When I was young, I frequented (or, rather, spent some time in) an arcade called Dream Machine. The arcade is located in a glorified all-indoors strip mall in a small suburban town with not much going on besides chain stores, chain restaurants, and this mall.
I have always felt very sad inside of malls such as this. The feeling is- dispirited. I felt like Malls Such as These are places where poor people are meant to go, and I mean that with no disdain towards poor people. I always felt disdain towards the place I’m describing, or maybe the system that allows places such as this one to proliferate. I felt indignant about the architecture of these places- the way they were so boring, crafted without passion or vision, so clearly just things created by men. The way they all looked similar creeped me out as well. I felt sadness about the lighting in this mall because I felt as if it hadn’t been updated since 1980. I think what bothered me most was that- the sense that this establishment had not been paid attention to for decades, that both the architects and public had forgotten about it to some degree or at least taken them completely for granted. This mall was a place where stores failed and the storefronts remained as a reminder that they’d once been open. The soul-lessness of that place terrified little me, the uncultured nature, the way people moved through it like zombies not even comprehending what was around them. I saw people simply buy, buy, buy, until nothing was left within or without them. The effects of modern-day capitalism.
But Dream Machine. It has more staying power than most of the other stores in that mall did throughout my childhood. Maybe I liked going there because it is dark and helped you forget that you were in this mall- the arcade was an escape. I think I also liked it because it helped me connect with a culture, although it was white boy nerd gaming culture, to which I didn’t feel like I belonged. But I was drawn to and recognized community within it, a bearable place to belong outside of materialism’s grasp. I saw history in those arcade games, as silly as it sounds. I respected and recognized the passion behind their creators, a passion that’s been felt by generation after generation of gamers. To me it was a genuine oasis in the middle of a land of false advertising and meaningless spending. Dream Machine helped me know that people are behind some products and that enjoying those products helps create communities. That name, too: it inspires fantasies about a giant mechanism that can help you achieve what you believe to be great. And that’s beautiful.