in california extremis

Okay, last one for tonight.

One of my geekier… okay, probably hands-down my geekiest obsession is videogames. Not World of Warcraft or anything of that ilk, but videogames: big cabinets with blocky graphics and beepy sounds that you experienced in these wondrous places called “arcades” with hundreds of your fellow caffiene-intoxicated 16-year-olds, preferably under black lights with terrible 80s buttrock playing on an overvolted PA system.

…ah, nostalgia. Arcades basically don’t exist any more (except occasionally as adjuncts to laser-tag facilities and amusement parks), and “arcade games” are these days a backwater of an industry that long since moved into the living room. But for a few days each summer in California, a bunch of die-hards go through a ridiculous amount of physical effort to build the arcade to end arcades: hundreds of vintage videogames and pinball machines, some of them stupefyingly rare or never released at all, all set on free play in a conference hall in San Jose. It’s called California Extreme, and 2007 was the first year that I was ever able to attend.

What follows are, for the most part, pictures of old video and pinball games. I suspect that for most people, this is about as boring as pictures of streetlights or parking garages. But if you’re a certain kind of nerd — my kind of nerd — this stuff is better than porn.

Well, better than most porn.

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