Road Trip to the Arcade Game Museum

When I first wrote about the arcade game museum, it was just starting out. Not much has changed since November, but there is a nice base of popular arcade games and they work to boot. No small feat, those of you who own a dozen games know first hand. The arcade museum is not too far from Bloomington, but really isn’t overly close to much of anything else other than the University of Illinois. Why go you might ask? I’ll give you a couple of reasons.

The Arcade Museum McLean Illinois

3 Reasons to head to the arcade museum in Illinois

Reason 1: It’s right off the highway. The arcade museum is 2.12, err something, minutes off Highway 55. So, if you want to get away from University life, its an hour from Champaign, just 20 minutes south of Bloomington, and a modest 2.5 hour drive south west of Chicago. Bring 10 dollars in quarters, stop by on your way to St. Louis, and play Pac-man, Tron, Galaga, Dig Dug, Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Centipede. Perfectly working, cheap at $.25 and experience the obvious throw back memories for us older folk to times before young children, mortgages, even 10% unemployment 🙂 But by all means, make it a family event.

The Popular Arcade Game Row

Reason 2: Fairly rare, fully working, highly sought after collector games – A working I, Robot, Food Fight, Star Wars Cockpit. Funny enough, for as many other collectors as I have visited, I’ve seen more of these games almost working, or not working at all than working flawlessly and in beautiful condition. Sure, they’re not impossible to find, but seriously – you can fly half way across the nation to California Extreme, or just make the shorter midwest drive and experience these games similarly to when they first hit the arcade. Even some more rare items that aren’t high in demand are available to play like Blue Print, The End, and Circus Charlie.

Working I,Robot

Reason 3: You might just see something you’ll never see again. I know I did. I got to see a game here or there that may make it to the lineup eventually that you literally may never see again. And this is an understated hint. I got to check out a game, although inaccessible other than only from a top view, that I have some interest in potentially owning some day that there may be less of 10 that still exist. Play your cards right, if you are into the history, there are certainly enough stories lurking around to make the trip worthwhile.

Jack the Giant Killer, Us vs. Them, Tail Gunner Cockpit
The drive to the arcade from Indianapolis was definitely worth it

The ultimate goal on any trip like this is to play a new game or two. The one new game I got to try was Space Zap and I was surprised at how much I liked it. So much so that I added it to my arcade wants page. A game of agile thought and reaction, Space Zap is simple in nature, it evokes the thought “What if Simon came in a chunky wooden cabinet?” I liked the cabaret, probably the first game I have in that format. Doesn’t change the fact that the sideart for the game is hideous, and the gameplay is surface value – there aren’t multiple layers. But still, a surprise.

Working I,Robot

I got to meet some new friends. I got to meet Matt W. who had an internship with Williams way back when and actually, small enough world, another guy from Indianapolis. Then there was obviously, John, who owns the museum and has operated arcade games since the late 80’s. John has a young family, and he took the time to show us around for a couple of hours while we were there.

All I can say is go. If you love old arcade games, and live in Illinois, you aren’t too far away. If you are a collector I will just repeat the line I said before – Go! You might see something you’ll never see again. If you go, leave a comment, talk about your experience, or you can;

Watch a couple movies showing a walk through of the Museum. Arcade video walkthrough 1, 2.

Here are some similar arcade posts

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Very neat. Wife has given me loose permission to go to CAX 2010. However, I’m in charge of finances and if I can’t make it happen it maybe I’ll head to McLean, IL. Just don’t know if the boys would last that long in a car!

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I drove down from the Chicago area to meet Jeff at the museum. McLean, IL is a quaint little town, and the ride down from Chicago went fast at about 2hrs one way, almost all on I55. The museum was neat, clean and well organized with a little lounge area towards the front by the cocktail tables and then rows of games lining the walls. Rare, uncommon and just odd items mixed in with classic staples, as Jeff mentioned. I played at least 6 games that I had never played in a dedicated cabinet before, it was fantastic!

The one thing I thought was odd is that they don’t always have an attendant on duty, you just walk in, drop in your quarters and play! Take some time to drag the family or a few arcade friends out to the museum, support a great venue and play some games.

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One of the strengths of the museum is the space to move around. John talked about adding more classic games, but didn’t really specify how, nor did he say if he had other space for the museum to expand. I assume he does. You and I should have at least peaked into the adjacent room….

The attendant thing understandable, however unusual.

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I drive by there all the time when I visit St. Louis. I meant to stop by there the last trip around Thanksgiving, but I didn’t have the time and had not yet heard enough about it. I’ll have to get a trip down there sometime soon! Thanks for the writeup, Jeff!

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I can’t really promise collectors anything. All I can say, is I think the drive is worth it, even up to 5-6 hours one way if you are a die hard collector and like history. I also think that John has apparently done a pinball shop in the past, which is no longer around.

I don’t doubt the museum will ‘never’ go away, but….’never ‘ is a strong word as priorities change.

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Might need to go away with the kids this summer and just happen to stop for lunch next door to the museum!

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They have a tremendous variety of diners in McLean. McDonalds or Subway. Junk in the trunk or Jarod.

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Vectorman who runs this place has been in the hobby a long time. I have never met him but he used to sell a ton of arcade stuff on ebay.


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Long time, as in 1987 sounds like.

John just listed a gorgeous Domino Man on eBay for $1,250. Ouch……

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John is a cool dude but his prices for even non-working machines are laughable at best.

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His prices are certainly not for collectors. And although he has some constraints, it isn’t as much as a collector either, so there is no ‘need’ to sell anything. If it sells at his asking price, it sells.

Certainly, if I bought anything, I would want to see in depth photos showing the whole cabinet inside and out.

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