It’s been years since I’ve stormed this particular building. Decades, really.
Yet my grappling hook flies straight and true to the top of the elevator shaft. I zip-line in, drop and spin a quick 360 scan like a pro before catching the elevator on the roof and beginning my murderous descent.
My enemies are everywhere: Scurrying flocks of armed spies clad in black suits, sunglasses and hats, they pop randomly from the blue doors on each floor and start shooting. There’s no way I can kill them all but I do my best, ducking under their bullets or jumping over them, sometimes delivering my signature move — a flying, two-footed jump-kick that can take out two or three of the bastards at a time — and score an additional 50 points for the kill. As I ride the elevators down, I launch bullets that won’t find their mark until I’m a couple floors away. Sometimes I’ll shoot the lights out, which has no discernible effect on the enemy, but ups the scoring by another 50.
It’s an absolute bloodbath; I may have taken 50 of them out before I land in the basement and speed away in my little hatchback, collecting a 1,000-point bonus as I do, thank you very much. By the time I clear the second building, I’ve already hit the evening’s high score. After the sixth or seventh building, I start to get a little sloppy and the enemy spies quickly overwhelm me, eating up my extra guys in just a minute or so.
But whatever. I feel I’ve made my point.
I haven’t played Elevator Action, Taito’s 1983 downward-scrolling shooter, in maybe 30 years, but back in the golden age of the video arcade, Elevator Action was one of my games, along with Centipede, Q*bert, Tron, Tempest, Jungle Hunt and a few others. I played them all — relentlessly, obsessively, passionately — but those few games on the shortlist were ones at which I became quite adept. And as I demonstrated on this Elevator Action machine tucked against the back wall of Scott Leftwich’s basement arcade in Winston-Salem, I’ve still got the goods.
This basement is literally the stuff of dreams for an original gamer like me — the mall arcade where I cut my teeth back in the 1980s drifts up from my subconscious all the time. It’s Leftwich’s personal tribute to the virtual dawn of time, the late 1970s until about 1986, when all the classic home systems and arcade games were developed.
It’s safe to say he’s obsessed. He’s rescued and repaired each one of these arcade classics with his brother Blake, a game and app developer, over the last 20 years. Around the same time the brothers formed a band, which still exists today as Scott Leftwich & the Atarians.
He’s been in Winston-Salem for five years now, and his basement is already the stuff of legend.