An exclusive Interview with Joe Brewer - Brewers Arcade in Mount Rainier, Maryland, USA with his amazing arcade story.
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GamesYouLoved caught up with Joe Brewer who runs an amazing arcade. Joe restores and keeps the arcade dream alive in his dedicated basement.
How long have you been playing games and that includes all games - pinball, arcade etc?
I've been a fan of videogames since the age of five when my brother received a NES as a Christmas present. Like most kids of the 80's, once our homework was done we spent hours playing Nintendo together.
I was never a rabbid "gamer", but I've certainly always had an appreciation for the video game culture and I am also a big advocate of showcasing the artistic side to video games...hence my love of arcade and pinball restoration work.
What games best remind you of your childhood and why?
I remember spending one Christmas with my relatives in Iowa when I was 6 or 7. My brother brought our NES with us on the road trip so we could hook it up to our grandmothers big screen TV (this was a big deal in the 80's!) in her mobile home. I remember the TV took up like half of her trailer...totally redneck...it was awesome.
On Christmas morning I received Double Dragon for the NES and to this day it is probably my favorite Nintendo game. I played that game over and over. I even owned the original Taito arcade version in the dedicated cabinet for awhile in my arcade collection. I am also an avid collector of anything Sega Dreamcast and have about 12 consoles in my attic. I'm trying to obtain the entire Dreamcast library but I'm only about half way there. I have no idea what my obsession with Dreamcast is but to me it will always be a console that was ahead of its time.
Why do you think people love to play from the past and why do you personally?
I think people enjoy games from the past because for most it brings back the innocence of childhood. Plus, arcade machines were larger than life when you were a little kid and it made the interaction with the machine much more physical instead of just sitting with a wireless controller on the couch.
Even with systems like NES and Genesis, you were always somewhat more involved and uncomfortable in your chair or on your floor because you were tethered to your controller. I think todays games lose that "connection" to the player because you can be completely sprawled out on your couch and just halfass playing a video game. I've broken a sweat playing Robotron 2084 in my arcade...its way more intense than a game of Call of Duty in my eyes.
Tell us about your collection and how you came to build it up from nothing to what you have now?
My arcade began completely by chance. I picked up my first machine, a dedicated Ms. Pac Man from a local laundromat which had thrown it outside next to their dumpster. I had just bought a house with a garage that same year so I figured maybe I could figure out what was wrong and have it in my garage.
I got it working by sheer dumb luck and the rest is history. I started looking on Craigslist for cheap old arcade machines and back in 2008 the economy was in the dumps so I got a lot of good deals on machines.
Slowly, I would buy machines to either keep, trade, or flip for a profit. I have a very stern rule to not spend more on a machine than I know I can make on it. I've seen many arcade collectors fall into the trap of hoarding machines...it reminds me to not get too involved in this hobby when I see their basements and garages overflowing with machines.
Fortunately, I've always been into making money so I've actually made more money on the entire hobby than I have spent. I've owned close to 60 machines but I currently have 20 in my collection. (heres a link to an interesting podcast I was featured on regarding making money on my arcade) http://podcast.farnoosh.tv/2015/08/joe-brewer/
What are 3 of the most loved games in your collection?
My 3 favorite games would be my Donkey Kong, Robotron 2084, and my Back to the Future pinball machine. I got hooked on Donkey Kong because of the film "King of Kong". I suck at the game but it just oozes classic Nintendo.
If your readers haven't ever played Robotron 2084 in the original dedicated upright with 4" original Wico joysticks then they'll never understand why it is the greatest arcade machine ever! Back to the Future is my all time favorite movie so I searched high and low for the pinball machine. I found it cheap on Craigslist back in 2009 and it will probably never leave my collection.
The games I currently have in my collection would be my "best" games that I have added. I have sold a lot of games and the ones in my current collection are ones I actively searched out because they were true classic 80's machines which is what my focus is with my arcade. My current collection of dedicated machines with original hardware (monitors, joysticks, etc) is as follows:
Dig Dug, Centipede, Asteroids, Pole Position, Outrun, Gyruss, Frogger, Space Invaders, Galaga, Ms. Pac Man, Missile Command, Robotron 2084, Joust, Donkey Kong, Getaway: High Speed II pinball, WWF Royal Rumble pinball, Back to the Future pinball, Space Shuttle pinball, Bad Cats pinball, and Swords of Fury pinball.
What are some of the best games you have donated into the arcade? Tell us a couple of stories
One of my favorite stories is when I picked up my Williams Space Shuttle pinball machine.
The gentleman I bought it from had very fond memories of the machine. He went on to tell me that in his younger years he would throw parties and have the girls play "strip pinball" with him and his buddies.
He said the guys were always better at pinball and that the machine had more female asses and boobs on it then I could even imagine. You can't make this stuff up! I purchased my Joust and Robotron from a gentleman who I believe was about to go to prison. All I know is when I loaded up the machines he gave me a word of advice..."always be aware of what you are saying on the phone because you never know who is listening."
I have no idea what he was talking about but I sped off with those two games and never looked back! The most valuable games in my collection currently would be my pinball machines. The pinball market is very hot right now.
What are the most valuable games in your collection - only answer this if you want to!
I think my most valuable machine would be my Back to the Future pinball machine which I was recently offered $3000 for (but I declined). Most of my pins are worth between $2,000-$3,000 in todays market but that could easily fluctuate. Arcade wise my most valuable machine would most likely be my Robotron 2084 which is supposedly HUO (home use only). It's worth between $1200-$1500 in todays market.
Tell us about the social scene with your games and friends, family etc - how they like it and get involved
Brewer's Arcade seems to have struck a nostalgic chord for a lot of people. We have an open house once a year and we host a Christmas party each year for friends and family. The amount of people that come through our little 1919 Bungalow home seems to grow each year. I think I enjoy the "wow" factor most of all. I love it when people have the look of amazement when they walk into my basement and see the games. I know that one day the games will be gone so I'm enjoying it as much as I can for now.
How do you see your collection developing?
As far as my collection, theres only a couple of machines I would really like to find. I've always been a big fan of "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" so I'd like to add that pinball machine to my collection. I'd also like to add a Williams Taxi pinball machine to my arcade as well.
As far as arcade machines, I'd really like to find a nice Sinistar or a two player Demolition Derby. I've been in this hobby for seven years now so I've had quite a bit of time to "tweak" my collection. I think 20 machines is about all my basement can handle comfortably so I'd have to sell a couple in order to aquire the machines I am currently hunting for.
You can follow me online at Twitter - @joebrewerrr