Galloping Ghost Gives Arcade Gaming an Extra Life


image+++lead-in-textnnArcades occupy a unique place in video game history.In the late 1970s and 1980s, a string of hits like *Space Invaders, Pac-Man,* and *Donkey Kong* ushered in new gameplay mechanics and bright, crispy pixel graphics.The 1990s featured the fighting game boom with *Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat*, and *Virtua Fighter* demonstrating cutting-edge graphics and gameplay.nn+++nnIt was the place to be, a time when the cutting edge in video games, from texture-mapped polygonal graphics to peripheral control inputs (including steering wheels, light guns, and dance-mats), could only be found crammed into immaculately designed cabinets, complete with their showy bezels and marquees.Arcades dodged hardware limitations largely due to their ability to optimize the hardware specifically to play one single game.

Home consoles and computers hadn’t yet caught up.nnBut as technology advanced, the cutting edge found its way to a new generation of console hardware—most notably in the late 1990s with the launch of the sixth generation of consoles, including the PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and Sega Dreamcast.Then online gaming took off, further fueling the demise of arcades.These days, you’ll still find some arcade cabinets in Dave and Busters and Chuck E.

Cheese.Of course, the *real* arcades were often dark, cramped, and sweaty, with the odor of overheated circuitry.Trying to find one nowadays proves a difficult task, but there’s hope\!nn+++inset-leftnn[#image: /photos/61e1ec1003f9ae99229f462f]nn+++nnIn the quiet suburbs outside of Chicago, Galloping Ghost Arcade aims to preserve this unique period of gaming history by collecting an impressive lineup of cabinets.It makes sense that Galloping Ghost Arcade found its home in Brookfield, Illinois.

It’s right in the middle of a burgeoning arcade gaming scene, with people passionate about retro games.Chicago had once been the headquarters of arcade heavyweights Gottlieb, Bally, Midway, and other prominent arcade publishers of the ’90s.As of this publication, the arcade offers upwards of 851 games (and counting\!).nn### Humble BeginningsnGalloping Ghost began in 1994 when Doc Mack, owner and founder, had a chance encounter with *Mortal Kombat* cocreator Ed Boon.A lifelong gamer at heart, Mack wanted to become a game developer.

“[Boon] told me how hard it would be to get into the industry,” Mack says.“So I went off and did my own thing.” That same do-it-yourself attitude would prove the essential fuel that drives his company.

He was only 18 years old when he founded Galloping Ghost with the intention of developing his own fighting game, *Dark Presence*.Though the title hasn’t been released to date, Mack’s company never slowed down, contributing to multiple projects, including Galloping Ghost Arcade.nnThe arcade’s origin story began on an arcade location tracker website called Aurcade.Mack thought joining in on local Chicago arcade culture would be a worthwhile endeavor.“We thought we’d contribute a bunch of data, which would help our own production by finding out where we’d be selling our arcade games.”nnMack scoured bars, restaurants, and various other businesses looking for arcade cabinets.In his search, he made a sobering discovery.“So many of the machines weren’t playable—buttons and sticks didn’t work, the cathode-ray tube monitors were all faded,” Mack says.

Most of the cabinets were in a state of disrepair, once-prized technology left to fall apart in the corner of a laundromat or shoved near the restrooms of a family restaurant.

But, Mack says, “It got me writing the business model for what would become Galloping Ghost Arcade.”nnMack found a Craigslist advertisement selling 114 machines, all stored and neglected in a warehouse in Dennison, Iowa.“We drove out there, talked to the guy, and found out he had another warehouse full of games in Tennessee.” Mack added another 87 machines to Galloping Ghost’s collection; these cabinets formed the basis of the arcade’s August 13th, 2010 grand opening.“We opened with 130 machines, and since then it’s been nonstop, constantly expanding the arcade.”nn### One of a KindnAmong Mack’s 851 acquisitions (and counting), there are bound to be some rarities and one-of-a-kind machines, including prototypes of unreleased titles.*Primal Rage* was a one-on-one dinosaur-themed fighting game developed by Atari Games in 1994 to compete directly with *Mortal Kombat II* and other fighting games of that time.Its success led Atari Games to quickly jump into developing a sequel.

That game would have been *Primal Rage II*, but it was shelved after Midway bought Atari Games.Midway developed *Mortal Kombat*, and the *Primal Rage II*’s cancellation was likely a move to squash any competition with the company’s pride and joy franchise.nnnn[#image: /photos/61e1ec1002a1a063b0506071]nn“There were so many rumors circulating about *Primal Rage II* being bad,” Mack says.Rumors that the game was nearly finished at the time of its cancellation spread across the internet, but hopeful fans heard nothing for over a decade.\n\nDuring a *Mortal Kombat 9* tournament in which Galloping Ghost Arcade sponsored a team of gamers from the Midwest, Tom Brady, a competitor, visited the arcade and quickly fell in love.“He told me he had *Primal Rage II*,” Mack says with a laugh.

“I didn’t believe him.He told me if he ever sold it, he would sell it to me because he wanted people to play it.” A month or two later, Mack got a call from Brady.Sure enough, it was real.The game build was made for on-location beta testing.“There are probably five boards out there,” Mack says.

There are only a handful of printed circuit boards of the game, and it never left the beta testing stage of development.Galloping Ghost Arcade is the only place where players can enjoy the game.nnOther rarities, prototypes, and one-of-a-kinds to be found hidden among the maze-like arcade include a rendition of *Beavis and Butthead*, a prototype version of *Trog*, the unreleased digitized one-on-one fighting game *Tattoo Assassins*, and *Ribbit*, the sequel to *Frogger* that never actually came out.\n\nThen there’s *NARC,* a run-and-gun shooter.During an event at the arcade, *NARC*’s original programmer, George Petro, asked Mack if he had a spare board.“I didn’t think anything of it.

I drove it out to him and the next day, when he comes out for the event, he hands my board back.” Petro told Mack that there had been a bonus level where the user flies a helicopter and has unlimited missiles; it caused the game to crash, and the developers ran out of time to fix it, so they dropped the level for the arcade release.Petro added the level into Galloping Ghost’s copy of the game.nn### Galloping Ghost’s *Dark Presence*nnn[#image: /photos/61e1ec0e1cb0ca027aaa9b38]nnThe arcade is only one side of Galloping Ghost.There’s Galloping Ghost Reproductions, focusing on the development of components and parts, and at the center of it all Galloping Ghost Productions.

What if an arcade cabinet breaks down, especially a one-of-a-kind? That’s where a crew of four experienced professionals leads a mission focused on arcade parts and restoration.They can do everything from making new marquees for a cabinet to completely recreating a rare part, like a steering column or a rare joystick, from the ground up.“We’re going on 11 years and haven’t had anything break that couldn’t be repaired,” says Mack.If it ever happens, the reproductions department could rebuild the part if necessary.nnOne recent project is a documentary about *Dark Presence*, a 2D digitized one-on-one fighting game designed and developed by the company to be a premier fighter that not only pays homage to its influences (arcade fighters like *Mortal Kombat*) but is also an evolution of the arcade 2D fighter itself.Not unlike long-in-development titles like *Duke Nukem Forever*, the game was designed at a time when technology seemingly evolved overnight.nnStill, the production team was able to bring out their first title, 2017’s full-motion video adventure, *The Spectre Files: Deathstalker*.In the vein of *Dragon’s Lair*, the game is based on an unfinished project by game creator Brian Colin, whose oeuvre includes arcade classics like *Rampage* and *Xenophobe*.“[We were at breakfast], and he was telling me about this laserdisc game the team had shot.All live actors in this mansion aimed to be a low-budget B movie, very campy.” Using footage from the film, the productions drew up a budget, and they finished development on the game.

It’s available to play at the arcade or for download on Steam.nn### The Future Is the Pastnnn[#image: /photos/61e1ec11096c958cf1011628]nn“Walking into the arcade, it feels like you’ve time-traveled back to 1989,” says Chris Dailey, a gamer who made a five-hour pilgrimage in November 2021 to experience Galloping Ghost Arcade.“The sounds of the games going and people playing, I felt like I was nine again.All that nostalgia in the air.”nnThe arcade is 7,500\+ square feet of arcade nostalgia.It feels so much like being in the past, a time when these hulking machines were gateways to new worlds.“Every time I have stopped by the arcade, I would always hear the countless sounds of the games playing all around me,” says Kevin Jimenez, a loyal gamer who has been going to the arcade since it opened in 2010.“You can see around you other people getting into different games, old and new generations alike having fun.”nnAround almost every corner one could stumble upon a new discovery.That sense of mystery is part of the arcade’s mission, too.

“The sounds of all the cabinets buzzing, beeping, and playing their theme music reverberates throughout the arcade,” says Brandon Blom, a Twitch streamer who traveled to visit the arcade in September 2021 with his two sons.

“Nearly every cabinet makes its own unique noise.” Then there’s the undeniable feeling of standing in front of a well-designed machine, able to mash the buttons and use a joystick that’s so very different from a console controller.“I really enjoyed getting back to the way the joystick and buttons feel as you slam them,” says Anthony Livingston, who visited the arcade in November 2021.“Today’s controllers are great, but there’s nothing like the button layout of the original *Defender* stand up.”nnThe arcade’s business model includes a nontraditional approach: no more quarters or tokens.Everything is free play.“Every time I go, it feels like a journey through Jurassic Park,” says Jimenez.You pay $20 for a day pass, and then from opening to closing, you can discover new games and play old favorites.

With 851 arcade machines and counting, maintaining the arcade is a nearly insurmountable task.nn“We’ve rebuilt so many things—it’s a constant effort,” Mack says.He gets to the arcade every day at 6 am to check and service machines.In the afternoon, he resets and repairs them.nnTo document the company’s acquisition process, Mack began a weekly Twitch stream called Monday Mystery Game, which debuts a new game that will be added to the arcade floor.The stream has fostered a community among gamers and people interested in arcade history.In addition to active Twitch and YouTube channels, the arcade hosts events such as Developer Days, Sega week, and a yearly tournament called T20, in which participants battle for high scores on appointed arcade cabinets.nnnn[#image: /photos/61e1ec0f7e1d5d6f07fba546]nn“The arcade really needs games that are exclusive to get people to keep coming back,” Mack says.

*Dark Presence* will soon be one of those games.Though the fighter may see digital release on Steam or the PlayStation Store, the priority is, and will continue to be, the arcade—which is on the verge of adding even more games.nn“The expansion will hold about 120 machines,” says Mack.The team has already begun filling up the new space.And the other four buildings that comprise the arcade, including a building dedicated to pinball, are at max capacity.nn“These games were made to be played,” Mack says.He inspects his biker gloves, which he routinely wears with a trademark black trenchcoat, his arms draped over a large desk in his office.

Like the arcade itself, his office is full of memorabilia.One wall is filled with guitars and a shelf decked out in Godzilla figures.A hulking flat-screen rests behind him.I compliment him on the collection and he humbly thanks me.

Whatever he gets into, he says, he tends to go all-out.It’s undeniable proof that Galloping Ghost’s mission hasn’t changed and that the arcade will continue going strong for years to come.nn***n### More Great WIRED Storiesn- 📩 The latest on tech, science, and more: [Get our newsletters](\!n- The quest to trap CO~2~ in stone—and [beat climate change]( [Could being cold]( actually be good for you?n- [John Deere’s self-driving tractor]( stirs AI debaten- The 18 [best electric vehicles]( coming this yearn- 6 ways to [delete yourself from the internet]( 👁️ Explore AI like never before with [our new database]( 🏃🏽‍♀️ Want the best tools to get healthy? Check out our Gear team’s picks for the [best fitness trackers](, [running gear]( (including [shoes]( and [socks](, and [best headphones](

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