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Exeter’s retro arcade is frozen in time and people adore it

Modern day gaming now offers incredibly realistic graphics that submerges you into an almost real looking world of adventures, but still as addictive and equally enjoyable, if not more so for older gaming fans, is nostalgic video games that magically transport you straight back into your childhood.

Vintage classics like Space Invaders to retro games like Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog are a long distant memory for most people who will have long sold or chucked out their gaming consoles for more hi-tech versions. However, gaming fan Phil Jones has spent many hours tirelessly searching for those classic games to bring them back in one venue in Exeter that has become a nostalgic gaming paradise.

Boneyard Arcade, located just behind Sidwell street on Red Lion Lane in one of the few remaining post-war industrial units, only has video games. It is dedicated to keeping old games working from the vintage 1970s black and white games like Asteroids and Space Invaders through to the ‘modern’ 1990s hits like Sega Rally and Time Crisis 2.

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Retro machines, including pinball games, stand side by side in the arcade that is currently open four days a week. For Phil, it is a dream come true to see the look of joy on peoples’ faces as they get to play games they haven’t played in decades and watching the forgotten fun come flooding back, or experience it for the first time.

Phil said: “No matter how old the games in the arcade might be, they’re still proving to be lots of fun, not only for the people that remember them as they grew up but for people who have never experienced them before. It’s great to see people young and old alike trying to beat each others scores on Pac-Man or seeing who will come first in a race on Daytona USA.



Boneyard Arcade in Exeter
Boneyard Arcade in Exeter

“Seaside arcades were a big part of growing up for a lot of people in Devon and though they’re still there, video games aren’t as common to see as they once were and became more of a thing done at home, which led to the loss of the local social aspect. We hope we are bringing some of that back and it’s been fantastic that some of the games now have groups of regular players who meet up to play and challenge each other.”

Boneyard Arcade opened last August and is co-owned by Phil, 44, and his brother who both share a love of gaming and restoring old machines.

Phil recalled: “Initially we just opened the arcade at weekends to see if the idea would work. The machines are a bit old so we wanted to make sure they didn’t all die on us!

“My brother’s hobby is fixing machines. We saw other people had opened old video games arcades up and down the country and we had been collecting machines ourselves for a long time as a hobby and felt it was a shame to not let people play them.”



Boneyard Arcade in Exeter
Boneyard Arcade in Exeter

The machines that are in the arcade have been sourced from eBay or groups on Facebook where people swap old machines. They are mostly all ones that have needed to be fixed making them cheaper to buy.

Phil said: “The first one we bought was Star Wars and that was about 25 years ago. We just kept them at home or in the garage and eventually the unit where the arcade is based is what we used as our workshop to fix and store them.

“Old video games are still fun and they are simpler because you don’t have to put 50 hours into them like modern day games that want you to play forever and forever. My favourite is probably the Daytona racing game because I have fond memories of playing it with my school friends.

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“There’s lots of other machines I would like to get our hands on but it might mean having to exchange something we have already got for something better.”

Not all the machines in the arcade are retro games. A recent new addition is Maimai, a Japanese game that looks like a washing machine. The rhythm game, developed and distributed by Sega, sees players interacts with objects on a touchscreen and executes dance-like movements.



Boneyard Arcade in Exeter
Boneyard Arcade in Exeter

Phil said: “It’s not a game that has come out of here officially but we have a lot of Asian students in Exeter who play it back home. We would not normally have a modern game in the arcade but it’s popular with the students as they can now play it when they are away from home.”

There is no admission fee to go inside the arcade. Instead, customers simply purchase a card that has 20 tokens loaded into it and tap it on the front of the machine to play. It means no coins are required and if not all the tokens are used up, the card can be used again on the next visits.

Next month, Boneyard Arcade is to host its first tournament. On Saturday, July 2, it has organised a Street Fighter 2 tournament where players can compete against each other.

Boneyard Arcade is open Thursday and Friday from 6pm to 11pm, Saturday’s 1pm to 11pm and Sunday’s 1pm to 8pm.

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