Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Arcade Memories: Thumb Fun

I grew up in a fairly small town, so my 1980s arcade memories must range farther afield now that I've covered the three local establishments of my misspent youth.  But I did do a little video gaming during family trips slightly father away, at Thumb Fun, a small amusement park with an arcade that used to operate in Door County, Wisconsin.

Thumb Fun was primarily an amusement park -- it had a bouncy castle, and go-karts, and a haunted house, and a bunch of other rides and attractions I've forgotten about.  The name was derived from the "thumb" shape of the region where the park resided, but it applied particularly well to the park's small arcade, housed in a low-slung wooden building that, as I remember it, was just a few steps above the cable-strewn game tents set up by traveling carnivals.

I remember it being noisy and crowded in the Thumb Fun arcade -- especially when the weather was inclement -- but I did play some fine games there during my two or three visits to the park.  I don't recall seeing Atari's cult classic color vector game Major Havoc anywhere else at the time, and it was also the first place I encountered the phenomenal Star Wars, with its engrossing wireframe 3-D graphics, music and digitized samples from my favorite movie ever.  I may have seen Space Duel there also; the owner seems to have had a certain affinity for vector graphics.  Other memories are fuzzier, probably because my visits were limited, and everything seems to have faded into a general 1980s pastiche.  I think I first played or at least saw Sega's Congo Bongo there; I vaguely recall that the Thumb Fun arcade had Jungle King (the Tarzan-infringing version, before it became Jungle Hunt), and of course many of the usual now-classic games were on hand but don't stand out in my mind.

Like the other arcades of my youth, Thumb Fun is sadly no more; Internet research reveals that in 1998 or thereabouts, the park was still doing well but the land had become too valuable to keep.  Thumb Fun's owner shuttered the park, selling off the rides, games and other equipment so that everything could be torn down and new condominiums put up.

At least Thumb Fun's arcade, or the version in my memories, at least, never had to suffer the indignity of ticket redemption.  I would guess this was because there was plenty of Skee-Ball available elsewhere on the property.

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