The Funspot Family Fun Center in Laconia, NH boasts the world’s largest arcade. It is the kind of brag that usually meets reality when you walk through the door. I braced myself for a letdown. Instead, I found a host of vintage video arcade games and pinball machines. It turns out that Funspot is also the American Classic Arcade Museum. With each turn I found a throwback game and discovered an unexpected yesteryear wonderland.
Bob Lawton founded Funspot in 1952. Lawton took out a $750 loan that has more than returned its investment. He still runs the arcade, which occupies a mini-campus of gaming delight near Lake Winnipesaukee. The Funspot Family Fun Center boasts over 600 total games, a 20-lane bowling center, bingo, and mini-golf.
The arcade is true to their word. Guinness certified Funspot as the World’s Largest Videogame Arcade in 2016. That is not the only impressive record associated with the facility.
In 2007, Harry Hong achieved the highest possible Tetris score: 9,999,999. He achieved a record for the most lines cleared in Tetris: 4,998. Hong still holds the title of Tetris DX Marathon Champion. Hong’s Tetris record is just one aspect of Funspot’s history.
American Classic Arcade Museum
Both Guinness records validate Funspot’s credentials as a special place. The establishment is much more than a dive with machines to throw tokens into. Every corner of the arcade is incredible. As I walked through each room, I discovered Funspot’s alter ego: the American Classic Arcade Museum.
The museum is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to keeping the video arcade experience alive. This includes rarities like Atari Basketball and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. If you want to find an old favorite, the museum has a list of all games at Funspot.
Many are pedestrian by today’s standards, but that is part of the fun. This allows true pop-culture immersion into different eras. Pong might as well be the Rosetta Stone. There are some constants in the antiques. Frogger still confounds. The dog in Duckhunt remains the worst.
Large banks of Skee-Ball and Pac Man machines are hard to miss. Trivial Pursuit and a giant Space Invaders are unique machines that are not available at a typical arcade. Atari Star Wars, submarine games, Paperboy, and Dunk Hunt bring back memories. Several pinball machines inspired by unique culture references induce double-takes: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, a Top Gun knockoff, Monopoly, and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Playing Vintage Video Arcade Games At Funspot
I was more disappointed than I should have been when the Close Encounters Of The Third Kind pinball machine ate my tokens. The film is an all-time favorite. I never conceived of a game based on the Spielberg classic, but seeing the machine was enough of a thrill.
I reversed that disappointment with Atari Star Wars. My wife sensed my excitement when I first grasped the controls. She told me to use The Force and abandoned me to my own devices with just a cup of tokens. The arcade game replicated the X-Wing flying experience in a way that was just flat-out cool. All with an 8-bit Star Wars score playing in the background.
I felt like Dave Nelson in Newsradio. Confronted by Stargate Defender, Nelson was unable to pull himself away for an episode. Unlike Dave Foley’s character, I was nowhere close to a high score and my significant other did not express any judgment.
The twilight zone of arcades has some odd ducks that would never survive marketing vetting in 2019. For starters: Xenophobe and Frisky Tom. There is a Playboy pinball machine with a cartoon Hugh Hefner and curvaceous playmates that clashes with the innocence of the target audience. It was a creepy variant of the “soft glow of electric sex in the window” from The Christmas Story.
The classics that turn Funspot from arcade to Mecca:
- Space Invaders
The throwback Pong machine was a true trip through time. The significance of Pong may be lost on the scores of campers running around the Funspot, but the initial thrill of playing Pong was enough to turn any adult into a child.
That thrill is why Funspot is an actual museum. Different generations can engage in the same entertainment (however dated) that spans decades. It is in an unlikely location, but Funspot is legitimately one of the great pop-culture time travel experiences anyone can have.