An afternoon at the arcade isn’t necessarily a waste of time


I grew up in a generation that embraced arcade games, but never came down with a full-fledged case of Pac-Man Fever.

Not that I didn’t try, mind you.

I blew my share of quarters on Pac-Man, Galaga, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and Missile Command, but I wasn’t good at any of them.

I eventually gave up, and came to see arcade games for what they were: a waste of money. I just couldn’t understand the purpose of pouring quarters into a game that I was going to lose, and sooner more so than later.

I carried that belief into fatherhood, and did my best to avoid the kiddie rides at the mall that act like magnets to the brain of a 3-year-old. But when I failed, my kids would run to those rides, hop on the fire truck or airplane, and beg me to slide in a dollar bill so it would go up and down for a minute or so.

I’d rather they use my money for a tissue than for those cheap rides, and usually found a way to weasel out of it.

So I winced earlier today when my 9-year-old daughter, Celeste, asked me to take her to what is essentially an arcade on steroids while her younger brother attended a birthday party for one of his friends.

But she asked nicely, and I wanted to do something she considered fun since her brother was having fun. I still thought it was a waste of money, but I took her with a smile on my face.

For the next two hours, we played air hockey, Skee-Ball, Pac-Man, Galaga, and a few other silly games so she could win tickets to trade in for cheap prizes — plastic trinkets I could have bought her for a fraction of the money I spent playing those arcade games.

We left, and I lamented the money I spent because we had little to show for it, and certainly nothing of value. Yet in the middle of that thought, Celeste said, “Thank you, Daddy. That was fun.”

And that’s when I realized I didn’t waste money on arcade games. I spent an afternoon with my daughter, and didn’t waste a dime.

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