Blast Galaxy – The Arcade Culture is Still Alive
There is a time machine in Amsterdam Noord. Entering Blast Galaxy is like someone secretly turned on the flux capacitor and transported you right back to the golden days of the arcade halls of the ’80s.
For the young Padawans amongst you who never had the blessing to experience this time of wonders, let us try to make it comprehensible. Arcades were jaw-dropping video game halls, where you could hang out (with your buddies — depending on how high or low you were in the schoolyard hierarchy) to spend every cent of you pocket money, escape any kind of sunlight (so in some sense very healthy), get a sneak peak on games that had not made it to home consoles yet (besides you not being able to afford them), compete with friends and strangers, and pretty much build up your reputation as a badass nerd whose value would be counted in how many high scores have your name on. Aaahhhhh, good times!
Blast Galaxy is bringing this entire culture to its former glory (and, yes, even the high scores part).
This temple of gaming opened its doors about a year ago, in the summer of 2018, and introduced an alternative way of fun to Amsterdam (or re-introduced it to those old enough to remember). Buying a ticket for Blast Galaxy means that you get “all you can play” access to every machine available in the place. You can also chill, try some amazing food and drinks, and also dance like Marty McFly to the retro tunes that (often) come out of the speakers. So, if you go there, you might want to clear your schedule.
The Arcade Hotel visited Blast Galaxy while preparations for a rad ’80s-themed party were taking place. We sat down with Chris and Steve, the two founders and bosses of the club, not for a boss fight, but for an interview about the motivation to open an arcade club in Amsterdam, the challenges behind it, and their favourite games.
What exactly is Blast Galaxy?
Chris: For me, it is the arcade I always wanted to visit. It is a passion project.
Steve: We made the place that we wanted to hang out ourselves, but with a few modern twists. For example, you don’t need coins to play, and that is a game changer. Because of that though, there might be less pressure to play.
How did you meet and realise that you share the dream of an arcade club?
C: I started building professional arcade sticks a few years ago, and in a forum I was a member of, I met with Steve.
S: Then Chris moved on building arcade machines, while I was working at the game press. Every time there was an event, I knew that Chris was the guy to call. And around three years ago, we both realised that the coolest thing would be if we had a place for our own arcade.
How many machines do you have here?
C: Here we have about 95 machines.
S: And about 140 just in storage
Sounds like an expensive hobby. How easy is it to maintain all these machines?
C: It is a lot of work, because everything can -and will- break at some point. You need to constantly have spare parts, and knowledge how to fix the machines.
S: It is not always expensive to fix something, but because stuff breaks every week, you need someone to constantly repair the machines. And Chris is an expert on that. Lot of the machines are from the ’80s, and if Chris is not around to repair them, we would be like an arcade from the memes, where half of the games are out of order.
So, is this a dream job?
C: I never said it was easy, but, yes, it is a dream job; even if you have to clean and repair the machines all the time. A lot of collectors don’t allow you to touch their machines, but I don’t mind; just enjoy the game.
S: I love being here, seeing the people play, and meeting and chatting with like-minded people.
In the past, arcades were all about community. How are you integrating this element to Blast Galaxy?
C: It is not only an arcade, but a club. You can meet people here, have dinner, or dance. So, I think we have added a lot of community stuff to an arcade. We also started keeping track of high scores now, but there still a lot of room to explore.
How are you going to introduce the arcade culture to those that are not old enough to remember it?
C: We have lots of gamers here that are still young, but are interested in the arcades. For them, it is like the dinosaurs: they know they existed, but never seen them before (laughs). We are also doing lots of events that could attract casual gamers and non-gamers here as well.
Are there any interesting arcade stories you would like to share?
C: We had Sven here, the blind Street Fighter player. He practiced at our place before participating in the Kumite tournament. He kicks ass! You can’t beat him.
S: There are so many stories and moments. For instance, as we speak, we have two grandparents with their grandchildren inside. They are sitting on the side, and the kids are playing.
What is your favourite game out of all the games here?
C: For me it would be Daytona USA.
S: I really like Shinobi. I love the old side-scrolling arcade games, even though this one is way too hard.
C: Oh, yeah. We had two guys that came here to finish the entire game. They were playing for six hours straight, and they didn’t achieve it.
What high scores can Blast Galaxy boast of having?
S: We have the world high score on 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker.
C: That guy came here to record his entire run. I also used to be number two in the world in Daytona USA.
Can you give us any indications of how the future will be for Blast Galaxy?
S: At some point we will start looking for a bigger place. We have too many machines, and we could do with twice the space.
Chris: And most likely in the same area.
As a wrap up we want to point out how happy we are that Blast Galaxy exsists. Many of us grew up in the arcades of the ’80s and we are extraordinarily excited for this to be in Amsterdam.
You can visit Blast Galaxy at Mt. Lincolnweg 17, 1033 SN, Amsterdam
The arcade hall is open on:
All images from blastgalaxy.nl