From London to Moore with A Lot of Retro LoveJan 08, 2019
The moment you hear Dean Wenzel talk about his new “Eighty Three Arcade” in Moore, you realize two things. First, he’s not from around these parts. In fact, Wenzel’s not from America at all. He’s originally from London, England.
“I met my wife while she was on a school trip in England,” said Wenzel. “We started dating, and it was about eight years before I moved to America. Been here for about 20 years now, I guess.”
The second thing is that he is passionate about classic arcade games from the 1980s. How passionate, you wonder? Wenzel has spent a tremendous amount of time tracking down games and now owns hundreds of them. He had turned his passion into what can only be called a “trip back through time” to the age when game arcades were packed with kids and adults, many of whom were trying to get their initials into the top scores on some of the most popular games around.
“What we’re trying to do here is recreate a vintage arcade,” said Wenzel. “When people walk into Eighty Three Arcade their initial reaction is always, ‘Wow; this really takes me back!’”
Visitors to Eighty Three Arcade will find all of the old classic games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, Defender, QBert, and Punch-Out. But Wenzel says they’ll also see some games they may have skipped over back in the old days, when you could find video game machines everywhere, including convenience stores and gas stations.
“Back when you had to feed quarters into games people would usually just play the popular games,” said Wenzel. “But since our arcade is free-play (customers pay one price and can play any game as many times as they like), they’ll typically spend time playing their old favorites and then try out some new games.”
The result is a much fuller arcade experience that is quickly becoming popular with not just those who grew up in the age of arcades, but for those experiencing the 8-bit magic for the first time. Wenzel says it’s not unusual to find regular customers returning to the arcade with their buddies to try and settle some old scores from the past.
Another surprising result of the arcade opening is that some of the nation’s best gamers come to Wenzel’s place of business to sharpen their skills. While very people here in Oklahoma have heard of David Pace, the world Pac-Man Champion, Wenzel immediately recognized the reigning world champ the moment he walked into Eighty Three Arcade.
“He went over to the Pac-Man machine and sat down around 8 p.m.,” said Wenzel, “And he finished his game without stopping around 2 a.m..”
How can someone spend six hours playing one non-stop video game? Wenzel explained that Pace is one of the few people in the world capable of performing what is known as the “Perfect Pac-Man.”
“It’s a remarkable feat, really,” said Wenzel. “Pac-Man has 256 levels, and the perfect game is when you play it without losing a single life, you eat every single one of the dots, you eat every blue ghost and every fruit. Several people can do it, but David has the world record for doing it in the fastest possible time.”
Wenzel says that while the arcade is all about recreating childhood memories, there’s more to it than that. In this age of high-powered home gaming consoles and online competition, Wenzel hopes to breathe life back into the social aspect of arcade gaming.
“Back when everyone had an arcade, everyone knew each other face-to-face,” said Wenzel. “Their initials were on the games, and they knew where each other went to school. It was a fun place to hang out and challenge each other.”
Because people were face-to-face in the arcades, it was a kinder and gentler time without much of the bullying and nastiness found in online gaming.
“When you’re online it’s easy to be just plain meanness going on,” said Wenzel. “The arcade environment is totally different. It’s competitive, yeah. But it’s real. You’re in a physical space, and you’re face-to-face with the people you’re playing with or against and that changes everything. It makes it so much friendlier.”
Wenzel has found nearly all of his arcade machines through social networks, a labor of love that has sent him trekking all across the country.
“I’ve pulled machines out of old barns and warehouses from everywhere,” said Wenzel. “It’s especially fun to find those games that manufacturers didn’t make a lot of.”
Walking into Eighty Three Arcade is like stepping through a time portal, back into an era when video games were more profitable than movies.
“1983 was the biggest year for video games,” said Wenzel, “They made more money than the Hollywood film industry that year, but as home consoles became the rage the old video arcades slowly died out.”
That magic is alive and well in Moore, Oklahoma these days thanks to a Brit who still loves gaming. Eighty Three Arcade is located in the Sooner Shopping Center, 638 N. Broadway, and is open Thursdays and Fridays from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. and on Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is $20 for all the video games you can play. There’s also a family pass for two adults and two children that runs $50. Wenzel says the arcade is available for private parties and corporate events.