Sand on My Back, Joystick In My Hand

Illustration for article titled Sand on My Back, Joystick In My Hand

Growing up in the 70s in Maryland, there was nothing more rewarding than a trip to the beach. But it wasn't the sun, sand or the surf that attracted me, it was the boardwalk.

This week's celebration of the summer of gaming here on Kotaku reminds me of those trips.

Each summer, Ocean City Maryland's beach front was packed with sweaty shoulder-to-shoulder tourists jostling down the tarred, plank wood of the city's boardwalk. But the mingling smells of coconut oil and peanut oil, the calls of hawkers and screams of children were all lost on me.


My summers in Ocean City were really just about one thing: Marty's Playland. Open 364 days a year since the 1930s, the dated facade of the beach arcade is a landmark to anyone who visits the town.

When you step from the boards to the arcade's worn carpet you pass through a virtual wall of air conditioning and into a cavernous room of blinking lights and blaring sound.

I spent countless hours, quarters, days in the arcade rubbing the sand from my back and calves as I played the likes of Dragon's Lair, Street Fighter and Spy Hunter. It was at Marty's that I discovered my love of Tekken. Marty's introduced me to my first hydraulic-powered racing game.

I would spend most of my time at the beach dropping quarter after quarter into the machine, playing until it was dark out and the fireworks pulled those less dedicated gamers away from their machines.

Illustration for article titled Sand on My Back, Joystick In My Hand

Finally, as the day wrapped up and the long drive home loomed I would search my pockets for spare change and drop it in the nearest mini-crane, skeeball or bowlingo, typically earning enough to win a pair of wax lips or Chinese Finger trap: A toy that was both memento and diversion.


For most of us, I suspect, playing video games isn't just about the moment. It's also about the memories. The memories of your first video game, of your first console, maybe the memories of long summer days spent scratching sand and slapping joysticks feet from the roaring surf.

Where are your gaming memories rooted?

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The only arcade we have now in Lexington (the only one I know of, at least), is in Gatti-Town, which I haven't been to in a long time. I guess I went a few years ago, but it was only to eat with our friends from church. No games!

I remember going there on New Year's Eve 2000 and having a blast! My favorite part would be a toss-up between the bumper cars, and playing Star Wars Arcade for the first time!

And then there was the tiny collection of games at Lazer Quest! Can't remember what games they were...I know there were at least 1 or 2 shooter games with the light guns, and maybe some side-scrolling games. And there was air hockey (which you had to pay for)! A shame that Lazer Quest got torn down to make a huge apartment/restaurant complex. I adored their laser tag course!