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Personal Arcade
(A pinball machine has appeared in the living room)
Marsha: "Do you guys know anything about this?"
Mr. Belvedere: "I was certain it was one of the children."
George: (entering) "Oh boy! There it is! It's my Firebomb!"
Mr. Belvedere: "I was right."

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 him 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 Cloudcuckoolander, 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, especially if he's already financially challenged. Actually playing with the game is not required; simply having it in the background flashing its Attract Mode is enough to make the point.

Sometimes, in order to establish a character as The Smart Guy as well as one of the above traits, it'll turn out that he built or restored the machine himself. Lots of Hacker Caves have one of these in the background somewhere. (Truth in Television; MAME-based replica cabinets are a popular project for electronics hobbyists.)

If the game is actually based on the character, that could be a further sign of 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.

Truth in Television, as demonstrated below - these sorts tend to be die-hard arcade enthusiasts or collectors rescuing a few cabinets or buying "HUO" (home use only) machines. The cost of running and maintaining one does wear out a wallet, of course.

Also see Pastimes Prove Personality and Fictional Video Game.

Examples:

Film
  • In the first night of the Ghostbusters franchise, the guys' upper-level loft includes two arcade video games, Missile Command 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 (who's a 13-year-old in an adult's body) 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.
  • There is a Harlem Globetrotters pinball table in the guys' apartment in Three Men And A Baby.
  • The Social Network has a Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams game cabinet next to a conference room.
  • In What Happens In Vegas, slacker Jack Fuller has a Free Fall pinball machine in his apartment.
  • In a dramatic example, The Thing (1982) has an Asteroids arcade machine at the ice station. It's less a commentary on the characters' frivolity and more a reflection on how the characters need recreational activities to pass time at the remote Arctic outpost where they live and work for months on end.
  • The schlocky America 3000 has several classic arcade video games and a pinball machine in the living quarters of the Presidential fallout shelter.
  • The original 1986 comedy Running Scared shows a Battlezone machine in Gene Wilder's apartment.
  • A pinball machine and several arcade games (including a large-screen Pong) are visible in the mansion party scene of North Dallas Forty.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou features a customized "Zissou" pinball machine.
  • The original 1981 Arthur had a pinball machine in the title character's bathroom.
  • Appropriately enough, in Ghost Rider, there's an Evel Knievel pinball in former Circus Brat Johnny Blaze's apartment.
  • The spoiled rich kid in The Toy has a fully-loaded arcade in his bedroom, including Centipede and Space Duel video game cabinets and Haunted House, Volcano, and Mars God of War pinballs.
  • High School High has "Homeroom Homicide" and "Classroom Carnage" arcade games in the teacher's lounge.
  • The main character of The Game Plan, football start Joe Kingman, has a "Kingman" pinball game in his apartment.
  • In I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Chuck owns a "Balica"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.
  • In Boogie Nights, porn star Dirk Digger has a Hot Line pinball game at his house.
  • Big Daddy: Bunny-Ears Lawyer and full-time slacker Sonny has a pinball machine in his apartment.
  • In Major League 2, one of Rick Vaughn's new possessions is a Judge Dredd pinball machine for his apartment.
  • Don't Tell Her It's Me: Emily's womanizing boss, Trout, has a Narc arcade game in his office.
  • Ron Burgandy has four pinball machinesnote  in his singles pad in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Quicksilver has a highly overclocked Pong machine in his basement.

Live-Action TV
  • In Silver Spoons, the Man Child father has several pinball and arcade video machines amid his collection of giant expensive toys. In the opening credits, he starts up a game of pinball 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 table in the apartment of Mary's boyfriend, Raphael.
  • In one episode of Mr. Belvedere, George gets a "Firebomb" pinball tablenote  to relive his youth. The family has to get rid of it once Belvedere becomes addicted to the game and neglects his chores.
  • Friends: In "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel," Chandler and Monica are given a Ms. Pac-Man machine as a late wedding present from Phoebe.
    • Earlier in the series, when Chandler and Monica start living together, they have an argument about what to do with Rachel's room after she moved out. Chandler wants this trope in the form of a game room, filled with old arcade machines which could be bought cheaply online. Monica wanted a guest room. Chandler thought a guest room was stupid because all their friends live within walking distance, Monica didn't want a game room because she thought it was stupid and immature... and kaboom. They eventually agree to use the room for something they both enjoy, and later on it becomes a guest room when they do have a friend who needs to stay there and presumably the pac man gets put in there as well.
  • A variation occurs in the Seinfeld episode "The Frogger", where George tries to get a Frogger cabinet from Mario's Pizza Parlor to preserve his high score.
  • In iCarly, Spencer owns several to emphasize his Man Child personality. He also purchases a Pacman Expy called "Pac Rat" in one episode.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Homestar Runner: Strong Bad (who is a fan of outdated computer technology in general) has a Trogdor! arcade game in his basement.

Western Animation
  • In the Family Guy Direct-to-Video episode "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story", Peter gets Lois a Galaga arcade machine for Christmas.
  • In The Simpsons episode where Bart becomes Mr. Burns' heir, he is shown to have a personal arcade in his bedroom.

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 pinball table.
  • For their participation in developing the Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball, the stars each received a machine at the end of the project. Patrick Stewart says he still plays his, while Marina Sirtis placed hers in the basement where her kids can enjoy it.
  • In 1991, Hollywood producer Joel Silver had a vanity pinball machine based on himself. "Joel Silver: The Pinball" was a rethemed version of Data East's Star Trek pin, and it sat in his Warner Bros. reception area for several years.
  • Similarly, famed television and film producer Aaron Spelling once received an "Aaron Spelling" pinball as a gift from his wife and family. It was based on the Lethal Weapon 3 pinball from Data East, and included a Tori Spelling target that said "I love you, Daddy" when hit.
  • Michael Jackson had a giant arcade in his home, which was recreated for an exhibit in Beverly Hills; you can take a virtual panoramic tour of it here.
  • Hugh Hefner has a separate building on the north side of his estate, with vintage and modern arcade games, pinball machines, a player piano, jukebox, billards table, foosball, poker table, television, and stereo spread out over two wings. Games include Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Missile Command, Hydro Thunder, and every Playboy pinball game ever.
  • Slash of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver is an avid collector of pinball machines (owning over 20 at one point), and even designed the Guns N' Roses game.
  • Karl Urban is an avid pinball fan with a sizeable collection of his own machines. He provided the voice recordings for the Star Trek (Stern) game.

Match SequencePinball TropesPinball Gag
Pac-Man FeverVideo Game CultureUltimate Gamer 386
Perpetual ExpressionCharacterization TropesPersonality Powers

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