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Game NOT Over: Pasadena couple resurrects Monster Bash, other retro arcade games

by Chris Greenspon and Maya Sugarman | Off-Ramp®

Will Stifel plays Monster Bash Pinball during his lunch break at Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 4. The space opened in Old Town on Jan. 30. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

For many of us, the sound of an old video game brings back memories of sticky floors, crummy pizza and talking trash with your older brother. At Neon Retro Arcade in Old Town Pasadena, these machines are treated like cultural artifacts, for their innovative graphics and physical game play.

Neon Retro Arcade is run by Mia Mazadiego and Mark Guenther. Guenther's love of arcade games began as a child in Chicago, when he discovered a pinball machine in the basement of his family's new home. In college, Guenther tracked down the same machine and started fixing pinball tables as a hobby. His met his future wife, Mazadiego, over a game of Street Fighter II pinball.

(Neon Retro Arcade owners Mia Mazadiego and Mark Guenther. Credit: Maya Sugarman/KPCC)

Since marrying in 2008, Guenther and Mazadiego's collection of arcade machines has grown into the dozens. Mazadiego says her husband has worked hard to restore these games. "It's a mix of three different disciplines. There's sort of the carpentry work of the cabinets themselves. There's also the electronics component, which is very important of course, and then there's also an art component," says Guenther.

The cabinet art implies a story to go along with the simple graphics. Guenther explains the vector graphics for the Atari classic, Gravitar. "Vector graphics work almost like an Etch A Sketch," says Guenther. "So it's actually creating a line as it goes, instead of creating a constant pattern the line only burns into the screen as needed."

(A screenshot of the north planet in second universe of Gravitar. Copyright Atari 1982.)

The frustrating difficulty of these games might be their biggest charm. Guenther recalls a group of patrons gathered around The Simpsons Arcade Game on opening night, "They finally beat it just at the end as we were closing down, and I've never seen the closing credits on that machine."

(A still from The Simpsons arcade game. Copyright Konami 1991.)

Guenther says you won't have to worry about quarters or tokens, just an hourly rate. He and his wife want to take people back to the time of family fun centers and preserve what Mazadiego calls a "part of American history."

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