Visit 1984, a unique retro pinball and video arcade.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 edition of Missouri Life magazine.

Late one afternoon in Springfield, I entered 1984 with my son Rob, figuratively and literally: 1984 is a retro arcade, cool, dark, and exciting.

To the left, a plethora of dazzling pinball machines with flashing lights and clanging bells lured us to play. On the right, distorted alien voices from multiple video game machines described ways for us to evade, escape, and eliminate devious enemies from other worlds.

Discovery Journal: Visit 1984, Springfield's unique retro pinball and video arcade.
Amy and Devin Durham are two of seven owners of the retro arcade 1984.

Even though there were enough buzzes, beeps, and boings to rattle an old man’s unaccustomed brain, my fifty-two-year-old son was stimulated to the max with every sight and sound in the place. Despite an obvious age gap, 1984 was a leap back in time for both of us.

Very few businesses like 1984 still exist compared to the more than ten thousand that were in the United States during the ‘80s. So, playing original pinball and video game machines in Springfield is a rare experience.

When Rob’s out-of-town friends visit, he treats them to an evening at 1984, where they can fondly relive earlier times. I think an old metal token or two is among his collection of childhood treasures.

I also recall playing machines at the county fair carnival when I was a kid. For a dime, I’d grab a chrome-plated crank and give it a hard twist. To keep them from being broken, the machines were made of hard oak with thick panes of plate glass. No matter how much I tried to drop the crane’s metal jaws onto a magnificent ceramic black panther, shiny chrome-plated cigarette lighter, or oversized white plastic die, they disappointingly landed into kernels of yellow corn, a very poor reward for my hard-earned money.

An updated version of that machine, called “The Claw,” appears in the Toy Story movies, and there’s one like it at 1984.

My initial experience at video games was in an airport while waiting for a plane. The next time I played PONG was fifty years later at 1984, and to show how much those early gaming skills had deteriorated, my wife beat me. For sixteen years, the retro arcade’s seven contributing investors have operated the business in the Historic District of downtown Springfield.

The three-story, century-old, brick building where 1984 is located started out as a hotel and at one time was a dormitory for nuns. It is family-friendly, and no alcohol or fireworks are permitted. All ages are welcome, but youngsters under eight must have one-on-one adult supervision.

Nearly one hundred machines are ready for play on the street-level floor and down in the basement there a special attraction—a rendition of the Ghostbuster movie’s haunted library. Surprisingly, George Orwell’s science-fiction novel 1984 is missing. Perhaps a phantom reader has checked it out.

Springfield's unique retro pinball and video arcade, 1984, is worth the visit.
When a game breaks down, Devin Durham has the skills to make repairs.

Devin Durham, who established the arcade, says, “These places used to be in every town, but when people bought Nintendo games and hooked them to their TV sets at home, that ten-year era was over. Used machines could be had for very little money. I still have a TRON machine in here that I bought for my brother in 1986 for $125. It was about then that I dreamed of someday owning a video arcade.”

When a machine breaks down electrically or mechanically, nothing is beyond Devin’s maintenance capabilities. He’s been repairing them since college days while working at an arcade in Kansas City.

After paying ten dollars at the door, a guest can play any of the machines until closing time. After five paying trips to 1984, the sixth time is free. For more information, visit

Photos by Ron McGinnis