Fun at Bill's Arcade -- A Day in Retrogaming Paradise

Matt Barton's picture

Without a doubt, the highpoint of my sojourn last week to NYC was stopping off at Bill's home in New Jersey for a day of absolute gaming goodness. As all long-time AA'ers are well aware, Bill has an ginormous collection of vintage computers and consoles, to say nothing of an even more extensive software and game-related book library. He also has an exquisite, fully-loaded MAME cabinet, a pinball machine, a dartboard, wide-screen TV...It's a veritable Disney World for gaming! It's impossible to be bored for even a second in this house!

Welcome to my parlor!: Let the tour commence!Welcome to my parlor!: Let the tour commence!Judging by the way we greeted each other at Hamilton station, you'd think Bill and I were the oldest friends. However, this was actually the first time we'd ever met in person, despite our four plus years of collaboration on AA, the upcoming 15 Years of Gaming Book, and the old forum days at Monroeworld. It didn't take us long, though, to start talking games and gadgets, which started with Bill's James Bond like minivan, loaded up with a DVD player and incredible talking GPS system. All Bill had to do was program it in, and it told us how to get wherever we wanted!

After stopping at BK for some lunch (I'd been up since 5 a.m., it was now 12 or so, and I still hadn't had a bite to eat!), we headed out to Bill's home. On the outside, it looks like a perfectly "normal" two-story home, quite nice and picturesque. Once inside, I expected to see game paraphernalia all over the house, but nope--again, the only sign that this was Bill's home was the widescreen TV and a couple of game consoles in the living room. Still, that's hardly a giveaway. Indeed, if all you had to go by was the top floors of the house, you would never know this was the house of one of the world's foremost experts on classic gaming!

Eventually, though, it was time to go "downstairs," or to the basement, which are designated as Bill's part of the house to do with as he will. Now, I had in mind a somewhat dingy room or two with naked light bulbs and musty odors. WRONG. For one thing, it's not really a "basement," but a lower story, and is actually much larger than my entire apartment. Secondly, even though it's on the bottom floor, it's not dark, and has plenty of windows to let in just you see comfortably. Bill also wisely runs de-humidifiers to keep out the dampness. Finally, it's crammed wall-to-wall with the best vintage computer and console collection I've ever seen, and I've been to several gaming "museum exhibits," mind you!

Where to start? Bill chose to begin by taking me through a tidy maze of metal shelves, crammed with gear. I saw everything from Osbournes to Jaguars to the S-100 BUS. I kept trying to think of machines that Bill couldn't possibly have, but he proved me wrong every time. Amiga 600? Ah, check the third shelf. SpectraVideo? SX-64? Original IBM PC? Those machines are over here. VecTrex? Virtual Boy? Of course. In fact, not only did Bill have almost every computer or console ever made, he even has special or rare versions and prototypes, and knows the history of each piece in the collection. At any point, I could've stopped and discussed any machine on those shelves for hours and hours. We had minutes!

Matt with PowerGlove: Ah, finally. I get to try on a PowerGlove!Matt with PowerGlove: Ah, finally. I get to try on a PowerGlove!After a maddeningly brief tour of all this stuff, we hit the software shelves, and again I was floored. Bill has hundreds (thousands?) of original games still in their boxes, many still wrapped in plastic. I lost track of how many times I saw a game, lovingly preserved in its original packaging, that I had only read about or played in an emulator or on a generic copied disk. It was sad, really, realizing how much I'd missed out by only having the "data" on copied disks; so many of these boxes and their documentation are incredible. Again, I tried to play "stump the Bill" with some off-beat title that he wouldn't have, but nope. In fact, I saw so many games that I didn't know existed, and he usually had them for multiple systems. With tender hands I pulled down Firebird's classic Elite, still in the box, including that silly TV-prism thing used for copy protection. Again, Bill is not the type of collector who just puts stuff on a shelf to look pretty. We talked about so many games, comparing notes and making constant remarks about "We'll have to fire this one up" and such. If only there had been time!

When we neared the end of the gaming shelves, I thought I caught a glimpse of Bill's gaming room. I think both of us wanted to save this for the last, but once we were in there, we didn't waste any time. The first thing we did was fired up Bill's Marvel pinball machine, which I enjoyed even though Bill doesn't seem to like it too much. Then we headed for that incredible MAME cabinet and went head-to-head in a dozen or so classics, ranging from 1943 to Satan's Hollow to bowling. However, by this time, I was experiencing massive "sensory overload," and my head was pounding. We took a break, I grabbed an aspirin, and we played a few round of darts to relax!

After the darts, I checked out Bill's weight room, which is actually much bigger and better equipped than the "gym" at my apartment complex! Bill takes his weight lifting very seriously, and I could tell this was strictly a "no-nonsense" facility whose sole purpose is to keep Bill's physique in line with his mental acuity.

After checking out the gym (no time for reps!), we went upstairs and plopped on the couch. It was time for some Live Arcade on the Xbox 360. As far as I'm concerned, you can't call yourself a gamer and not have fun with XLA, especially when you're in two-player co-op mode with a bud! We blasted through several rounds of an awesome vehicle-blasting type game, which reminded me of the little dune buggies in Halo. The game played like a dream on Bill's giant TV, and his premium surround sound system really made those explosions sound like an actual battlefield!

Then it was time for dinner. We ordered from a bizarre take-out place, but the food was great. A chicken sandwich, wings, baked potato on shredded lettuce (yeah, like wth?), and some "JoJo" fries later, and it was time to go back downstairs and check out Bill's "office."

Considering how extravagant everything else is, I expected Bill to have some triple-monitor setup and God knows what else. However, Bill keeps it simple with a single moderately sized LCD screen and speakers. We fired up GameTap and went through several games, and I *finally* got the chance to play the new Sam & Max game, which was awesome! I will definitely be subscribing to GameTap this summer, if I can hold out that long!

It was hard to decide what was more interesting in Bill's office--the stuff on the screen or all the interesting game boxes and gadgets lying around the room. Bill is still in the process of organizing his collection, and it's amazing what you can find just lying on a table or stacked in a corner. Oh, look, there's the Forgotten Realms or Interplay archives. There's Might & Magic III, still in the box! What the heck kind of controller is this? Geez. I was probably acting like a child with a 9-11 case of ADHD!

By this point, it was getting late, so we went back to the gaming room and finished up with a few rounds of Tapper, Timber, and PooYan. Bill's obviously the master here, and my "mad skillz" were laughable! Meanwhile, Bill plays like a guy straight out of Twin Galaxies.

Matt & Bill: The Gurus of Gaming!: Hanging out with Bill and his family was the highpoint of my trip to NY. I just hope we'll get more chances to hang out and explore the rest of the collection.Matt & Bill: The Gurus of Gaming!: Hanging out with Bill and his family was the highpoint of my trip to NY. I just hope we'll get more chances to hang out and explore the rest of the collection.Finally, though, we had to hit the hay. To make it back to Laguardia in time, I'd have to take the train at 6 a.m. or so. I'm sincerely hoping that I'll get a chance to go back to Bill's place sometime in the not-too-distant future, and spend more time getting acquainted with the collection and logging some hours behind those classic computers and consoles. Still, even if you lived in that basement for a year, I doubt you could play but about 3/4 of the collection. Probably the saddest part of the trip was when Bill said that he was glad I came because he so rarely gets the chance to show off the collection to anyone who "gets it." Sad indeed! I only wish that we AA editors lived closer together; heck, even within 100 miles of each other! As it is, it's just too expensive (in time but especially money) for us to get together, and Mark--heck, I can't imagine how much a trip to the Netherlands would cost. Still, it's my dream that one day the four of us will get to hang out for at least a week and really get to do some serious, serious gaming.

Gamer's camp, anyone? :-) Imagine, a week of nothing but games, games, games, and more games! W00t!

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Armchair Arcade Mini-Summit

ha ha, great recounting, Matt! It was a pleasure having you visit. It was tough to get enough photos of everything, balanced with playing some of the collection, balanced with simply talking, balanced with any other number of things in only part of a single day. The true tragedy was indeed our limited time together, but that's looking at the glass half empty. Just the fact that we were able to meet at all and spend "quality time" together even though we were both quite exhausted from the week (and Matt no doubt far more so) was something of a miracle in and of itself. And Matt's quite right, any true retrogaming and computing fan knows how unbelievably rare it is to spend time with a kindred spirit who actually understands what all that "junk" is.

Unfortunately, Matt almost didn't make it back home! We thought we planned well for getting Matt to the train at the right time, but by the time we got there we must have just missed the train (probably my fault since we were chatting about this and that in the car)! Luckily, the next train wasn't too long after, but then by the time he would have gotten back to Penn Station (NY), he wouldn't have quite made the scheduled shuttle to LaGuardia airport. Even though Matt called and the shuttle service said it would be no problem for him to be on the next bus, he waited and waited and they never showed! Luckily Matt had the presence of mind to hop in a cab and high-tail it to the airport! When I got a text message that Matt made it to the transfer point in Chicago, both Christina and I breathed a sigh of relief!

As for more coverage of the basement, as soon as I finish getting it organized (I estimate another 8 - 10 hours of work), I'll do a video walkthrough and take some photos as a prelude to do more specific work. As an FYI, while there's still lots of work left to do, Matt and I are in the home stretch on our upcoming history book, which should be completed by the beginning of May.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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dragon57
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Joined: 05/18/2006
Good stuff guys. I am sure

Good stuff guys. I am sure getting together was a dream come true. It sure would be for me if I was either of you guys. Thanks for sharing.

Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Cool visit!

Next time I am in the neighborhood, like I was last summer (only 20miles from your home Bill! but I forgot the address and I was in a road-trip hurry) I want to come buy and visit ;)

Swing by for a visit when you are in Holland will you?

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Mark Vergeer - Editor / Pixelator
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
Xboxlive gametag
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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
It would be great to have

It would be great to have you down, Mark. I'll keep the spare bedroom ready... ;-)

Christina and I won't be traveling for several more years until our girls are a bit older and can tolerate it, but we do plan on going to Europe. I don't believe Christina has been there since the 90's, so she's been chomping at the bit to do it. Me, not so much as I'm not too big on traveling (I find it tiring), but it sure would be nice to visit someone I actually knew!

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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davyK
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Joined: 05/21/2006
In these days of the

In these days of the internet its easy to forget that such meetings in the near past would never occur. How people of similar of interests from all around the world can get together is so often taken for granted now - but a meeting like this really brings it home how powerful the web is.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Great point, Davy. The

Great point, Davy. The "Internet" (how loaded that word is) is too often dismissed as a type of anti-socialization device, but it's very easy to argue the exact opposite. We all can chat, argue about and have fun with our common interests with people who - in the past - we would have never had the opportunity to meet. It truly does make the whole world smaller.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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