The history of Galloping Ghost, the USA’s largest classic arcade


If you’re anything like us, you’re itching for a return to physical gaming experiences like expos and arcades. The next best thing this week is a new 30-minute mini-documentary (embedded below) about the history of Galloping Ghost, a Chicago mega-arcade whose massive collection, full of rarities, was given the Ars Technica spotlight years ago.

The story is told primarily by arcade co-founder Doc Mack, who sits in his arcade’s main office and recalls how the idea for an arcade began in part when he was a lowly clerk at a Babbage’s in the ’90s. Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon came into his shop to buy video games, and Mack worked up the nerve to ask how he got into the game industry. A terse interaction followed, and Mack read between the lines: “Wow, Ed Boon didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.” Mack took the meeting as motivation to realize he’d have to change gears entirely to pursue his games-industry dream and start his own business.

The documentary skips over Mack’s exact path from Babbage’s to his own arcade, merely hinting at “business ideas” he had along the way, before jumping ahead to a friend prompting him to co-found and open an arcade in 2010. While trying to score classic arcade machines in the run-up, he was stunned to discover that out of 80 venues he visited, none had a working cabinet for Mortal Kombat 2 (one of his admitted favorites) for sale. “That motivated me,” he says.

After this and the story of a “barn find” of 114 dormant arcade machines in Iowa for $5,000 total, the documentary settles into a groove of showing footage of customers diving into the games and offering their personal anecdotes, along with a breakdown of Dock’s decision to forgo typical things like “ticket redemption” games or quarters. (Galloping Ghost charges a flat fee to enter, at which point all games are free to play, no quarters required.) This footage appears to have been captured well before pandemic-related measures changed average attendance at arcade facilities (an issue that has already wreaked havoc on arcades around the world), and this doc avoids any commentary on current events. It’s just about the games.

In Galloping Ghost’s case, that includes a number of rare and prototype games, including a pair of unreleased Atari games donated to Mack by arcade-era legend Brian “Rampage” Colin and a restored prototype of the unreleased Primal Rage 2. (When asked about how the arcade’s rarities have affected business, Mack says plainly, “A couple hitchhiked here from Oregon just to play Primal Rage 2.”) The rare games are shown briefly as examples of the arcade’s massive 750+ selection of cabinets—and the doc doesn’t even get into Galloping Ghost Pinball, the company’s sister site down the block dedicated to flipping pins.

For more historical nuggets and amusing anecdotes, check out the embedded doc below. And while the documentary doesn’t mention it, Galloping Ghost is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to expand its primary facility in order to offer over 1,000 arcade cabinets for play.

Galloping Ghost mini-documentary, from Diamond Head Productions.

Listing image by Nate Anderson



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