Whether you’re a hardcore ‘World of Warcraft’ gamer that stays up all night battling it out with friends online, or a 20 something guy like myself that misses the days of playing multiplayer ‘MarioKart 64’ on Nintendo, chances are you’ve been touched by video games in one way or another. Jan in particular was touched by the retro arcade games that he played as a kid – so much that he began collecting them and opened his own arcade game museum in Prague. From ‘Space Invaders’ to ‘Pac Man’, you can play it all here. The space actually has the largest retro-arcade gamehall and museum in Europe! The look and atmosphere of the museum is unbelievably cool, reminds me a bit of the movieTron, all that was missing was the Daft Punk soundtrack. It was also pretty cool to hear a bit about Czech gaming history, especially about the addictive communist classic ‘Nu Pogodi!’, based on an old Russian cartoon.
Where are you originally from?
I’m a native, born in Prague and living near Kladno.
How did you open this museum? What gave you the idea?
I simply love the colourful world of video games and dreamt about having my own arcade collection when I was a kid. I used to collect old consoles and game cartridges, but then it all changed when I bought my first arcade machine – ‘Klax’ by Atari. I actually still have this today. After that I thought that if no one would take care of these old machines, then it was up to me. So then I started to collect machines, parts, and of course amazing team members who have helped make this arcade circus happen. I’m very grateful.
Was it difficult to import some of these games?
The majority have been imported from other countries in Europe, so not that difficult. It’s harder to ship them from the US. To ship a single machine would cost more than 20K Czech crowns + purchase and transport in the States.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I dreamt of being an astronaut, racecar driver and a fireman!
What are your favourite games?
Well, to be honest I’m a collector, not a gamer. I focus on 2D games from the golden age of the 80s. These games will be legends forever.
How have games and the people that play them changed over the years?
Our gamers are a little bit older than what we remember from when we were kids 😉 These games provide you with love for life.
Any visitors that don’t want to leave at the end of the day? I don’t think I would.
Yes! Sometimes we have to turn off the electricity to force them out.
What else do you do in your free time?
First of all I need to say that this is my second job. I spend about 5-8 hours in the museum every day after work, which doesn’t leave me with much free time. But the free time I do have, I spend with my family – we’ve got two kids. I’ve recently started playing squash again too. It’s good to be doing that again.
Do your children like spending time in the museum too?
Yes, they love it! I’m trying to give them a similar game experience to what I had growing up. At home we play the Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo and Super Nintendo.
And what about popular games during communism? I recently got ‘Nu Pogodi’, I understand that was one that every kid at that time was into.
Yes, a few of my friends had it and I used to play it. It was the communist version of Game and Watch by Nintendo. But I’ve never been a huge fan of these LCD games.
The stuff of my childhood! How would you describe Prague in only a few words?
It’s a great historic city, but is engulfed with tourist shops run by people that are anything but natives.. I also need to mention the Czech pubs.. You’re doomed when you enter. The heart of every Czech beats in the pubs, so cheers!
If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?
I would go back to the Second World War and show the Nazis that Czechs can’t be pushed around and we know how to fight for freedom! This was really a time of heros. I think it’s one of the most inspirational times in history.
What is your favourite word in Czech and in English?
I simply love the word ‘arcade’ in English. And in Czech it would have to be ‘laska’ – the meaning of this you can only discover from the hearts of Czech women.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Can’t think of anyone in particular, but they would have to be a bad-ass workaholic who never surrenders 😉
Check out more info on the ArcadeHry website.
Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos from ArcadeHry Museum.