Our games, ourselves
$32,000 buys you a lot of video games, but not happiness.
It’s fair to say that Chris Kooluris is obsessed. Though as a professional marketer he doesn’t fit the traditional profile of a geek, the 37-year-old Kooluris has spent $32,000 outfitting a small bedroom in his home into the world’s best retro arcade, complete with bubble-gum machines. His collection includes $3,000 arcade cabinet versions of hit games like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man (for the ladies, he says).
A fascinating Wired story tracks the development of this shrine to video-game history. Kooluris grew up playing arcade games, especially Street Fighter II. He even got a copy of the game at home as a kid. He was compelled to recreate some of his childhood fascination in the home arcade, a plan that his girlfriend supported—at least at first.
Kooluris got engaged to his girlfriend, but as the arcade took over his life, she was pushed away, and eventually broke things off. He got what he was looking for in video games, but not in love. Then the video games began to sour as well, with support from fan forums waning. When the story ends, Kooluris has just spent his highest amount ever for an individual game—$6,725—but on a pinball machine, which seems to be slated for his new obsession.
In many ways, this is the story of fandom. Being obsessed with a particular video game, or comic, or superhero, is less a concern about the wider culture and more a pursuit of something within ourselves. Video games might capture that elusive sense of play and creativity found in childhood, harder to come by in real life. Of course, that fix is only temporary.