Yes, I know, another Tron post, but I do like to add a “personal” touch to my writings here, and this entry has a LOT to do with video gaming in general.

After a business meeting in Los Angeles, I decided to stop by Disneyland on the way home. The attraction ElecTRONica opened up at California Adventure, and that’s too alluring to me not to check it out when so close in the area.


It’s crazy enough that upon entering the area, I’m spotlight scanned by a Recognizer who declares: “This program has no disc. Another stray.”

At this point, I’m set into a world full of neon lights, glowing drinks, a full sensory 3D preview of Tron Legacy, and more Daft Punk than one can humanly endure. So much Daft Punk.

Quite simply, it was too much awesome packed into one place.

And then I see this:

Flynn’s Arcade is a marvel. The second you walk in, it’s like getting thrown into some pocket universe where the 1980’s are right now. The arcade machines are in fantastic condition, the music is non-stop Journey, Michael Jackson, Go-Gos and more, and I immediately felt those feelings of excitement that my six year old self once did in places like this, but it was now. They even had tokens emblazoned with the “Flynn’s Arcade” logo on them. Like what Aladdin’s Castle used to have, and not the generic coins.

And so I played Pac-Man.

Microsoft’s Game Room shows that effect of avatars crowding around a player when they’re pushing a high score, but in that moment, the effect was real and happening. As I drove Pac-Man around the maze level after level to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, I had people cheering me on as I neared and destroyed the then high score. It was an amazing feeling of camaraderie, one that you don’t see anymore in the dwindling current arcades, but used to happen back then. Those who could score high and score well were gods of the arcade.

At the end of the day, I mistakenly plowed into Pinky and was left with this score:

And then, next to Pac-Man, and also in the corner next to the Whirlwind pinball machine, was this.

Space Paranoids. Encom’s fictional game from the movie made real. Entering Flynn’s Arcade and playing Space Paranoids were two dreams that I’ve wanted to fulfill since 1982. Last night was that moment made real.

As it was in the days of the arcade’s prime, people lined tokens on the cabinet to signify “next” in the playing hierarchy, as was the custom and unspoken rule. The game was cool, and it was designed well. The novelty of living out a 28 year old movie was not lost on me.

If the Disney parks have any sense, they will keep Flynn’s Arcade once the initial Tron hype dies down. It’s a time machine in a building, and for those who ever wanted to see what “the big deal” was about when people so wistfully wax on about arcades before Dance Dance Revolution and countless shooters flooded the dwindling scene, this is the living frame of reference, and it’s “cool kids” personified.

For the end of the night, the holographic Tron preview at The World of Color also blew me away, as the “bikes” materialized out of thin air and battled and raced each other, with their “light walls” being perfectly recreated out of jets of colored water. That in itself was amazing.

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