Fun and games

raig Snelling doesn’t need any more friends, thank you. It seems anyone who meets him and sees his game room wants to become his friend. And here are the reasons why: Pac-Man, 8-foot pool table, classic pinball machines, foosball, air hockey and Frogger.

Need I say more?

“My game room is actually my three-car garage that I converted some years ago,” he said. “I believe I have the most incredible game room with 16 arcade machines, several pinball machines, LCD television screens hanging from the ceiling that are hooked up to modern games like Xbox, a full bar and black-lit carpet with black lighting that makes it glow. Very ’80s. One of my friends has called it the ultimate male clubhouse.”

Snelling is the owner of Billiards n More and his showroom at 3110 E. Sunset Road is home to a treasure of arcade games dating from 1978. Though he doesn’t expect all his customers to have game rooms like his, he does know what they like and assists in designing many of them.

“Each person’s game room depends on that person’s level of insanity,” said Snelling. “So much is based upon what games my customers played as teens. The client demographic is 25-50 years old and they come in and reminisce about cutting school to play Donkey Kong or Mario Bros. Therefore, they need to have that game. A lot of it is about nostalgia. However, the average game room usually has one pinball machine, a pool table (8-foot) and one classic arcade game like Ms. Pac-Man or Donkey Kong.”

According to Snelling, a fully restored Donkey Kong, meaning it has been rebuilt with new graphics, costs about $1,500. A 1984 football-themed pinball machine titled Touchdown is $1,895. The new “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” pinball machine is $5,000. Once the games are installed, they are set at “free play.”

“These electronic machines are unlike anything else you can spend your money on,” Snelling said. “Some of my customers complain about the price, but I tell them to go buy a new plasma television and see how much they’ll get for it when they try to sell it several weeks later. They’ll be lucky if they get half their money back. However, a pinball machine will not lose value and could increase because they are always in demand. As far as I’m concerned, these machines hold their value better than a car.”

A game room can be many things including darts, chess, table tennis, puzzles, old soda vending machines and even model trains. At Hobbytown USA on West Sahara Avenue, Scott Mittledorf, assistant manger, said his niche customers are also into nostalgia, but are more patient about it.

“The average model train layout is 4 foot by 8 foot because that’s the most common piece of plywood you can buy,” he explained. “People start with their layout kits of plaster, Styrofoam, track, bits of scenery and begin construction of the track with the train cars coming later. Actually, this is more an obsession than a hobby. But once completed, it becomes a wonderful game room where any number of people can be entertained.”

Mittledorf said he also sells many board games and radio-controlled toys for use in a different type of game room.

“Much of my stuff is the polar opposite of the newer electronic toys that offer instant gratification,” he said. “It takes patience to build a model train set and learning patience, or teaching it to your son or daughter, is not a bad thing.”

Sometimes patience plays a role with Snelling, especially when he is asked to find a specific pinball game. He has traveled to Texas, Illinois, and California to buy more difficult-to-find games that are no longer being made.

“I have become a game historian and pinball machines remain popular because they’re not being made anymore,” he said. “There is only one pinball manufacturer left in the world, yet pinball is addicting and the person who buys one usually returns and buys another because they view them as collectibles and pieces of art.”

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