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Personal Arcade
Using arcade video games or pinballs to establish a character
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(permanent link) added: 2013-09-02 09:14:22 sponsor: rjung (last reply: 2013-09-10 12:32:09)

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Just as a chessboard indicates a smart character and golf clubs indicate an upper-crust executive, a quick way to establish a character's frivolous personality is to show them having a pinball machine or arcade video game in a home, work, or personal environment. Such a character will typically be almost Always Male, and is either The Slacker, a Man Child, One of the Kids, a Cloud Cuckoolander, or something comparable.

Since a good-condition machine typically costs more than a personal computer, such a prop establishes some level of wealth for the owner; having multiple machines serves to further emphasize the character's extravagance or misguided priorities. Actually playing with the game is not required; simply having it in the background flashing its attract mode is enough to make the point.

If the game is actually based on the character, that could be a further sign or extraordinary wealth or an overinflated ego.

Note that this trope does not apply when the game in question is in a location that reasonably should have such things, such as a video arcade, bar, laundromat, or boardwalk. Similarly, having a home video game system doesn't qualify for this trope, as those are affordable for most people.

Also see Pastimes Prove Personality.


  • In the first night of the Ghostbusters franchise, the guys' upper-level loft includes two arcade video games (Ms. Pac-Man and Star Castle) and a Star Gazer pinball machine next to the fireman's pole. Notable in that Ray Stantz had mentioned less than a minute ago that they were out of money...
  • In Big, one of the things Josh (Tom Hanks) gets in his rapid rise up the corporate world is a Pin Bot pinball machine.
  • In Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, Taj Badalandabad adorns the Cock and Bulls living room with several creature comforts, including a widescreen TV and a "Miss Nude America" pinball machine.
  • The Social Network has a Street Fighter 2: Alpha Warriors' Dreams game cabinet next to a conference room.
  • In What Happens In Vegas, Jack Fuller has a Free Fall pinball machine in his apartment.
  • There is a "Harlem Globetrotters" pinball in the guys' apartment in Three Men and a Baby.
  • The Thing has an Asteroids arcade machine at the ice station.
  • The schlocky America 3000 has several arcade video games in the Presidential Chamber.
  • There's an Asteroids cabinet in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
  • The original 1986 comedy Running Scared shows a Battlezone machine in Gene Wilder's apartment.
  • The main character of The Game Plan, football start Joe Kingman, has a "Kingman" pinball game in his apartment.
  • Appropriately enough, in Ghost Rider there's an Evil Knievel pinball in Johnny Blaze's apartment.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou features a customized "Zissou" pinball machine.
  • A pinball machine and several arcade games (including a large-screen Pong) are visible in the mansion party scene of North Dallas Forty.
  • The original 1981 Arthur had a pinball machine in the character's bathroom.
  • The spoiled rich kid in The Toy has a Centipede and Space Duel cabinets in his bedroom.
  • High School High has "Homeroom Homicide" and "Classroom Carnage" arcade games in the teacher's lounge.
  • In I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Chuck owns a "Balica"[[note]]actually a modified Galaga[[/note]] arcade game.
  • A Hydro Thunder sit-down game appears in the Baxter Building in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but no indication which of the team actually plays it.

Live-Action TV
  • In Silver Spoons, the Man Child father has several pinball machines amongst his collection of giant expensive toys. In the opening credits he starts up a game and dances along to the music it makes.
  • The Charlie's Angels episode "Homes, $weet, Homes" had a pinball machine in the house of a wealthy real estate agent.
  • The Columbo episode "The Conspirators" has Columbo and a suspect talking over games of pinball in the suspect's home.
  • One episode of In Plain Sight showed a vintage electro-mechanical pinball in the apartment of Mary's boyfriend Raphael.
  • One episode of Mr. Belvedere, the Owens family gets a Fireball pinball, only to get rid of it once Belvedere becomes addicted to the game.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Steven Spielberg was known to have had a varying set of arcade video games in his home and offices, including Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Donkey Kong
  • On one segment of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Norm Macdonald was doing a series of jokes about selling his home in Los Angeles. One photo he showed was an exercise room with a Family Guy pinball machine, and Norm comments that the buyer can have the exercise equipment, but not the table.

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