Ptuu! Biiiing! Rattlerattlerattle! Boinkboink! Pshhhpshhpshhh! Blip blip blip!
The soundtrack of a generation.
Before the advent of Minecraft or Call of Duty, arcades teeming with coin-operated games were all over Ottawa like Pac-Man on cherries.
Ottawa’s teenagers of the 70s and 80s wore off their fingerprints sending silver balls ricocheting off bumpers, wafer-thin pucks across air hockey tables, or laser canon missiles at paratroops of linearly arranged aliens.
You could find these pocket change-gobbling reflex tests in diners, shopping plazas, and train and bus stations—but their real homes were Ottawa’s arcades. The cream of the core included The Imperial, The Rideau, and King Arthur’s Court, while the pride of the outskirts was The Wizard, located at Carling and Broadview.
By the mid-80s, 86% of North America’s teenagers were playing Pac-Man, Berzerk, Asteroids, Battlezone, or other favourites. In Ottawa, those games came courtesy of Regent Vending, operators of the largest arcade chain in the city. Arcades were fun,
safe environments free from the ire of parents, the pressures of school, or the ignominy of trying your luck with the opposite sex. The only thing you had to worry about was whether or not you’d get that Free Game or have your name emblazoned atop that exalted list of high scorers.
Today, Ottawa’s first video game generation is all grown up, playing downloaded versions of Subway Surfers or PUBG Mobile on their phones with their kids. Those prone to nostalgia, though, can be found mingling with a whole new generation of Mortal
Kombat or Donkey Kong aficionados, at retro venues like Old Ottawa South’s House of Targ and The Neighbourhood Pub on Baseline Road.
Yes, there was life before home consoles and cloud gaming, especially in arcade-loving
Ottawa—and its heart went Ptuu! Biiiing! Rattlerattlerattle! Boinkboink!
Pshhhpshhpshhh! Blip blip blip!