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Personal Arcade

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[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 Manchild, 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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Genkai has a massive collection of arcade games designed to test potential students, though she does note that some of them are indeed for her own personal use.
  • In one chapter of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna's Daily Life reveals that Fafnir has converted an abandoned building into his own personal arcade, filled with game cabinets from the 80's and 90's. In a rare Pet the Dog moment, he ends up letting all the neighborhood kids use them for free for a day at the end of the chapter.

    Comic Books 
  • In Sunnyville Stories, the second story "Multiball Madness" reveals that Mr. Von Straussen collects these. He has arcade machines, pinball machines and even an air hockey table. This is more of a testament though to his wealth; unlike other examples of this trope, Mr. Von Straussen isn't lazy or a Manchild.

    Film — Animated 
  • Fred from Big Hero 6 has several arcade video game cabinets among the action figures and comic books in his mansion.

    Film — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Silver Spoons, the Manchild 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 Manchild personality. He also purchases a Pac-Man Expy called "Pac Rat" in one episode.
  • There's an episode of The Big Bang Theory where a slightly deranged admirer of Penny's befriends the guys and locks them in the basement of his mother's home, so as to have a free run at her. As the basement is chocca with comic-book paraphernalia and reconditioned arcade games, none of the four guys even notices they've been locked in and are effectively prisoners.

    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.
  • Bruce Wayne in The Batman has one secret access to the Batcave hidden behind a coin-op video game cabinet.
  • Adrien of Miraculous Ladybug, probably to show the audience how rich his family is, has a few arcade game machines in his bedroom. Sadly, he gets toys like that from his father instead of time and attention.

    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 of the source material 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.
  • Playboy founder Hugh Hefner had 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 two games based on the former band (Guns N' Roses (Data East) and Guns N' Roses (Jersey Jack)).
  • 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.
  • Nearby the set for Good Morning America is a unique pinball machine themed on the show. It's actually a Family Guy with a Palette Swap and audio changes, but nevertheless, it's meant for use by the show's hosts and staff (and presumably the guests if they're interested).
  • As noted in the trope description, it's not uncommon for hobbyists to build an entire machine from scratch as a project. As long as you already have some skill in computers, electronics, woodworking, and art, creating a custom arcade machine can be done for a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand. Pinball machines are another matter, as their construction requires levels of precision very difficult to achieve at home. This is taken up a notch after the middle of The New '10s as prefabricated home arcade machines are starting to become extremely popular and many companies start producing them, and at the same time auction sites like eBay makes it possible to score used machines for cheap from rental joints looking to get rid of their old machines or arcades that are getting rid of their old/broken machines.