A few years back I was at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles and on a whim, picked up a book called Lucky Wander Boy by D.B. Weiss. Upon reading it, it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 in its post-modern sleight-of-hand mind-fuckness where the line between protagonist as anti-hero, my id and reality were blurred as it referred to a piece of software called MAME that allowed me to run original standup arcade ROMs on my home computer. One of these games was called Lucky Wander Boy and as the author of the book would tell it – to play the actual game led one down a very mysterious, even dangerous path.
With some healthy skepticism in place, I searched for the game online. Imagine my astonishment when it showed up as a download! Marketing tactic? Nope. It was the real deal.
Here’s the thing. A lot of us have game consoles and spend way too much time reading bullshit threads about how PS3 and Blu-Ray trump Xbox 360s and back and forth ad nauseum. But there is a thing about the old standup games wherein the farther you go back the more pure the gameplay is. You boil down to the perfect game, ie., Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Pong or Donkey Kong and you realize there really is no way to boil it down further from there.
Well, imagine the joy for us dying Generation Xers when by simply pressing the number 5 on your laptop keyboard you can have as many quarters as you want. Pressing the number 1 or 2 for number of players sets you loose into Arcade nirvana. And yeah, if you actually figured out how to move out of moms basement by now you can even smoke cigarettes in your home arcade as you suck back that Orange Julius – just like the old days!
Even better, you can play versions of these games that you never even knew existed – bootlegs, demos, revisions, and international versions! Total. Heaven.
So, how do you get your hand on these pretties? Too easy. Run a search for MAME32 and MAME32 ROMS. Used to be heavily protected, even considered piracy, and I am not certain what the actual hard laws concerning this sort of use is these days, (so I hereby absolve myself of any liability by stating that if you download and or use these ROMS you do so at your own riskj) but since almost every old school arcade is going out of business, you are effectively participating in an examination of our cultural history and identity and paying respects to the soon to be forgotten art form that was tabletop/standup arcade gaming.
Here’s an example of a site for ROMs and emulators.
There are many others. Enjoy, padawan.