For a dollar you could take the bus down Massachusetts Avenue from the Symphony Hall stop. At least at the time it was a dollar, this WAS 5-10 years ago. On nicer days it was better to walk, the Charles River not looking too bad with the sun shining off it, all of the sailors in their little racing sailboats being yelled at by their instructor. Either way the destination was the same: the arcade at the MIT student center.
The arcade was decently sized, housing two Dance Dance Revolution machines, multiple fighting games, some pinball machines, a pool table, and plenty of chairs and couches. It wasn’t just an arcade really, there was enough room for people to get work done, gather to eat the lunch purchased from the take-out places in the student center, or piss away their paycheck 50 cents at a time.
The biggest ticket items were the DDR Extreme machine and the Capcom vs SNK 2 machine. Every Friday night was basically fight night, with the local fighters coming over to practice and get their beatings in with Sagat and Terry Bogard. Every so often some newer guy would come in and try to take on the champs, but that never ended well for them.
The DDR machine was very well maintained and cost only 50 cents for 3 songs, a great price when most other machines were a dollar for 3 songs. Most times there would be one or more people working on their song lists, trying to get at least a AA ranking on every song, with AAAs (all perfects) being very welcome if they managed them.
The arcade was the main meeting place for my friends and I throughout college. It was easy to see why: it was easily accessible for all of us regardless of which college we were coming from, there was a convenience store and multiple places for food either in the student center or nearby, the games were varied and inexpensive, and you didn’t need to be an MIT student to actually go in. It was pretty much a win-win if your schedule allowed.
Even after the arcade was reduced in size by about 2/3 to make room for a bank it was a hotspot, the weekends still packing anywhere from 5-15 people into a smaller arcade with the two big draws intact. But like most things people started graduating or moving away or getting internships that took up their time, so fewer and fewer people began showing up. Eventually the owner of the arcade retired and didn’t pass it on to anyone, so it simply shut down, its machines going who-knows-where. It was a sad day, but one we all knew was coming at some point. It was either that or us graduating and leaving like others before us, so there was always some sort of clock ticking on the fun times there.
But either way those times happened, and it was pretty awesome. I got my first AAA on DDR there, with many others to follow. I watched my friend attempt to spar with another friend and get his ass kicked. We also crammed into the one corner that had the best wi-fi signal to try out the Guild Wars: Factions beta, even if our laptops could barely run the thing. Hell my friends even threw me a surprise birthday party there, it was just the place to do EVERYTHING.
The idea for this post came up from some song that came on my Pandora, one of those songs that you don’t pay much attention to while it’s on but it still manages to dig up some random memory and go, “Hey, remember this? That was pretty cool.” The closest I’ve gotten to a reunion of sorts with the MIT crew as I called them has been PAX, but that’s not really a bad thing. We were surrounded by video games at an arcade at a school we didn’t even go to, so why not meet again in a convention surrounded by even more video games surrounded by others who are most likely doing the exact same thing?