This article was inspired by the insurrectionist terrorist raid on the capital on January 6, 2021. While I have never tried to overthrow my country or kill the Vice President, I remember a time where I too could have been considered a terrorist. It was 1991, and I was terrorizing a giant spider web.
A web? No, THE web. Where does one find a human sized spider web? At Spaceplex, of course. What is Spaceplex? Guess the Web will wait a second.
Spaceplex was a place borne out of my 6 year old head that came to life when someone not aged six used actual money to invest in making a giant ass mancave. And no, not a cave when men went to see giant asses…that’s existed for ages. So what am I talking about?
Spaceplex itself was located somewhere in St James or Smithtown. I don’t know where exactly, but I do know that we used to hang a left off of 347 when we saw the Taco Bell by a Cadillac dealer. I’m sure somehow today that sentence is both cultural appropriation and imperialism.
But what awaited inside of this Spaceplex? You walked in through a funky futuristic feeling tunnel that on occasion dropped some dry ice to create a smoke filled entry for customers, like you were a rock star about to hit the stage. And then?
A gigantic room full of arcade cabinets. A big area for miniature golf. A dark, creepy room for laser tag. A small interior amusement park complete with a 20 foot tall rubber band spider web call….THE WEB. A sports game area, like soccer or some shit. Nobody cared about soccer in 1990. Air hockey. Dome hockey. Pinballs. Lastly, a relatively inexpensive snack bar full of Elio’s pizza and warmed up nachos, with maybe a dirty water dog to balance out a diet designed to create volcanic spastic colons.
Why did I love such a commercially minded, mildly dirty, poorly snack-accommodated place? For the record, I did love Spaceplex. I loved Spaceplex so much that I gave it a pet name, like when you name a pet because you love it or when you make up a cute nickname for your girlfriend before she ruins your life.- Spaceflux. Why? Because flux can mean flowing, which I felt years before I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but it can also mean abnormal discharge from your body, like shitting and pissing yourself when you die. Which you do, in case you didn’t know that. Know that when you watched grandma die, while you were squirting tears, she was squirting piss all over herself. Get that shot in your next dead relative selfie, you sick fuck. Unlike your shitty grandma, calling it Spaceflux means I died and went to heaven.
Never have I ever been to a place that fed into my childhood regarding entertainment choices, as well as my love for technology by having the latest games (THEY HAD GAMES WITH MOTHERFUCKING POLYGONS! POLYGONS!!!), plus the time honored passing of the gauntlet from when older kids would push me away from a game to steal my quarter to a time when I would place my foot on an unlucky 12 year old and shove punt his unsuspecting body across the arcade so that a buddy can take over his game as we both laughed our asses off. There was no waiting in line. Fuck them, this is survival of the person willing to push a 15 year old face first into something else over a game token. Allegedly.
And the games? What games were there to draw you in?
STUN Runner sit down version. Terminator 2. a sit down Hard Drivin’ cabinet, Captain America and the Avengers. An old game that was hologram based called Time Traveller. Why the fuck aren’t there more hologram games? Golden Axe was there of course, which was a great game for the time. Smash TV, an all time great, which as far as I know still has the highest deaths per second count of any game ever made was there. They had a Sega R 360. If you don’t know what that is, look at the fucking thing. There was all sorts of shit there. Games with guns. Games with steering wheels. I’m pretty sure I even played Mortal Kombat 2 there, which seems recent in my head until I discovered that Best Buy sells it as a classic game Arcade 1 up cabinet, which means it is definitely old.
So, about that Web. There was a giant elastic banded spider web called “The Web.” How creative. The elastic bands were those big black bands that you use to strap shit to the roof of your car. Except longer. Which allowed you to use them as a sling shot that didn’t even need a rock. The rubber band quality and size allowed you to pull the strap back and just let it fly, effectively slapping the shit out of whomever was unlucky enough to be climbing up the 20 foot tall bungee nightmare when you let loose with hell’s wrath.
Those webs also let you launch yourself with extra momentum downwards if you pushed yourself into the web and let it sling you towards your target, WWE rope style. This led to flying kicks and torpedo like headbutts that were body numbing. That lack of solid wall on occasion also led to an evasion of a predictable attack, when you leaned back and avoided a punch to the dick, which usually ended up devastating some poor bastard who was attempting to use the Web for a legitimate purpose like a normal human being.
There was one instance when a friend of mine dove from the top of the Web, somehow managed to avoid ANY of the rubber band webs, and landed SPLAT on top of some poor kid who was coming in to do something stupid, like enjoy himself. My buddy gets up and looks at the kid. The kid was mushed into the canvas topped spongy floor, totally unconscious. He asked the kid “You OK?” The kid doesn’t reply. Reply? Shit, the kid doesn’t move, or even twitch. “YOU’RE OKKKKK” he declares for the kid as he tussles the kids hair in a friendly, big brotherly way, then heads back to the top of the perch.
After a while, the kid slowly rotated himself and spent two minutes crawling back the ten feet to the Web’s exit. He was definitely NOT OK. He’s probably missing a spleen today. Allegedly.
Did I mention that Spaceplex had an indoor mini golf course? And my friends and I treated that golf course like Thunderdome and Polo fucked and had a kid. We’d hit the golf ball as hard as we could at something, which was the excuse to run full speed and use the lead putter smash the shit out of whatever alleged space aged materials they made the golf course out of. Which looked like that hard foam insulation they use on hot tubs. I know this because we broke half of the course. Allegedly.
Spaceplex had this game called Bowlingo. Fucking Bowlingo. It was a tiny bowling alley with these small pins on strings, and a softball sized bowling ball. Which was perfect for overhanding. Truth be told, I’m pretty good at throwing shit. I did repeat my Bowlingo talent when my son was at a 3 year olds birthday party at Fun Zone on Route 110 in Amityville, NY. After bragging to the other dads about how as a misguided teen I was Thanos to Bowlingo’s universe and them calling me full of shit, I overhanded the ball into the equivalent of right between the eyes of the game. The lights on BOTH lanes went nuts, and all 20 of the pins dropped to the lane. I smiled proudly. Twenty with one blow- just like all of their wives! SKANKS!
There was a laser tag arena. I never went in there, just because I know that in the dark? With a blunt object? I wouldn’t have shot anyone. I would have pistol whipped the fuck out of people I snuck up on and clubbed like a baby seal. Or clubbed like Captain Caveman. Or clubbed like I had bub. And if I got shot? Club that fuck to show him up. Basically, I avoided laser tag for the lawsuits and assault charges that would have undoubtedly happened.
The pictures that I’m including are here for the sake of veracity. All of these pics were developed at a Photomat and were scanned and edited. Suck dick to anyone trying to figure out who is who, you fucktards. This action breaks my general rule to not photograph alleged criminal activity, but I wanted to capture this moment in life between being a teen and an adult- even though we were all legal adults- because I think we all knew what was coming down the road was going to be a different world. There were signs of this already popping up with PC gaming at early stages and 32 bit consoles coming down the line that would make arcades replaceable. And also, we’d have more income, so we had more choices of where to be awful human beings and cause violence. Allegedly.
Besides, I don’t think it’s Spaceplex anymore, and the statute of limitations must be over by now, so fuck it. I’m doing this for an historic reason!
The other shit there, like the sports area? I didn’t give a fuck about that. I think there were bumper cars too, but once you start driving a real car, a bumper car is the driving equivalent of a limp dick. Unless of course you’re smashing into other cars with aggressive purpose and launching glasses off of people’s faces. That’s always funny.
And if security ever caught wind and came to confront us? We’d beat the piss out of them and take off. After all, we weren’t locals, but we were a military draft aged mob. And fortunately, security on most occasions recognized that- because they themselves were like 16, and just asked us to be cool. Which never worked because we were terrorists. You can’t negotiate with terrorists.
You may say “It sounds like you and your friends were asshole bullies.” Well, that’s revisionist history. Judging us by today’s standards? Sure, we’re terrible. But that’s because kids today lack the balls to stand up to someone and defend themselves live and in person. Am I proud of being that terrible? Yes.
Why? Because no one involved was so life rocked and disturbed at what happened to that they didn’t go home, got behind a screen, and use social media to henpeck someone else so badly that they went out and killed themselves? That’s a win. Yet somehow people today see that electronic onslaught as TOTALLY NORMAL BEHAVIOR.
If those two worlds collided? Like, I’d see you at a urinal taking a leak and push my foot against your ass until your junk may or may not hit the porcelain. Then you’d go home, gather a bunch of twits, and start an online barrage, attack my job and company, try to dox me, harass my family, demand attention for how much of a victim you while you actively try to financially ruin someone’s life with no regard to generational impacts, and demand a bank holiday for your suffering. Because you are powerless.
Think about that logic. Taking a quarter is bad. Howabout taking a life? That’s good! I can write a “feel bad for me” post, or be even more shallow and take a frownie selfie. But by the standards from the age of Spaceplex? That person is a fucking piece of shit. Everyone would bully the fuck out of a person like that. Or more likely beat their ass. Often.
The bullying we did hurt for maybe a moment, because it was in the moment. It wasn’t premeditated. All we did was mildly embarrass, peer to peer. But now? Social media is forever. That person that you called a cunt on line? One day they’ll hear from their grandkids “Grandma, were you as big of a stupid cunt as Jessica said? Because she said you were the biggest stupidest cunt ever.”
There was one time that I thought it would be a good idea to bring a girl on a date to Spaceplex. Honestly, that was VISIONARY on my part. Trying to look cool by showing how good you are at video games is a somewhat recent phenomenon. Probably because it’s only recently that guys started getting rich playing video games. Vaginas still smell money as fast as Tecuichpotzin changed her name and became Christian after Hernando Cortez killed her husband Cuauhtémoc right in front of her, making him king of the Aztecs. But when I did that? Not kill Aztecs, but showed mad arcade skills? I got a handjob that felt like I was getting beat off by a construction worker. Who knew bankers massaged their hands with dick skin breaking pumice stones? And every Aztec hates me. What the fuck.
And yes, you all need to learn more history. #MeToo is just an excuse.
Spaceplex was so popular in its time that someone started a corporation to sell stock in the concept, probably to take advantage of the dot com bubble. It was so popular that people who lived 40 minutes away- that’s 20 miles in Suffolk, 10 in Nassau- heard of it before there was such thing as an internet. It was so popular that some dude claimed he kidnapped a girl from there and kept her in a dungeon. Of course he didn’t. If my crew saw shit like that happen? We would have made him bite the curb, then throat fuck him with those horrible 75 cent hot dogs until he shit his pants to death. There is no reason to show mercy to a kid toucher.
Like all good things, Spaceplex came to an end. Most would argue that things like the Sony Playstation and the Sega Dreamcast and even the Atari Jaguar– the original 32-64 bit generation of home video games is what did the arcade in. After all, why spend $50 at the arcade when you can spend $50 at home and own it, or rent it at Blockbuster for a few bucks and test drive a game? Also, who spends $50 at an arcade? Dave and Busters, put your hand down!
No, what killed Spaceplex was some piss poor owners. I thought I was a bad client, but I wasn’t shit compared to the scumbaggery of ownership that ran that joint. The owners allegedly were piles of shit that had ties to organized crime and tried to defraud the stock market, ultimately getting nailed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Compared to them, my crime was mostly disorganized and spontaneous, and no one even called the cops. I was probably an insurance claim. Allegedly.
The end of Sapceplex wasn’t exactly the end of Spaceplex. It happens that Spaceplex had a child. It was on 347 by the Smithhaven Mall and was called Sports Plus. They had a sheet of ice, an arcade, I think some food, and an indoor roller coaster. But no Web. This was an upgrade in some ways on Spaceplex, except for one issue. The issue was that I was older and in a different frame of mind.
By then I was old enough to have a somewhat real job. And some money. And was at an age where I could get into places that served booze, where it was way harder to find 15 year olds and their tokens.
I think Sports Plus made it all the way to 2007, but I’m going by this account. Today it’s a Whole Foods and I think a gym. But I bet one of the reasons Sports Plus was built where it was built? Because Spaceplex broke the ground of an arcade without a shopping mall attached to it, and it was a mile away. Look at Sports Plus stealing a customer base, just to piss it away.
A few years ago I was in the general area of Spaceplex and I decided that fuck it, I was going to see what was there failing to live up to its standards. What shit took away that sexy bitch of a destination of my youth. It turns out, it was pretty much more of the same. It became a sports arena of some sort, which Spaceplex also had to an extent. But for me, the absolute best part of the visit was the entrance to the place, which was largely the same from my times there. It took me back to the good old days of being able to get away without being recorded as a complete asshole.
My reaction seeing this superlative sacred site some 20 years later? Truth be told, my eyes welled up. For what, though? Maybe for the passing of my youth. Maybe for the time that has moved on and the changes that brings. Maybe for the inability to destroy someone else’s shit without being filmed by assholes with cell phones or assholes that installed security cameras to stupidly protect their expensive stuff. But I totally teared up. It could have been for missing the closeness of youthful bonds between friends that you have at that time in life.
Or maybe it was for the time in history before we all lived on social media. You know, where anyone and everyone can gain a level of assholiness that was formerly reserved for the people that made you look at photo albums of the shit they did and you didn’t? Then or now, that shit is absolutely fucking annoying. Fuck your pictures of food and vacations. No one wants to see that shit. Not even your kids, and they were there.
While you can never truly go home, you can definitely look back with nostalgia for the good times that you had in your life, and with the proper context of history behind them. Like the time where a place became as sexy as the wild west because it had no closed circuit TV due to the owner being a criminal himself and not wanting to get caught, all at the expense of the massacre of a plastic shitty golf course.
I had done searches on the subject and found so little available that I was compelled to share. I hope one thing came across above all else in this: Spaceplex was and is such a wonderful memory from my life. Despite the bravado of the stories of mayhem, it really was a place where a teenager with a pocket full of change could go and laugh their ass off with their buddies. Those memories literally forced me to write this history. My hope is that others who may have stories share them, as I shared my alleged tales. Or maybe even go back and pay a visit, as writing this inspired me to do.
I used to ask if there is a place in the market for a Spaceplex today? Yes, yes there is. But you’d have to build it today, and realize that it will go away. The kids born in the late 1980’s never truly experienced the fun and social activity that was the arcade. Dave and Busters is the only joint that still tries to create the social environment of an arcade while passing that torch to the next generation, but they’ve been running that concept for how many years without it catching on? 20 years? That’s because there’s no soul to Dave and Busters. It’s too corporate. It’s the 50 dollar arcade. I love them, but it’s been years since I’ve been to one.
A PS5 can be used to help cure cancer while you play Borderlands 3. The graphics that the next gen Xbox can produce are just as good as any dedicated arcade cabinet, and you can play it on a 75” flat screen from a reclining leather couch. A coin op arcade game will pale in comparison to both the personal and social utility of that. Anyone 25 and under won’t give a shit about an arcade. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try.
You can build the next Spaceplex. It needs to be darkish. It needs to be a little mysterious. It needs to have a cross section of classic and modern games that are cool. Technically, it kind of already exists, just not here. But in the end, you have to know it will fail as a solo entity. But maybe, there’s another way.
My idea? Combine the massive number of Long Island home arcade cabinet collectors with the great beer bars on Long Island. Especially now, as the COVID pandemic is taking those places away, but also to team up with the ones that will rise in their places. Creates a network of roving Spaceplexes. Spaceplexi? Make events in multiple localities so everyone can enjoy themselves no matter where they’re from. Support both hobbyists and local businesses!
Sure, there won’t be The Web, which would be a bummer until 9 people threw out their backs trying to relive their youth. Besides, today the web means something entirely different. And the days of 75 cent hot dogs are long gone, just like the days of 90 cent a gallon gas. And of course, that youthful optimism and hopefulness hopefully has already been replaced by a level of happiness and complacency in achievement. But the things that make life enjoyable- friends, fun, and the opportunity to both reminisce and make new memories- does that ever change?
Feel free to leave your memories of Spaceplex below. Or share your suggestions on how to bring it back to life. Or your favorite chicken recipe. It’s all good.