Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arcade Games I Used To Play: Auto Test

Just so you know, I'm 47 years old, born in 1960. This makes me a "junior geezer" in my book, which gives me an excuse to rattle on and on about how things used to be. Growing up on the East side of Long Beach in the 1960s and 70s, I had limited contact with arcade games, save for the occasional trip to the (then) incredible arcades at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm. Their arcades were truly museums of amusements with dozens of current and vintage games, with a few dating back to the turn of the century. I could drop every bit of change I had in less than an hour. Back in Long Beach, the arcades at the Nu-Pike possessed even older pinball and arcade games, along with an incredibly scary and thrilling atmosphere, thanks to the Pike's ambiance at the time, which could be described as David Lynch Fever Dream. Closer to home, there were four locations within walking distance: Apple Annie's Pizza Parlor (which had the first Pong machine I ever saw), Shakey's Pizza (where all young aspiring magicians hoped to be good enough to play), Zody's Discount Store (pinball and the stench of rancid popcorn grease...not sure why) and Thrifty's Drug and Discount Store (which seemed like an odd location, but they did always get cool and unusual games). My favorite Long Beach arcade was at the old Lakewood Miniature Golf Course, which might have been in Lakewood but what the hell it was on Carson, close to the 605 and across the street from the Naval Hospital. It was a nice little golf course, and they had a great arcade, filled with games from the 50s and 60s. Including this coin-operated driving simulator called Auto Test. Sitting in the vintage 1959 upholstery in 1971 Long Beach, I would aim the plastic car on the dashboard between the lanes of projected traffic, avoiding collisions with the celluloid vehicles and staying under the speed limit. The goal was to drive across America from Los Angeles, to New York, but the Driver's Education footage only showed a generic highway. Still, I was behind the wheel of an automobile and driving, so I got my ten cents worth. I found the image of the Auto Test at the website for Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, which looks like a place I'm going to have to visit if I ever get around to Farmington Hills, Michigan. Marvin seems to have a passion for non-pinball arcade games, and if his page on the Auto Test in any indication, all of you vintage game fans out there will have a lot of reading to do.

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