“It all started innocently enough”
These are words that every arcade collector can identify with. It starts with that first game, usually you either got it for free or you paid way too much, but once you start tinkering, it turns into an obsession that can literally take over every square inch of your life. For the last 15 years, Jim Brewer has been making his living working for the city during the day and playing rock n’ roll by night, but in his free time he restores arcade and pinball games that need rescuing. Like many in the hobby, Brewer got his start almost by accident
“It started from when I was just driving down the road and a laundromat over in Hyattsville was throwing out an old Ms. Pac-Man machine that was beat up and had roaches inside of it,” Brewer said. “I was with my brother-in-law in his pickup truck. I asked him to go back because for some reason I thought I could bring it home. I had some room in my garage to store it for a while and maybe see if I can get it working. I fiddled around with it that night when I got it home and somehow magically got it working. That just kind of started a bug for me. I started looking on Craigslist and things like that finding broken games for cheap, restoring them and going from there.”
That magic soon spread and the next thing he knew Brewer was traveling further and further to find games to fix up. After amassing an impressive collection, Brewer has already started running out of room and his games, but can’t resist the lure of cheap games that pop up on Craigslist.
“Almost every time I go out to pick up another machine, going on a two- to three-hour road trip, I’m out on the road thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing bringing home another machine? I think this will be the last one. It’s a really good machine, I’ll fix this one up, this is the one I want to keep and it should be good,’” Brewer said. “It always turns out that a week later, I’ll find a good deal on Craigslist or someone will give me a call who has a friend of a friend who happens to have this game or that game. I’ll think, ‘Oh, that was a great classic … I’ll just squeeze one more in and make a little room.’
We can definitely relate, before we launched All You Can Arcade, storing all of our games was a major headache. Now that they are in our customer’s living rooms instead of ours, we’re able to start acquiring games again. One of the biggest reasons why collectors and operators are listing their games on our website, is to eliminate the issues associated with storing that many games.
As a way of giving back to the community, Brewer donated a Space Invaders to the International Arcade Hall of Fame and to his surprise they are giving him an award recognizing his contribution to the industry. Whether you’re a professional operator, a casual collector or even a rock and roll star, all it takes is a passing interest to ignite the passion that arcade games can have. We know that there are 1000’s of other people just like Brewer who are constantly looking for games to restore, so it’s good to see the accidental collector recognized for the role they play in saving the games.
You can find footage of his band playing at the Red Palace on YouTube.