Ever since my first time playing Space Harrier I wanted to work in an Arcade. I got a real buzz out of it. My parents would give me a £10 note and I would immediately change this at the change counter for lots of 10 pence pieces. From the moment my pockets were full of 10 pence pieces I was ready to play. My shell suit bottoms would slowly fall down due to the sheer weight of the coinage. How to stop them from falling down? Play games of course.
I loved playing Wonderboy, Ghost and Goblins and anything by SEGA. Even though I had most of my favorite arcade games back home on the C64, they were far from Arcade Perfect. The atmosphere at home was slightly lacking too. No smokey atmosphere, no background music from all the attract themes and no expert kid who never actually played anything but was happy to advise you how to play.
Personally I always thought Mablethorpe had the best arcades. I am slightly bias due to this being the only place I ever went to as a child. Later in my teens I experienced multi player Virtua Racing at Skegness and have to admit it only fueled my passion even more for Arcades machines.
One of my first jobs was cleaning desks and emptying bins in a large office. The wages were low but I worked with my friend and it was fun, but I needed something more fulfilling. Imagine my surprise to see Namco advertising in the local newspaper. They required a floor walker. I can walk and usually I do that on floors, so I am more than qualified for the role. I gave them a call and one week later I had an interview. I was so excited because I was a huge fan of Tekken which was immensely popular at the time and one of the finest games to grace a home console.
My interview was at 10am and I got there slightly early because I really wanted the job. My interview went very well, I talked about Namco and Playstation for about one hour then was offered the job on the spot. I was so happy. I got to wear a shirt which featured a Namco and Pac-Man logo. I finally had my dream job.
My first day started early Monday morning and my job to was walk around the top floor which was Arcade Machines. Are you kidding me? I am getting paid to work around arcade machines?
Here are some of the games from memory that were on the top floor at Namco:
- Point Blank
- Tekken 3
- Virtua Fighter 3
- Daytona Racing (4 Player)
- Sega Rally (2 Player)
- House of the Dead 2
- Libero Grande
- Marvel vs Capcom
- Sonic Blastman
- Alpine Racer
- Virtua Striker
- Jurassic Park
- Top Skater
As the customers started to flood in, I started to do my thing. I was a walking change machine. A customer would give me a £20 note and I would give them 20 £1 coins. It doe not get better than that. The fun part was to watch the customers play and complete my favourite arcade games. Watching House of the Dead 2 being completed for the 70th time was still incredible. I could only watch though. One of the conditions of my employment was that I couldn’t play games during working hours. I didn’t mind one bit because I was actually being paid to watch a game being completed.
About 6pm students from the nearby colleges would come and play some games. One in particular was a young man who looked dissimilar to Bruce Lee. Ironically he was also the most incredible player at Virtua Fighter 3. Bruce would sit for house playing the computer and challenging anyone who dared. A £1 coin would last him 3 or 4 hours. He was a highly skilled player and knew every move for every character.
One of the strangest things I had to do at Namco was help to remove an Arcade machine that was either unpopular or had to be moved to make way for a newer game. I remember vividly helping to get a 2 player Virtua Fighter machine down 2 flights of stairs to the basement (AKA Jamma graveyard). There was a catch. The arcade machine was bigger than the actual door, but we did it. At one point the arcade machine nearly fell on me, but I survived to tell this bizarre tale.
I really enjoyed working at Namco but with other commitments and the low salary I decided after 12 months I should seek other employment. I started my new job the following week and have regretted leaving Namco ever since. To me, it was the best job I have ever had and the reason I hold in my heart a special place for Namco.