I remember this commercial for Pitfall! but I had no idea Jack Black was in it.
I learned about this from a short profile of Black by Tad Friend, in which the pair hit up Barcade in Chelsea.
He played Punch-Out, Atari Basketball, Donkey Kong, and Lunar Lander, increasingly nimble on the joystick. “It’s all bringing back some foggy déjà vus,” he said. Inside the Discs of Tron cabinet, the black light lit up his checked shirt. “Dude, this!” he said. He commenced making his avatar leap from platform to platform, as he sought to “de-rez” his opponent by throwing disks at him. At every level-completed chime, Black snapped his fingers and did a little dance. “He’s one tough cookie — you gotta get him with a ricochet,” he said, manhandling the controls. “Taste it! Oh, God — why? Why?” Regally, he entered “JA” atop the roll of honor.
I went to the newish Barcade in Chelsea last night to get some dinner and play Star Wars (and Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris and Donkey Kong) and discovered their tater tots are shaped like Tetris pieces:
ИOM ИOM ИOM. You can get these tots from a company called US Foods; they call them Puzzle Potatoes. Their sell sheet for the product is a wonder of corporate wishful thinking masquerading as marketing.
Here’s a menu item that will encourage kids to play with their food.
Yes! This is exactly what all parents want. Huge parental issue in America right now is that kids don’t play with their food enough.
When baked, these innovative Puzzle Potatoes are a fun and healthier alternative to regular fries…
Tater tots are not a health food. That’s the whole point. Also, aren’t regular fries also healthier when baked?
Puzzle potatoes are new innovative and interactive potatoes for kids.
Imagine the meeting. “Bob, what can we do about these smartphone? Kids just aren’t spending enough time with their potatoes anymore. Instead they’re Facebooking and Flappy Birding. Wait, I know… interactive potatoes!” [Cut to Bob being paraded around the office on his coworkers’ shoulders]
Our proprietary puzzle-piece shapes…
Well, someone else’s proprietary puzzle piece shapes, but why quibble with details?
Features & Benefits… 2D or 3D
I don’t. I can’t. What does that even mean? The sell sheet for these should be super simple: a photo of the tots and this caption in all-caps 120-point type: THEY’RE TATER TOTS SHAPED LIKE TETRIS PIECES! BUY THEM, YOU FOOL! (thx, kathryn)
For Polygon, Simon Parkin writes about how Barcade came about and where it’s going.
Younger gamers are, in a sense, both the secret to Barcade’s success and its great ongoing threat. More than players like Chien and the older pros, Barcade attracts young local patrons typical of the Brooklyn bar scene. For many of these visitors the classic arcade hits of the 1980s were released long before they were born, familiar to them primarily as cultural icons rather than living memories.
“When we opened in 2004, some of these games weren’t even 20 years old,” says Kermizian. “But now, eight years on, we find the ideal period of nostalgia keeps shifting on us as our customers are a little bit younger. So we’ve started to go with some early ’90s games. You know, we’ve put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in two of the three arcade locations and that’s our number one most popular game now. People just go crazy playing that.”
On a good night a single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine will see its coin tray filled. “At the end of the night we just dump a bucket of quarters out of the machine, around 50 bucks worth.”
All these years on, with prices unadjusted for inflation, the aging arcade still offers a viable business. But time continues to be the greatest menace to the arcade, even in the midst of this repackaged revival. For many, this parade of curios whose bleeps and flashes provide an atmospheric link to the past long gone is little more than a hands-on exhibit, where Space Invaders’ and Pac-Man’s iconography is not forgotten but made fashionable. But fashions are transient. How long can the business model sustain?