Arcades Changed My Life: RIP London Funland

25/07/2011

Toby Na Nakhorn (pictured) contacted Coin-op Community after July 4 when Funland shut. He wanted to tell us how arcade culture and dancegames were hugely influential for him and many others like him. Rather than the negative press arcades often get in the press, his experiences saw him meet friends, girlfriends, travel the world, get fit and ultimately find a career. 

The legendary “Arcade Infinity” in California closed down in February. There were so many comments from regulars on Facebook, forums etc. How they tried to fundraise and save it, friends made there and what the place meant to them, it really struck a chord. Then came the news that Funland had closed this month, and the internet was once more alive with people remembering the good times, the friends made and mourning the loss of something that meant a lot to them.

I could relate; time spent in arcades has presented me with so many opportunities and I know for a fact there are identical success stories across the globe. What saddens me is the xbox online generation will never have the same experiences we did.

It’s NOT about putting a headset on and seeing who can get the best score or being in a controlled living room/bedroom environment. It was/is all about rocking up to your arcade knowing at any given evening or weekend you will be able to stop by, chill, meet new and old faces for something to eat, see a film, go to a pub or go party! As a certain Jason Ho catch phrased during the boom of the 90’s rhythm game era: “It’s just a social thing”.

We were a new generation of players, those who grew up with comics and computer games when they weren’t accepted as they are today. But who did “normal” things like clubbing and going to the pub. We could talk about games & films & geeky stats all day but we choose not to, as we were socially balanced and had friends who weren’t into games at all!

We couldn’t 100% relate to the stay at home computer buffs, the hardcore Japanese animation and film geeks who didn’t go outside their small bubbles. Yet in the same way a lot of us were never the popular ones at school and got labeled as computer geeks. All in all, I think the arcade did attract a lot of misfits like us. I’d say we were geeks with street smarts!

One thing for sure, in the arcade you would make new friends and be accepted without judgement. You could get your videogame fix for half an hour, talk with other enthusiasts, totally geek out! Then go on and meet your “non geek” friends. Everyone was a little quirky and this is why the arcade was a perfect in-between melting pot for so many of us.

I look back over my time in Funland and my life in general. All my close friends, all met through arcades. It frustrates me that people play out videogames and especially arcades as negative. It seems that the majority of shopping centre and landlord owners would be more than happy if all the remaining arcades would just shut. Also, as arcades themselves are virtually a thing of the past I wanted to write about what they mean to me.

Funland was THE daddy of arcades in England and Europe. Has it gone downhill since the Sega World days? Yes. Did it become a little dingier; were some machines in state of repair? Yes. But was it the best arcade in Europe?

You bet. Nothing else within reach could touch it.

Holding tournaments in Trocadero made organisation and planning fun

 

Arcades are incredible positive and productive places!

By the time I was 14, I’d changed schools 7 times. I didn’t have a stable family background or the chance to fit in. I got picked on a lot. I’d skip meals to avoid being beaten up and being at home wasn’t much better. Ironically it was my home life that put me on a bursary to be at boarding school in the first place.

I used to do anything to avoid people, because it was less hassle, and I couldn’t relate to people my own age. To be honest it’s extremely strange writing this. For the past 10 years now I’ve woken up early everyday just because there are so many amazing things to do and look forward to in life. Even with all the time in the world you could never do everything!

I can safely say arcades changed my world, Funland especially. As a youngster arcades were magical, mysterious places. There is a whole subculture about arcades and the people that go there. That feeling of being a child, seeing new worlds through the screen, things you could never imagine.

The smoky arcade centers, full of mystery and an escape from reality… This atmosphere generally kept you hyped about everything! As time goes on I see many adults my age who have long lost this. Yet this youthful feeling has survived in myself in all parts of my life, helped through my ongoing experiences and friends with the same mentality and passion, all of whom I’ve met via arcades and Funland.

Through the arcade I was making groups of friends not based upon sports clubs, schools or traditional hobbies. I was rubbish at sport. But arcades got me fit. I sucked at dance. Yet I ended up taking dance class and meeting amazing dancers and traveling to events around the world. Arcades got me to Korea, across the US, Mexico, Canada and Europe. Most importantly, arcades have helped me to meet amazing people from all walks of life.

I wouldn’t have had great jobs, found love, made friends for life or changed my self-value of without arcades! I wanted to tell my story of arcades and it would be great if you could comment with your stories too.

I travelled to New York with my best friend who I met in Funland

Namco WonderPark (Great Windmill Street)

I’d been a regular of arcades by growing up in the south coast of Spain in the 80’s with local arcades in the barrios. Then I moved to Brighton in the 90’s with the amazing West Street, Peter Pan’s Playground, King Alfred’s and the Palace Pier.

Once old enough, my first experience of London arcades was making trips to the Mecca of Namco in Great Windmill Street. With a huge glittering disco ball outside, inside you had UFO catchers with official Neo Geo Merchandise and new arcade cabinets, including Hyper Neo Geo 64 racing games. I have yet to ever see a Hyper Neo game again!

There were sticker booths with girls running around with high-pitched giggles. It was mostly laughter upstairs and lots of eye candy for the guys. However as gamer, this was not what brought you here, what you were thinking of the afternoon/day/week beforehand! You’d head straight for escalator as soon as you came in.

While riding down this, you’d immediately be faced with a group of people staring intently at 4 screens, with various King of Fighters and SNK games. While Streetfighter was more popular around the world, SNK & King of Fighters have always been a very Asian thing. People would then turn to see if you were important or not. A veteran player, a regular face, a new challenger? Or in my bespectacled, unstreetwise and clearly not used to London case, I clearly got the impression people thought I was plain weird.

In those days, before redemption family games were the norm, fighting games were king. Everyone had a “rep” to protect. With some exceptions, these players were mainly normal guys in their college or day job. But the arcade changed everything. Being able to hold your own on a game earned you big respect and transformed you into Brad Pitt of Fight Club.

There were often empty spaces on the fighting cabs. I’d go in blindly to play and have fun. Don’t get me wrong, I could pull off most moves in the game and hold my own against average players. But against the top tier guys, it was annihilation. Once you started getting you ass handed to you, more often than not your opponent would start looking around, make funny kissing noises with their teeth and sometimes just “give up” playing, holding the joystick back to block your attacks while lighting up a cigarette! Generally looking bored, as if it was a massive chore to play and they would rather be anywhere else than there!

The advent of mobile phones meant conversations would start mid play, with loud conversation and rolling of eyes… Anything to be the bigger man and belittle your opponent!

Funland – The Trocadero Centre, Piccadilly Circus

It wasn’t until 1997 that arcades began to really shape my life. For some reason, Funland and Sega World itself had always passed me by. I normally made a beeline for WonderPark or Chinatown for the latest Video CD’s and game magazines.

My girlfriend at the time was pretty cool. Her idea of a date was to go to London and show me this arcade “Funland”. How good was that!? ”. I will never forget my first time there. The first thing you noticed about the Trocadero was it being busy – and noisy. There seemed to be never ending floors, sounds and neon lights. From the basement to the middle floors, Sports Bar, McDonalds and an area with bumper cars.

In those days, you got the rocket escalator travelling into a huge black hole to the top two floors. As any arcade goer might tell you, riding the “Rocket Escalator” as it went up to the top was THE experience you never forgot. You knew you were going someplace not like anywhere else in the world. For an arcade gamer, all your troubles and reality were so far away that you may as well have assumed a new identity for the day.

It really didn’t get better than this. The courtship with my girl proved to be short lived… With all the sparkling new machines, it made it difficult to concentrate on anything else, let alone my date!  At the time, Funland wasn’t ready to be my new home, just yet. A few things had to happen in other well known arcades first.

The crowd at King of Styles

Rhythm games

Although this is about arcades, the death of the arcade and traditional games (platformers, shoot em ups, fighters, in upright/sit down cabinets with a joystick) occurred worldwide around the end of the 90’s. It is true that arcades in Asia, and some countries like Brazil and Mexico the scene is still booming.

But in most of Europe and the United States it was a different matter. As a credit on an arcade game here being generally double or triple the price than in Asia, you could easily just have just a good arcade console experience at home. That was when arcades *should* have died. But then rhythm games came out and offered experiences you can never get and still not get at home, short of buying a machine itself (if you are a pro player, home peripherals like mats and accessories just don’t work as good).

While the arcade scene certainly could never return to its former glory, rather than laying down to die, it received one final injection with a new generation of game players addicted to an entirely different generation of games. I have noticed many comments about Funland’s closure on several news and social media sites stating that it was already dead since the Sega World days.

This is simply not true. While these old school players did leave the arcade, they missed out on a phenomenon that has been going for one decade strong. Funland was very much alive and kicking to the day it shut (Saturday, July 4th 2011).

I was there that day unaware of the impending doom. And as usual, the dancegames area was rammed with pound coins lined up on the cabinets, the well-known queue line dancegame players have incorporated the world over. The players not interested in Streetfighter or Tekken. They were waiting to play Pump It Up Fiesta EX and the latest DJ Technika 2 machine, which only arrived a few weeks earlier.

I first played the rhythm games Bust a Groove and Parapa the Rapper on PS One, saw my first Bemani arcade game in Brighton Marina in 98; the Bowlplex had just opened with a stack of new stuff, including Beatmania 2nd Mix. It was different from the fighting and shooting games at the time. When you played it… People just assumed you were cool, like you had some hidden social skill!

It was the summer; I’d walk to the Marina, have a game and enjoy the beach. I liked that it was more physical showboating than other games and people could more actively watch and cheer you on. It wasn’t as hardcore (at the time) as a fighting game and the music cheered you up. You weren’t playing someone else “to beat them”. There was a real feel good endorphin rush. I guess you could say it was an ego trip more than anything else.

Family Leisure in Brighton West Street then got Dancing Stage aka DDR. If I’m honest, I played simply for the unexplainable amount of hot (mainly oriental) girls on the machine. Around that time many people watching assumed you were a smooth mover and could dance in “real life”, despite the fact to real dancers it more looked like you were stomping out ants or having a one and a half minute temper tantrum.

Not only that, the local girls would be quick to come up and talk after a round; “Hey, you were amazing! Can you show me how to do that?” with wide doe eyes. Just as quick as any guy would be to take the mickey out of you. It was a truly bizarre situation. But the best thing was this was a SOCIAL game.

The only reason you played DDR was to showboat and meet other people. You played to show off, you played to show physical superiority. You didn’t really play this in your room at home, although eventually when it became more competitive, many of us did just that. We also saw amazing health benefits too!

But let’s be honest guys, how many of you played it for the girls? How weird was it being approached and asked out because you are doing some bizarre version of step aerobics? Well I can tell you, it was awesome while it lasted!

Dance UK team at the NEC Clothes Show

Arcade and worldwide communities

By this time, I’d already made a good circle of friends through my three main arcades; Namco Wonderpark (Sheffield), Las Vegas (London’s West End) and Family Leisure (Brighton).

Aside from Tekken, Initial D, Maximum Tune and Streetfighter, the popular rhythm games out at the time which were DDR, 3-DDX (using four way diagonal foot pads and 4 light hand sensors per pad), EZ 2 Dancer (using 3 foot pads and 2 to 4 light sensors per pad), Guitar Freaks and Beatmania (which were released 6 and 11 years before Guitar Hero and DJ Hero respectively).

I stopped playing to improve my score around a year after starting. I soon realised, this community was unlike other game ones. We didn’t talk about score! We talked about events, freestyle dance techniques and where to meet up for socials. Most importantly I had formed a whole new circle of friends solely met via the arcades.

With Mexican & Argentinian friends in Korea

In 1999 I went away to university at Sheffield and had my own experiences there in Manchester (Trafford Centre), Leeds (LA Bowl) and seaside towns like Cleethorpes, Whitby and Scarborough. Each of them bustling with their own dance game communities.

At this time I was missing out on the Funland scene, not becoming true friends with these people until a few years later. But it didn’t matter, as we already knew each other online. We spoke to players around Europe and the US as if they were our neighbours and kept up to date via MSN, forums and websites.

New records set abroad were read about in forums or freestyle routines were quickly shared via the websites DDR Freak, Dancegames.com or the now defunct file sharing site Kazaa. The main thing is, it didn’t matter where you lived. By watching videos, sharing the same news and keeping up to date, it was if we all went through the same experiences at the same time.

Chris at a typical day in Sheffield Wonderpark 2003

Arcades forged our passion

I ended up working at Namco Wonderpark in Sheffield. There weren’t any local machines around at the time, but many of us who met playing Streetfighter in the arcade used soft mats to play at home. I repeatedly asked Margaret (legend) the manager to get a dance machine and in her good nature she bought Dancing Stage Euromix.

This only took weeks to become popular and soon we also had EZ 2 Dancer. At this time, I made a friend Ash Molloy who told about the (now defunct) website dancegames.com. This had been going since 1999 and was full of people sharing the same interests. It was mainly a BBS (Bulletin Board Service), the Facebook of our time.

Soon I found people posting news, meetups, trading music, and everything dancegame related in the UK. There was also Dancegames France and Dancegames Australia and the Manchester based board, Danceboard.net.

The staff members were featured on BBC Newsround in 2001 http://youtu.be/Q3Xcf_ei2k8 I could see so many people coming together for one love of this genre of games, it was great! People formed their own groups around the country. One of the first was Team Paranoia in Devon. Recently I found an ancient website still exists of a tournament held in Barry Island in 2001: http://freespace.virgin.net/fun.harbour/ddrcompo.html

The internet was an evolving medium then (a good 5 years before YouTube existed) and we used to check Korean websites; Pumpstreet and DDRstreet.co.kr as well as the now legendary A-Team site. The whole type of people who played the game had a different attitude. The A-Team were a group of players who memorised song charts backwards, doing breakdance moves and acrobatics on the machine.

At first I thought the game wasn’t on but somehow they incorporated dance moves in sync with the arrows. Here is an early A Team video from 2000: http://youtu.be/UEeJRiDJ69I and another Korean typical Korean freestyle video; http://youtu.be/qnkpLk58yvU This was new and refreshing back then. Freestyling did evolve to looking as if you were dancing as if the machine itself wasn’t there. Here is a more present day routine: http://youtu.be/AYHAs2tg_40

A culture quickly formed of learning to freestyle on the machine, then it led to teaching each other bboy steps off the machine while waiting to play. People began associating Pump with bboying, popping, locking and streetdance styles. The whole scene around Pump and the people that followed it was the polar opposite of other games. Strangers would pile up the gallery and squash around the rails to watch. Of course it can look ridiculous, but on the other hand you could get more respect and sighs of amazement in half an hour playing than most people get in their whole life. It was quite the feeling!

From this point, several tournaments started to happen. From the original King of Styles, (KOS) in Soho’s Las Vegas in April 2000 http://youtu.be/0CJFPzlQ6DY to KOS II in Funland with entrants from Italy, France and Spain, to Wild Style (although I get the feeling this was filmed a bit tongue in cheek hehe)  http://youtu.be/IzZs4fWHnoo and various smaller tournaments throughout the year. The biggest tournament in Funland was held in January 2002. Here is the trailer: http://youtu.be/WCL6LQoOwyQ

 

 

Jason Ho announcing King of Styles

 Jason Ho!

Yep, he certainly deserves a paragraph of his own… The rather eccentric Jason Ho organized most of the events at that time. If you were into freestyling and your dancegames, you would have known of Jason Ho. Here is a video he made filmed in Funland around the summer of 2001: http://youtu.be/ZBiEI3wLWLg

Love him or loathe him, CLASSIC Jason Ho.. http://youtu.be/vbWVBXTuB1M  “I’ll tell you what my definition of freestyle is” haha! http://youtu.be/p0QYx03ydDk

The top players in the world

Tournaments progressed and styles evolved. The Hispanic countries took freestyle to extremes. Some of the more famous freestylers include Black, from Brazil: http://youtu.be/dGRGv3tnjmo  Legal http://youtu.be/hVAWtmeD8H4  Flor & Simba from Mexico: http://youtu.be/0_Mcktgtex4 and James from the USA: http://youtu.be/67_ZQofs0k4 I also think Young Ho Yoon: http://youtu.be/Yobh0tZerfMand Shuji Kaine: http://youtu.be/JZYYVJQ4WnE  were big influences back in the day.

There were amazing speed players too. Lee Chang (632,000 views!!): http://youtu.be/f3S22qjSjT0 Wero (a BEAST): http://youtu.be/6mRihWN2Zys  and Amy: http://youtu.be/DelNemsENHw

While the UK never really quite got there, here is my friend Terry Wang with his routine in Funland, summer 2009: http://youtu.be/7Pt6xzx7Bqw

And footage with the first place routine of brothers Franz & Renz doing a couples routine at the last tournament I ever held in Funland, Easter 2010: http://youtu.be/fgMU3LdujYQ  And I don’t think anyone has ever been to Funland without seeing Shane Henry! Christmas routine bonus, ha!: http://youtu.be/xOU9i33JRVg

Over the period of 10 years many groups of people formed across the country, to meet up and play rhythm games. Local London Bboys, Team Crystal Skyline, The Northern Lights, Team Barry, DSD, PDTeam, Elite Ireland, Speed & Style Crew, Fatal KO, Flying Steps, do leave a comment if you have any memories of these!

Kwon in Edge magazine

 

Las Vegas and Funland Pre-2005

In recent years, Funland has been a very safe environment to be in thanks to great work by security. It wasn’t always like that. The back entrance to Trocadero had large groups congregating who weren’t the friendliest bunch.

The main trouble happened at Las Vegas, more specifically, in the passageway beside Starbucks. While I kept my head down and never got involved, I did see several incidents involving police, weapons and other activities. It was more a sense of boredom from youths without jobs or direction.

In an inner city, belonging to a gang gave people a sense of brotherhood and respect. While I would never condone gangs, and they are certainly not a strong memory of London arcades as a whole, I need to say that if you played at LV or Funland, it was certainly a part of arcade life.

Occasionally we would get hassled for money or friends would get in trouble for liking “off-limits” girls. It certainly helped improved my street smarts. I believe that people are genuinely good unless you give them reason to be nasty… And others judge on appearances far too much… I did learn a lot from them.

In any case, no matter what town you were from, if you frequented London arcades, you would have the same friends, and go to the same clubs. The same people you saw in LV you’d see in Thai Square, SE1, Heaven (pre 2003 times!) or Hippodrome especially. It wasn’t uncommon for fights to break out or people to recognise you from the arcade, so it was best to keep away from drama. Sometimes tempers would flare and you would hear mentions of 14k, Vietnamese Boys, SW, or Seven Sisters. I knew that I didn’t want to be waiting outside the club or anywhere near that Starbucks alley in the future when they showed up.

The death of the game and the start of something new

Arcade games themselves became less of a reason for many of us to visit Funland. Friends would use the place as a focal point to get their quick game fix (no one really fully grows out of games!), then travel as a group to other parts of London, then new towns and even countries. This was to experience not only games, but cultures, food, travel and make new social circles.

We shared funk music, talked about where to go on Friday or Saturday night, who was going to Pineapple Dance Studios, training moves, handstands and making routines in the street outside the arcade. Funland as a centre hub had evolved from dancegaming into something related, but entirely different!

Summer 2002 was when the scene went mainstream, and this is what killed it for the majority of my generation. Dance and rhythm games were no longer considered as cool and instead of respect, people starting to think players were losers and treat it as a joke.

Also at this time new websites sprung up and new types of home players came out, who we never really clicked with. That’s when we realized we were living in a bubble. We played for the social side, yet once the scene went mainstream players were only talking about score. They were not interested in dance, appeared to dress up in badly made costumes, (Cosplay for the uninitiated is dressing up as Japanese animation or videogame characters) although I certainly have no qualms if this is done properly! (it wasn’t).

They didn’t want to go clubbing, only played DDR and had no time for the other rhythm games that weren’t Japanese. Most noticeable of all they were certainly not capable of taking care of their personal hygiene (a CRIME when you are playing physically demanding dancegames!!).

Therefore camp tended to split into two groups at this point. Those who wanted to freestyle and learn dance, and those who were intent only on the game score. The fighting game area of Funland remained popular until around 2005.

By this time, Goodge Street arcade was known for having a cheaper and wider selection. Las Vegas changed management, made it over 18s only and moved most of the dancegames. Funland had the latest machines, so the only true regular arcade goers (apart from tourists) there became dancegamers.

A DDR tournament in 2001

Through arcades we kept fit and moved on to dance

As I touched on before, far from sitting down to play there were so many benefits to be had. You had exercise, a strong rush, feeling on top of the world while pushing your body to the limit (as many of us never really excelled in sports), catching up on all those years of exercise missed out on. Exercise puts you in a happy mood, exercise keeps your body trim, playing was fun and not a chore! What more could you want? As I said earlier, many of us went on to real dance.

Take my friend Philip Moulson. He started on DDR (this was taken in 2002) http://youtu.be/H6VnGsvXFi0 Then progressed getting a place at the finals of the World Hip Hop Championships in 2006. Here is his crews’ (Pink Mafia) performance: http://youtu.be/c3DwQCXGrxs

While not all of us became pros, many friends rose to competition level. You can find a video of a recent event at Trocadero Underground I made with ex Pump players here: http://youtu.be/m9Y9WbjdcM8

 

Without arcades I would never have experienced new hobbies

Arcades can really help with your employment

While arcades were slowly dying, what really motivated me at that time to keep going was to keep existing groups of friends who had a passion for games together and also bring new groups in. Through the player community we shared information and sneaked into trade shows, then started to make real connections with the marketing and PR teams exhibiting there.

My very first industry job was a break by the game team looking for players in arcades. I then went on to work for several brand name companies testing the Harry Potter Series, various Konami rhythm games, and projects for SEGA and Sony.

In 2004, Andamiro had a freestyle tournament at ATEI where we made our first real arcade contacts. The following year I got work demoing the dance game “In the Groove” for Deith Leisure. 2006 onwards was really productive and where I could start putting great work on my CV.

Management at Funland, (Perry especially) were really cooperative. I hosted tournaments in Funland with friends Shane and Mark, where prizes included plane flights to Korea, and one of the grand finals had $146 000 in total prize money (first place here: http://youtu.be/ELzeQZgvrIo).

While Funland was the focal point, we hired other venues, with PA systems, printed flyers, viral advertising… More importantly we did this using our own initiative with no previous experience. Putting this down on my CV, I am in no doubt this very much helped me to get several jobs including the one I hold today, happily settled at a major Korean game company.

While my actual job is not arcade game related, I KNOW I got here as a result of the connections and work experience gained via arcades! If you think that arcades motivated or helped your employment in any way, I’d love you to tell me about it.

Arcades helped many of us to find ourselves

What is happiness? Is it driving a fast car, living the “good life” creating a front to appear successful? Or is success measured by the simple pleasures of eating well, being valued and having good friends? I think success is having people who care about you and support you and value you. Everything arcade wise has helped me. Being face to face in the arcade and a real community spirit. Making friends for life. Real friends you meet in real life. Now Funland is shut, the new London generation will miss out on this.

Trip with Arcade friends to Rome

My love is now.. Travel!

Here’s a personal anecdote, Funland related. In 2008 my temporary contract had ended with a videogame company. In between looking for jobs, I was also looking to see if there still were people, and new players around the UK who would be willing to travel to Funland for a tournament, or if it was viable to hold events elsewhere.

I had a MySpace site, Pumpstreet UK. http://www.myspace.com/pumpstreetuk  Due to the nature of the internet, I ended up talking to people and players around the world. I got friendly with a girl in Houston and took a chance, using my last savings to go visit her over there. What a trip! It also kick started my desire for travel. Being on a meager under 20k salary I still managed to do 9 countries in 2010 and aim to do 10 this year. Although it’s a lose connection and based upon my effort, this would never have happened if it wasn’t for dancegames and Funland.

Funland… Arcades… Troc Underground… Pump It Up changed my life!

Myself and my friend Shane held tournaments in Funland until its closure, as a support member of Andamiro Korea (the creators of Pump). Here is an extract from part of my original application:

“Pump helps to promote the basis of gaming as a whole spectrum to make friends, travel get fit and learn to dance. So many of my friends enter dance tournaments in bboying, popping, locking and house. They all started on the game, but all took its basic principles of exercise and dance to look beyond this and get further in life.

I have traveled to the USA, Canada, Mexico, Korea, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, France and all across the UK for Pump It Up. Made unlimited friends, girlfriends, helped with job interviews… PIU has rocked my world! Therefore I will continue to promote Pump until the very end, so others can use Pump to get further in life and experience what I have.”

Living to play games themselves can be anti social, resulting in finding it difficult to speak to others. As a medium for avoiding day to day issues, this will leave you unable to deal with reality, no doubt. However, playing games to a high level with a goal to travel and enter tournaments promotes commitment.

Helping plan events promotes organisational skills and time management. Hosting events requires you to speak to strangers (new friends, business contacts) and be confident. This is about using the arcade and what you love as your tool, a stepping stone to develop your skills.

Those who see that period of their life in Funland as wasted time more than likely DID waste their time. I think the majority of us certainly achieved more and used time there to enhance our life. We didn’t have to “grow out” of visiting Funland. We still used it as one medium to enjoy life as we evolved. I feel that those who regret spending time there never looked beyond the situation and took the opportunities that were available.

For the past year, Trocadero Underground has been open underneath Funland, in Piccadilly Circus. An open space for dancers, it’s a place for people to meet and jam and train. I see many amazing dancers who started on Pump then took it to the next level, mixing with people who have never played Pump or gone to an arcade in their life!

But them being there was a result of Pump – and they will continue to make friends like this even if they never play Pump again. You will continue to keep your base unit of friends made in the arcade yet use them as a springboard to meet new ones who would NEVER go to an arcade. Can you see the knock-on effect?

Why the effects of Funland will continue to change my life, even after its closure

It’s kind of a running joke for me to drop in a random dancegame reference on in general conversation, but in all honesty the games themselves are neither here nor there. As a direct result of Funland and the people and it has put me in contact with, it has motivated me towards exploring Asian culture (my uni project was on tourism in North Korea!), making new friends, organizing events, improving my (off the game) dancing through love of the music and travelling along way.

As for Pump itself, it’s now a quick blast a couple of weekends a month. I will certainly keep in contact with management to hold tournaments in Las Vegas, Soho, as some cabinets from Funland will be relocated there. In that respect, I don’t think I’ll be leaving this scene anytime soon.

It’s ironic that the closure of Arcade Infinity first prompted me to write this. Since then, my local arcade of 16 years, Family Leisure in Brighton shut. Finally the Holy Grail, Funland. Just months apart. While arcades may be on life support that is irrelevant. They’ve done the job. I’m sad Funland shut. But these arcades kick started everything and the momentum will never stop.   

Shoutouts!

MANAGERS & STAFF! Perry for being a total legend at Funland along with Stafford, Steve for being the brilliant ex-Las Vegas manager that you are (last seen sipping tea in an arcade in Charing Cross). Margaret and Tisso in Namco Wonderpark, Geoffrey in Family Leisure Brighton! Joshua Kim for helping with with everything Andamiro related, Satinder Bhutani for being so passionate towards players, Chris Cotty for having an amazing arcade and James Ko for being James Ko!

Countless others, all my friends in the US and Spain, Cristina & Dani for holding European events, Eilish & Max for flying the flag and continuing to hold ParaPara meetups and events. Fran Shergold, your article on bullying on the website Ready Up really touched me, I could relate 100%. Guinness World record holder! http://ready-up.net/author/fran/, Franz, Renz, Adrian, Ify, Law, Nate, Dylan, Kev Chan & all the Trocadero dancers, Aaron, Matty, Fiona, Shaz, Vinh, Jam and all the poppers, Owen & Vykkye in Brighton who did the official songlist for EZ2Dancer Special Edition (if you haven’t played it, there is still one at Grants Cinema, East Croydon), everyone in Sheffield Lewis, Bob, Ash, Gaz being the best freestyler there, Chris Sanderson the biggest gamer ever! Champ & Co for Dancegames.com, then Colin Barker for keeping the home scene alive via his website DDR UK. Gavin Mattheson for being one of the top freestylers back in the day (power moves!) and promoting the Dance:UK game at various London trade shows including the Clothes Show in Birmingham NEC. A blast! Kyle Ward for his brilliant contributions to the arcade world in the form of Pump Pro and his current ReRave itunes and android phone project www.rerave.com. Ole Petter Høie for iDance and Positive gaming. Brett W M Young at Exergaming Australia.  Saur, Tony Montana, HaeRang and mainly Jason Ho for being a legend and general conversation starter for dancegamers the world over (Barry Island comic strip, Zen Nation… Poker anyone?) good luck in Bangkok! Chris Hinkley for always making me laugh (as does the Funland Wildstyle documentary: http://youtu.be/IzZs4fWHnoo). Anyway, you all know who you are. Swedish lot, you are sexy and cool, Italian guys, I can’t understand a word you’re saying, peeps in China using Facebook hacks to read this, hardworking people in Columbia who did all the Andamiro marketing themselves,  & all the crazy people in Mexico! Keep on holding tournaments in sports stadiums and Pump It Up as your front page news, I love it! Tijuana is the scariest place I have been to in my life btw! No wonder you keep your machines chained up! HaHa! =P The “new school” like Mary, Kaveh ( a talented musician! http://www.youtube.com/vi2009 Channel Views: 1,942,779 !), Malindi, Daryll, and Michael; I think younger friends can teach you just as much as older friends! I very much appreciate everything you have all done for me and the arcade spirit lives on!

If you go to my info on Facebook, and check “Activities and interests” I’ve listed 347 people as met through Pump It Up. That doesn’t include other arcade games… Pretty mad. If you are on my Facebook and we met in the arcade, well there you go. I have memories of all of you.

 

By helping with UK events, I had free accommodation and trips in Korea


Comments (11)

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its like reading a proper magazine! good shit!

Sean G
29/07/2011, 08:41

Wicked read mate, i have a lot of memory’s of that place myself!

ESENKAY
29/08/2011, 21:35

Toby, this is an absolutely fab article and I could relate to so much of it. I played DDR and ez2 as much as I could. It helped keep me fit and was always such a fantastic experience. The feeling you got when the crowds would form was amazing and without funland and dancegamese.com I wouldn’t even be reading this as I wouldn’t know who you are! The arcades might close but the friendships made won’t end! X

tam
06/11/2011, 11:25

This is spot on for a lot of people that used to frequent Funland at the Trocadero in London, but also about the 90′s-00′s generation of arcade players. This is an amazingly deep and detailed article about a time that will be no more. Keep up the good work Toby!!

Tommy Midnight
07/11/2011, 17:15

Dey good read.

Sean H
08/11/2011, 10:12

Man I miss the old days. Back when Pump was brand new, and everyone was always in Troc. I agree with Sean, Dey good read.

Spook
United Kingdom
08/11/2011, 11:48

Great story mate!

Michael Harrison
United Kingdom
08/11/2011, 14:35

Definitely a passionate and positive story. Toby I have a feeling your journey will continue to be amazing and surprising.

Chris Savage
United Kingdom
08/11/2011, 15:25

do you know if they have “Pump It Up 2011 FIESTA EX” in manchester town centre,,,thanks so much

coco
25/10/2012, 19:14

Really liked what you had to say in your post, Arcades Changed My Life: RIP London Funland | Coin-Op Community, thanks for the good read!
— Enola

Enola
08/02/2013, 19:04

Really soulful story, thanks, had a nice time while reading this.

Griever
Russia
28/02/2013, 15:50

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