Smells Like Birthday to Me
So my friend was having a birthday. Of course we got, like, totally smashed AND high AND, like, totally totaled that dude’s house, LOL!
Just kidding. We went to a nickel arcade. Like bosses.
It should go without saying (but of course I’ll say it anyway) that we’re well past the age of nickel-arcading without getting at least a few strange looks from employees and/or parents of the screaming children that frequent these establishments. The screaming children actually didn’t give us any strange looks. Mostly because they were too busy shoving their parents’ hard-earned loose change into machines so their pixilated dots could shoot pixilated dots at other pixilated dots, all the while screaming like banshees (the kids, not the pixilated dots). It was still better than a Chuck E. Cheese though, as the hellions there screech more like a Nazgul Fell-Beast than banshees, (and smell more like moist socks), and while banshee shrieks are pretty terrible, Fell-beast shrieks have been known to drive people mad.
When confronting such a child, the proper response is, of course:
We instead chose to ignore the warning signs and stride forward into the thick of battle with naught but the clothes on our back and a bit of Lembas bread to tide us over.
And some nickels.
I had a small harvested asteroid’s weight of metal in my pockets, a spring in my step, and my eye on a giant inflatable tennis ball. Powered up, team AWSUM hit the games. There were jumping games and smashing games and shooting games and press sweaty buttons games and timing games and get the colored ball games and the ever popular spend-all-your-nickles-trying-to-knock-off-all-the-other-nickels-people-already-spent-on-this-game game.
Particularly amusing was a Japanese console that was stashed away in a corner by the bathrooms and was only visible from the main room if you crouched between the Dozer-Dumpster-Rockaholic and Dinosaur Rage! games. Of course I had to investigate.
For two nickels, I got this:
Knowing no Japanese, I proceeded to hit random buttons until a different screen came up.
This one came with an animated stick figure that appeared to catch on fire when I pressed the GO button. Suddenly my stick-figure had a jet-pack and was flying through a valley filled with stone pillars. Then he was crashing through walls that were on fire. Then he was catching hoops and popping colorful bubbles. Then he collected coins while avoiding what appeared to be my Mother’s vegan meatballs, though my friend told me they were probably supposed to be lava-balls. Finally, after consuming one too many meatballs, my poor stick figure fell through a hole in the floor and presumably was executed by Hello Kitty. Or perhaps he merely succumbed to the terrible gas that has been known to consume one from within after vegan meatball ingestion. Either way, it was game over.
Oh well, time for a King Théoden speech to get me back on the battlefield.
All was going well, we played some more games, spent some more nickels, made some witty banter and pretended we were The Fellowship if The Fellowship ever went to an arcade for Boromir’s birthday or something.
Then I saw it.
All by itself in the middle of the room.
A bright beam of light shot out from the console and surrounded the machine with a soft, angelic halo.
I teared up a little.
HOLY COMPOST-LADEN SHRIMPIN’ BOATS BATMAN! IS THAT AN AUGMENTED REALITY BOOTH “SHOOT THINGS IN THE JUNGLE WITH MACHINE-GUNS” GAME?!
The answer was yes, yes it was.
I bounded over to it as though riding on flying unicorn-dolphin-statues. Statues that fly. Lightly. Like air. The rest of the group followed me into the alternate reality that was Let’s Go Jungle: Lost on the Island of Spice. It should be noted that the booth’s sweat-shined seat was designed to barely fit two anorexic hobbits, but six of us managed to cram inside. Two dollars got us into the pixilated jeep, with four friends manning the two turrets, while the other two offered emotional support. Almost immediately, we were under attack. A swarm of man-eating spiders, a swarm of killer bees, a swarm of…glowing vampire-bat-dogs…? No matter, we slew them all while screaming and violently lurching the booth back and forth. Finally, we got to the boss, none other than Shelob herself. Despite our heroic attempts, (and several thousand machine-gun rounds), without the Light of Elendil we were eventually vanquished and could only look on as our pixilated jeep was torn to shreds.
The sweat buildup that had greeted us upon entering the booth appeared to act as a one-way lubricant, allowing us to squeeze in, but suctioning us to the seats when we attempted to exit. However, after a few minutes of sword-hacking and unfortunate limb-removal, we managed to escape the evil booth’s grasp and piled out with renewed strength to vanquish our foe–any remaining cash we might have.
Finally, at the end of the night, our entire Fellowship pooled together all the tickets we had earned with $70+ and headed to the counter. Our total came to about 4500 tickets–probably worth around $15. We then proceeded to spend more time debating about which crappy plastic thing to get than we did actually playing games. We eventually ended up with: a giant inflatable baseball bat, six giant clear dice, five mini-flashlights, two giant tennis balls, a bouncy ball, a whoopie-cushion, a hacky sack, several fist-fulls of candy and a red glow-stick (which was my share of the booty).
Not satisfied with our conquest and collection of filthy lucre, we went outside to claim the parking lot as loudly as possible, while also partaking in the added bonus of scaring away potential customers. We threw things at each other, did our best brawling Orcs impression, and worked hard at utterly destroying the majority of the cheap plastic items we had just purchased. Then we had a jolly romp outside an active volcano, before finally saying farewell and riding some eagles home.
After getting back, I tossed my glow-stick haphazardly on my desk, noticing only upon my return that it had chanced to settle upon my copy of Lord of the Rings. That night it glowed like the ancient writing on the ring of power, lulling me to a dreamless sleep while whispering plans for the laser-tag place that would serve as our next conquest.
MUH HA HA HA HA!
But seriously, it was pretty much the best birthday party ever.