The months of March and April are the busiest time of the year for Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, says owner Doc Mack, and the business was in the midst of an expansion – “We were literally burning cash off with a focus of trying to get to August,” he said – when he had to shut the doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the arcade looks forward to its 10th anniversary in October, Mack had just begun putting new games in the newest wing of the business, was gearing up for another expansion to the east into a former Chinese restaurant space and was in the process of moving equipment across the street to launch the new location of Galloping Ghost Garage, just down the block.
And, finally — after 26 years in development – Mack was about to place his very own combat-style game Dark Presence on the arcade game floor to great fanfare. Now that’s going to have to wait.
“Like, every possible pitfall, we hit them all,” Mack said.
But, Mack said he has kept all 18 of his employees on board during the shutdown and has turned his attention to maintaining “every joystick and every button” of each of the nearly 760 games in the arcade.
In the meantime, he is trying to stay connected to the network of gamers – both local and international – by livestreaming video from the arcade almost daily. In addition to continuing his Monday tradition of unveiling a new game for the arcade’s collection, he has given tours of the business and has even invited people to witness top gamers set world records on machines at Galloping Ghost.
So far, Mack has had three gamers shoot for world records, with sessions going for hours at Twitch.tv (shorter videos are done as Facebook Live sessions) as the players keep rolling up the scores.
Fellow International Video Game Hall of Fame inductee Pete Hahn, holder of 100 arcade game world records, according to Mack, has been invited in twice, once in March and once in May.
Most recently he was in to play a game called R-Type Leo, “a pretty obscure” game that Hahn was able to vanquish using just one credit.
Jeremiah Smith, a Brookfield resident, Galloping Ghost game designer and the company’s longest-tenured employee, set a new world record playing Contra Evolution, completing every level twice and playing into a third loop before bowing out.
“We’re the only arcade in the world to have the game,” Mack said. “It’s considered a Holy Grail of the arcade community.”
And then there was the livestream of the world record-shattering performance on May 12 of Danielle Robbins, who obliterated the former record on the 1984 Sega classic Flicky.
The game features 256 levels and if you complete all 256, the game repeats them. For five hours, Robbins blew through a total of 701 levels and racked up a score of 24.1 million. The prior record was about 14 million, Mack said.
“The idea is just to stay out there in front of people,” said Mack, who began his livestreams almost immediately following the state’s shutdown order.
“The support has been tremendous, and we’ve really built up our streaming community,” Mack said. “People are excited to come back out and be playing again.”
It’s been tough for many people not to be able to blow off some steam by playing arcade games, Mack said.
“We’re the place where people go when they’re having hard times,” he said.
Mack said he wasn’t sure exactly when the doors would reopen, but said he was working on establishing protocols for social distancing.
“Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we open,” Mack said.
While the arcade has had some donations from the gaming community during the shutdown, Mack credited his landlord, Steven Campbell, for making it possible to weather the storm. When the shutdown hit, Campbell suspended rent collection, Mack said.
“Steve has been unbelievable with his support,” Mack said. “He’s been so helpful behind the scenes.
Campbell told the Landmark that he did the same for all of his commercial tenants.
“I realized that they were not going to be able to pay rent for April and May, at a minimum,” said Campbell, a Riverside resident who owns several commercial properties along the length of Ogden Avenue in Brookfield. “They shouldn’t have to worry about what they couldn’t pay. It’ll all work out in the future.”