Arcade game enthusiast and YouTuber Alex Crowley has scoured the country to find games that will fulfil his dream of opening an authentic, hands-on arcade museum in Chalford.
Set in Grade II-listed Belvedere Mill, Arcade Archive is a curated exhibition of hands-on arcade cabinets from the Golden Age of coin-op gaming. From early electromechanical machines of the late ‘60s like the Wild West cowboy-themed Gun Fight and the genre-forming, coin-munching ‘70s video game titans Pong and Space Invaders, up to the gorgeous sprite-scaling wonders of the Ferrari driving thrills of OutRun and motorbike racing Super Hang-On, the museum touches on the many impressive advancements in arcade gaming during its most formative period.
Alex started his YouTube channel in 2013 and has been passionate about collecting arcade cabinets since long before then. Last year, he answered a call by fellow YouTuber Neil Thomas of The Cave for people interested in renting out unused space in the mill. Neil set up his own retro computing museum on the top floor of the mill in 2020 and since then has been looking for others to help him fulfil his vision of being the best one-stop retro computing destination in the UK, if not the world.
In August, they began preparing the space and filling it with machines from the heyday of the arcades. Soon, the origins of arcade gaming history lined the walls – games like Donkey Kong, Q*bert, Bubble Bobble, Tempest, Gauntlet II and Star Wars. Some came from Alex’s own collection; others were kindly donated by members of the arcade community. Before long, the space was home to more than 40 cabinets, and more are on the way.
Part of the joy of building the museum has been acquiring, restoring and preserving long abandoned and mistreated cabinets lurking in garages, warehouses and basements across the country, the mission being to share them once more with the world, Alex says. With the assistance of Richard Horne – commercial director at Heber, a leading designer of electronics and long-time residents at the mill – the machines have been carefully brought back to life: failing joints have been resoldered, CRT displays have been serviced, cabinets have been lovingly repaired and artwork has been carefully restored. Together, Alex, Neil and Richard have formed the Retro Collective, a community passionate about preserving and sharing electronics, gaming and entertainment history with a hands-on approach and a goal to unite vintage technology enthusiasts.
Some of the machines on display have unique stories to tell and are unlikely to be seen anywhere else in the world, and Alex is always on hand to provide his knowledgeable insight for keen ears. One such game, Sky Skipper, is an unreleased game from Nintendo that required a visit to their American HQ to scan original artwork from the only remaining original cabinet in existence to replicate it with Nintendo’s permission, using original prototype hardware Alex had unearthed in a warehouse. Meanwhile, the Rescue cabinet is the original prototype used to develop the game; and the Asteroids Deluxe cabinet used to belong to Peter Grant, the manager of Led Zeppelin. Despite the rare and unusual heritage of many of these video games, Alex is determined to share them with visitors – in Alex’s words, “these games were all meant to be played”.
Alex said: “I would like to see the arcade museum grow and bring together communities and people of all ages and give them a memorable experience where they can learn about the history of video games and have fun at the same time.”
Arcade Archive is now open to the public for bookings: https://rmcretro.store/visit/