Open Air Arcade! Arzignano, Italy

Italy has quite a history when it comes to classic arcade gaming – many European manufacturers were based there: Zaccaria of course, Bertolini who produced games under licence from Atari, and of course Sidam, who manufactured many bootleg versions of popular games (as covered in last weeks post).

Given this form, it’s not unsurprising that our Italian cousins have a great deal of passion for old arcade machines.

The ancient Italian town of Arzignano in the Province of Vicenza (a stones throw from Venice) and is the home of one particularly passionate collector. Antonio Nati started in the hobby a couple of years ago, but has already amassed a very impressive suite of classic cabinets. I spoke with Antonio to get an understanding of his arcade ethos:

I actually started collecting as recently as February 2017. My first cabinet was a stunning Atari APB cabinet. Of course one is not enough! I’ve since grown my collection and have been importing classics from the USA. In fact I’ve just taken delivery of a new container this week, with 43 classics for my friends and I. My collection now totals over 160 – it has grown quickly!

But Antonio’s passion for the hobby goes way beyond just collecting and restoring cabinets:

What frustrates me is that here in Italy, authentic dedicated classic arcade cabinets are not really appreciated. Many kids especially consider multi-games with thousands of ROMs as some sort of short cut to get the arcade experience. As we know, this is not true! So I have this constant struggle to educate – I try to share the stories and history of the games we enjoyed when we were kids. And so my collection travels to various events in Northern Italy. For me, its all about getting people to physically play original arcade games, and to get a real understanding of where video gaming all began.

In an effort to further raise his awareness and give the public an opportunity to get physical with arcade games, Antonio approached the organisers of a regular summer event in Arzignano. Known as “Wednesday By Night”, the event brings the people of the town together for fun, music and dining. Antonio offered to place some of his arcade collection in the central Piazza Libertà – all at his own cost.

The town agreed. Originally pencilled in for the 3rd of July, the event was cancelled due to bad weather, and was rearranged to take place this week. If you couldn’t make it, we have the pictures!

Doesn’t that look great!The backdrop of the Piazza created an awesome atmosphereAntonio placed over 30 of his machines, pinballs included, for the public to playNotice the Donkey Kong display giving some history of the game

Antonio went further and spoke to the local retailers of the Piazza, who agreed to provide prizes for high scores achieved on the machines. To get local business engaged was quite an achievement.

A great selection of modern and classic pins hereOld and newer games were on display. All on free-play of course – spot the European Taito Ice Cold Beer on the left there, alongside two Namco Mario Kart machinesSega’s OutrunStern’s Iron Man and Munsters pinballs being enjoyed here. Antonio tells me that the pinball tables were especially popular all nightOf course as the light faded, the machines really came into their own. The glow of CRTs and lit marquees enhanced the atmosphere in the PiazzaMidway’s Pac-ManThe event continued through the evening, with live music from 9.00pmThe event went exactly as planned, drawing all sorts of players – both hardcore and casual passers-byInteresting Gorf converted to an Arkanoid, Neo-Geo cabinet, Galaga cabaret, Pengo & NBA Jam glowing in the evening light!Great to see families out to experience the event. This imposing cabinet is a drum beat game from Japan – Namco’s Taiko No-Tatsujin. Gameplay here

As you can see, the event was a huge success. The town was impressed by the amount of footfall generated – which of course was good news for local businesses. Antonio is already receiving enquiries from neighbouring towns and cities, keen to replicate the set up – expect to see similar events in Northern Italy in the weeks and months to come!

What a great idea – and fantastic to see that Antonio’s passion not only help local commerce, but also giving kids an idea of what arcade gaming was like back in the day. Anything that educates and well as entertains is good in my book. Lots more photos can be found here.

So hats off to Antonio – pulling off an event like this is no mean feat. Great to see it was a huge success. I hope this is the start of regular outdoor events in the region!

Many thanks to Antonio for allowing me to share the story and pictures here on the blog. To find out more about the work that Antonio does, check out his website here.

See you next time

Tony

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