We trawl Scottish arcades for Sega games,
then film & write about them.

Friday, 23 December 2011

'Treasure Island' (Glasgow) & 'Amusements' (Stonehaven)

I’m admittedly not clear on the introduction of video games into Scottish arcades. There’s articles and writing out there about the decline of the seaside arcade on the whole, but very few seem to even acknowledge the presence of video games at all. At best they’re ignored and at worst they seem to be considered as aggressive interlopers; bright, noisy, obnoxious and you can’t even win any money on them!

Of course, no arcade is under any sort of compulsion to have video games. In Scotland at least there always seems to have been a bit of a divide between ‘arcades’ and ‘amusements’ with amusements primarily focusing on age restricted fruit machines and arcades being more family orientated affairs with a large degree of crossover between the two. Aberdeen’s now defunct Leisureland Bridge Street arcade was a great example of the schism between the two, with a downstairs section dominated by fruit machines and a pretty amazing selection of video games upstairs including (but not limited to) Street Fighter 3, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Scud Race, Fighting Vipers 2 and various Metal Slug installlments before its decline. A bored looking security guard ensured that the parallel worlds of video games and slot machines would never collide, but no one I knew ever wanted them to. We were too busy playing goddamn Scud Race.

It was these adolescent memories of Leisureland and a tip off on a forum that led us to Glasgow’s Treasure Island. The signs were all pretty good. It’s a short walk away from a mix of independent and chain game stores, its façade is bright and inviting. There was no way there wasn’t going to be Virtual On cabinet in there!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Aside from a slightly beaten up Virtua Striker 2 with an iffy player one joystick, Treasure Island was nothing but wall-to-wall slot machines and a grim looking bingo hall. More like Shitsure Island.  While I have no personal moral objection to slot machines or gambling, the fact that we were asked not to photograph the Virtua Striker cabinet left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. The message seemed to be that this wasn’t a place to have fun like the real Treasure Island (which I’ve never read, but I know from the Disney adaptation that it involves cyborgs and spaceships), but a slightly shameful, embarrassing place like Bedwetter’s Island (not RL Stevenson’s best work). Again, there’s no rule stating that they’re required to have video games, but to seemingly actively foster an air of furtive depression just seems excessive.

At least Stonehaven’s beachfront arcade had a little more promise. A few miles outside of Aberdeen, we both had fond memories of it as kids and in-depth research (read: asking on Facebook) had ensured us that there was at least a copy of Sega Rally there. Its position as a sea front arcade in a town popular during the Summer months also meant that it was pretty likely to have held on to at least a couple of video games.  Sadly, the whole arcade was again a bit of a grim affair. The majority of the attractions were slot machines, but there was very Sega-centric handful of video games available. I was initially pretty excited to see 1997’s Top Skater, a prime specimen of the late nineties pop-punk aesthetic that Sega seemed pretty fond of in everything from Crazy Taxi to Sonic Adventure. Lots of goatees, blue skies and attitude. Even though the screen was clearly faded and ghosting, there was still hope that the game’s pretty special skateboard controller would work. Unfortunately, it was in extremely poor condition and was stuck permanently forcing players to turn right. Aside from a switched off Virtua Striker 2 that was being used to store cleaning supplies, there was also a fantastic condition 2-player Sega Rally cabinet from 1994. Considering the condition of the other games there and the age of this cabinet, it was in astoundingly good condition. Is there a painting of a dilapidated Sega Rally machine decaying by the day in an attic somewhere?

While the first Sega Rally and Top Skater are (hypothetically) cool finds, there was a sense that this was an arcade that had pretty much given up on video games, considering only 50% of them were actually working, but at least they didn’t seem opposed to the idea of people having fun. Stonehaven’s a great place to visit on a nice day, but the arcade seemed to have abandoned the idea of being any kind of family attraction at this point.

Is this how the dedicated arcade dies in Scotland? Well, no, probably not. But the idea of the combination video game and fruit machine establishment might be. Having seen a couple of good arcades in bowling alleys recently, I can’t say seeing a dilapidated version of Top Skater and Virtua Striker 2 wearing a bucket for a hat really frightens me.


I remember Treasure Island's heyday of the late 80s/early-mid 90s. There was about 6 fruit machines, the bingo, and the rest of the place was full of arcades. It was THE place to go in Glasgow, new machines were brought in monthly and all the classics were there.

Only gripe was they never got Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo in, only the regular SSF2. Turbo was in Glasgow though, at the old Enterprise near the top of Buchanan Street (Later closed, turned into an American candy shop and now demolished) and a short-lived arcade on the top floor in Debenhams.

The last of the Glasgow video arcades was the other Enterprise at the corner of Renfield and Union Street, which had a few videos downstairs. Sadly the owner got rid of all of them cos he was sick of gothic kids coming in and hanging around. They did have Tekken 5 at one point after that but that didn't last long.

Excellent info, thanks for sharing :) Also sad to see how much Treasure Island has changed since then.

Just remembered there was also a wee tiny arcade next to the bingo at the Barras which closed mid-2000s. Last time I was in there, they still had a Street Fighter 2 CE machine and a standup OutRun!

My brother just reminded me that there was a hydraulic OutRun in Scotkart Clydebank for a few years, and a standup Hang-On cab at the Cambuslang track too.

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