeschool had taxi, Elvira and the party monsters and astron belt laser disc arcade.

    The store up the street had kung fu, Trojan, outzone and karate champ.
    The store across from that had ye air kung fu, and track and field and rastan.
    And the diner down the street had some pins too buck rogers, black hole, and bubble bobble arcade, donkey kong and dig dug.

    Literally everywhere you went had something.
    It was great times with friends. I counted and thinking about it now in the 6 blocks it was for me to get to school grades 1-8 (1981-1988) I could play 18 or more different arcade games and at least 7 pins all in convience stores. And they switched them up as newer games came out.

    My first serious girlfriend had a job in video store in a strip mall that had Street fighter and mortal combat 1 in it. They were pretty much new releases at the time. I would play them while waiting for her to get off work. And the convience store next to it had ghosts and goblins and black tiger.

    I also remember playing Street fighter almost every lunch hour at the 7/11 across from my high-school with my friends.

    Good times!

    #36 8 years ago

    Ugh, carpet is a terrible idea. Even the high wear stuff at casinos - they have a staff that cleans and vacuums it daily. It does help with sound though, and makes moving games around a little easier.

    Ground Kontrol in Portland probably has the look you're going for, although personally I didn't care for it since it's so dark and dingy.

    groundkontrolpdx_(resized).pnggroundkontrolpdx_(resized).png p954810502-3_(resized).jpgp954810502-3_(resized).jpg geek_pdx_ground_kontrol-20110930-130330_(resized).pnggeek_pdx_ground_kontrol-20110930-130330_(resized).png LincolnBarbour-GroundKontrol-03_(resized).jpgLincolnBarbour-GroundKontrol-03_(resized).jpg

    #37 8 years ago
    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    theme'd as to replicate the feeling of an authentic 80s/90s arcade, however there's one problem I have with this... I wasn't alive back then and have no idea what said arcades were like

    1880's/1890's theme.....no problem.....I wasn't alive back then so I just did this

    DSCF2871_(resized).JPGDSCF2871_(resized).JPG

    #38 8 years ago
    Quoted from hooch333:

    1880's/1890's theme.....no problem.....I wasn't alive back then so I just did this

    DSCF2871_(resized).JPG

    Saw your thread for that. Really great work.

    Also on people saying the carpet thing, I don't plan on installing carpet. Not a fan of cleaning it, and also not a fan of how games sit on it. I'd be fine with rugs for decorative effect, but carpet is a no.

    #39 8 years ago

    I like the cool carpeting. Especially neon low-pile indoor-outdoor type like most of the groovy arcades in the 70s had. There are a lot of cool ones shown in this thread.

    Here's a left-over remnant from my previous gameroom. I bought a bunch of it from a casino in downtown St. Louis. It was brand-new and dirt-cheap. Looked awesome with all the black lighting and beer signs. This is a bigger chunk than I thought. It looks to be about 12' x 24'.

    IMG_8414_(resized).JPGIMG_8414_(resized).JPG

    #40 8 years ago

    Lookup the former "luna city" that Peter Hirschberg sold off a few years back. Best looking era correct home arcade in my opinion

    IMGP0084[1]_(resized).JPGIMGP0084[1]_(resized).JPG

    3 years later
    #41 5 years ago

    Light covers

    Message_1557687350725 (resized).jpgMessage_1557687350725 (resized).jpg
    #42 5 years ago

    Check out these pictures of some classic 70-80's arcades:

    https://forums.arcade-museum.com/showthread.php?t=450644

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