Funspot in Laconia, New Hampshire is the largest arcade compound in the world. Besides all the classic stand-up games and champion players from all over the world, I saw things done on Dig Dug that I hadn’t even dreamed were possible.
“It’s Disneyland for adults,” says Eric, a regular attendant, about Funspot. (All photos by Keith Newell)
Funspot in Laconia, New Hampshire is the largest arcade compound in the world. Besides all the classic stand-up games and champion players from all over the world, I saw things done on Dig Dug that I hadn’t even dreamed were possible. There is miniature golf, bowling, bingo, more. You could do it all drunk if you wanted, since there’s a tavern right there, but people are so serious and competitive, they mainly drink coffee and soda. They don’t even eat. They’re like generals. You don’t want to be drunk when you have to go do your war work.
STREET CARNAGE: What’s your game?
ERIC: Donkey Kong.
What’s your score?
ERIC: Six-change. I’m trying to get the world high score. Maybe next year.
Six-change? Already this guy [Hank] got you beat. And this guy [Ben], too!
HANK: I have the third highest score known, I think. One million, thirty-seven thousand, seven hundred.
BEN: Nine-hundred-and-three thousand.
HANK: Ben’s score is official though, witnessed by a ref. Mine was at home, wearing my pajamas.
SCOTT: [walks in and sees Eric] You son of a bitch. You little lying liar. “Oh, I’m sick, I can’t go out to games tonight.”
ERIC: I didn’t say that.
Lyin’ and denyin’. Eric from Rhode Island, Scott from Massachusetts, Hank from Manhattan, Ben from Brooklyn. What brought you all to the Laconia, New Hampshire Funspot today?
BEN: Robert Murczek, former head ref for T Galaxies, has his vacation here every year in November and it’s become a big gathering. This is my third time here this year. The place is humongous!
Why Donkey Kong?
HANK: Pacman has a maximum score and several people have already achieved it, and there are patterns that work throughout. So it can be perfected. That made people turn their attention to Donkey Kong, because there is no ceiling score. That and the movie King of Kong. That documentary got hundreds of thousands of people playing seriously, entering tournaments. It got me. And now I can reach a certain point consistently, playing conservatively. But the more points you want, the more risks you have to take. But you still want to survive till the end, so you put your risk-taking on a timeline.
How does this translate into you guys’ personal lives?
HANK: I’m conservative, which is a good trait for a surgeon [which is what Hank is by day … Konger by night]. A passed out patient would not want me to be a risk-taker. But I’m slowly introducing more risk into my game. A little recklessness. And that may be why I got a speeding ticket on the way here today. The second speeding ticket I ever got in my life. I don’t even think I was speeding! The cop said I was going 65 in a 55, and I said there was no way. I looked at my GPS as soon as I saw his lights, and it said 61. I think he probably had a quota to meet.
SCOTT: You got caught by a wild barrel.
EVERYONE: [laughs knowingly]
Did you tell him you were driving fast because you were excited to be going to Funspot? The DK defense?
BEN: Pat’s done it. He got a ticket knocked down from $250 to $75 because he told him he’d gotten worked up playing at Gamecenterland all day and then he told him he was the Frogger World Champion.
This is the kind of girl nerds score these days.
How is it meeting ladies, with those kind of credentials?
BEN: I met my girlfriend at Barcade [where there are a bunch of arcade games]. This is our three year anniversary.
HANK: I’m avoiding women while I’m in training. Women wouldn’t understand.
I understand. It’s like in Raging Bull. Hanky panky lost him the belt.
HANK: You can’t have any distractions.
You all buy your own stand-up games. How do you New Yorkers fit the big machines in your apartment?
HANK: I live with my little brother. When I was getting the Donkey Kong, I told my brother, “Either the sofa or the refrigerator has got to go.” He thought about it, and he likes to eat, so he said, “The sofa.” It’s blocking my balcony. The space that the machine operates, since I live in Manhattan, is worth more than the machine itself.
BEN: I have a Centipe arcade game and Donkey Kong in my apartment. I also have a mini cabinet that I built that I can plug and play different games, different boards, and go for world records on.
SCOTT: That’s why I’m buying a church to live in with my girlfriend in the middle of nowhere with no insulation and no full bath. Because I can’t walk in my house anymore. Too many arcade games and Volkswagen engines.
ERIC: Do you know the history of Donkey Kong? Nintedo was making Radar Scope in Japan, and they were pretty much starving. Shigeru Miyamoto, his uncle worked there, and Shigeru converted Radar Scope into Donkey Kong.
HANK: If it weren’t for that, Nintendo wouldn’t even exist now. It would have gone bankrupt and disappeared. Donkey Kong was designed to attract an American audience. It was based on King Kong and Popeye.
SCOTT: Nintendo got sued by Paramount Studio for copyright infringement. Paramount lost.
There are a lot of battles between players, companies, refs….
HANK: In the classic arcade gaming community, a lot of people do hate each other.
There’s sabotage, but it never gets physical.
BEN: Recently, here — Funspot — Skootie got banned for life for blowing a snot-rocket on Brian Kuh [one of the stars of King of Kong].
Oh my god! He held one side of his nose and blew snot on Brian Kuh out of the other nostril and it actually hit him?
BEN: Made contact. AND he spat on him. They had to escort him out.
To get snot-rocketed is way worse than getting punched. It’s worse than getting put in the hospital! You’ll never forget your first snot rocket.
BEN: There was history, and then they were competing for manager’s position at Gamestop and Brian got it. That was the straw that broke Skootie’s back.