Around an hour and a half outside of Dover (it seems that anything worth seeing is around an hour and a half outside Dover. Why I am living in the epicenter of the Doldrums? What is it about Dover that pushes all interesting things 1.5 hours away? The world may never know) is a town called Laconia, which is where fun went to die, I believe.
Driving into the town, one is met with arcades, with mini-golf centers, with indoor rockwalls, with waterslides, and volcanic replicas with bi-planes crashed into their sides. The gem, however, lies a bit further in, and is, in fact, called Funspot.
A few months ago, not long after my return from France, I sat down in Bellingham to watch the documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters with a few of the people I know who would appreciate such a thing. The film follows Redmond resident Steve Wiebe in his quest to obtain the high score on the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong. While I refuse to summarize the documentary outright (you really all should go rent it, anyway. It's much more than just a simple story about high video game scores...), I will say that the documentary follows the archetypal quest format found in folklore and mythology. There is a hero, there are obstacles, there is good and evil (I'll let the readers rent the movie to see which triumphs), and there is a journey to a far away land. A land by the (unfortunate) name of New Hampshire.
Laconia, New Hampshire, to be exact. The last half of the film chronicles the epic battle between good and evil, between Steve Wiebe and his nemesis (though they are, apparently, rather amicable in real life) Billy Mitchell, a Florida restaurant owner with a mullet that will kill you with its stare. There's no damsel in distress, aside from the game's Lady (Pauline), but the world record for the highest score is up for grabs.
We didn't make the connection between Funspot and our future (now present) home for some time, but when Ian found out that we would be living less than two hours from the largest arcade in the entire world, he almost peed himself. Two months into our New Hampshire adventure, we got a crew of nerdy English graduate students together and made the trip north to stuff our pockets full of quarters and play Frogger and Pac-Man until our eyes bugged out.
Funspot was everything we had imagined--screaming children, awkward shy men in sweatpants, dorky teenage boys (and some girls) with acne-covered skin, greasy pizza, arcade game after arcade game, and the added bonus of a bar. Ahhhhh, the perks of being a nerdy 20-something who refuses to grow up.
In addition to finding my new favorite video game (Burgertime, what, what?), I played the Donkey Kong game featured in the film, the site of the duel between Mitchell and Wiebe. While I did not beat the high score, I did make it an astounding 25 meters. I'm well on my way. I'll be Steve Wiebe's squire any day.
I'm sure Ian would love weekly trips to Funspot--it's quite honestly one of two things that is keeping us in this dismal state at the moment--but a faulty car transmission refuses to allow any sort of fun for a while. We hope to make it out again in February or March, when one of Ian's high school friends who shares his video game passion will be visiting. In the meantime, I may watch King of Kong again, for pure inspiration. I leave you with this image. Billy Mitchell: pure evil.