I’m Dustin Wilcox, previous proprietor of a now-nonexistent route of arcade games in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. You may be wondering how I got here.
In February 2017, I purchased my first arcade machine: a 60-in-1 Multicade built by a buddy of mine in Dover, Tennessee. At that time, the sky seemed to be the only conceivable limit, so I snapped up more machines whenever I had the chance. The overarching goal was always to start a route in my hometown.
Fast-forward to precisely two years later, and I’d amassed a collection of eight machines. Most of these I cherished deeply, so I couldn’t wait to share with the world. Ruthlessly self-assured, I dropped Fun-E-Ball into my first revenue-share location: Brenda’s Snack Shack.
What followed then was a series of ups and downs that ultimately brought me back to square one. Brenda’s Snack Shack changed hands, so I moved Fun-E-Ball to the Village Restaurant, which later saw its own changes. I spent months tirelessly outfitting a wicked cool game room at the Main Street Tavern until the landlord wanted to convert that space to a lobby for the apartments upstairs. And when I finally nailed my holy grail — WK Cinemas — the owner one day he just didn’t want them anymore, no reason given.
Defeated by these circumstances, I moved all my machines back into my grandparents’ garage and put the whole thing on pause. I had to school about which to worry anyway, right? I could always come back to this later.
Except I ended up not wanting to do so. Carting around all those games was a Herculean task that solemnly reminded me exactly being an operator could entail. Sure, I loved playing and writing about games, but running a business? Maybe I wasn’t cut out for coin-op after all.
By the spring 2022 semester, I’d resolved to wash my hands of the matter almost entirely. Holding onto Skycurser, Fun-E-Ball, and the change machine would allow me an easy “in” if I ever wanted to pivot back.
In July, I threw up a bunch of Facebook Marketplace listings and had the offenders cleared in a week. The Fast & the Furious and Skins Games went into a private collection, whereas The House of the Dead, Target: Terror, Lucky & Wild, and WrestleMania are en route to the Pixel Palace near Nashville, Tennessee. Had I really given up for good?
At first, I was strongly considering it, yes. Running my route had regularly come at the expense of my fun, freetime, and a certain interpersonal relationship. But after extensive thought, I’ve decided I’d rather proceed with a different approach. Allow me to explain.
I’ll graduate from Murray State University in December, after which I’ll immediately pursue a career in television production. Although I’ve loved TV a lot longer than I’ve loved arcades, the latter is still a fairly prominent passion of mine.
Post-graduation, my biggest hang-up in running a route is that I’ll be geographically separated from my father and grandfather who have helped me immensely throughout the years. If I want to truly make this happen, I’ll have to find some way to fly solo.
That’s precisely why the only three machines I kept are the ones I can easily move myself. Once I identify my permanent residence in, say, Nashville or Louisville, there’ll be nothing stopping me from renting a trailer and putting them wherever I dang please.
And that’ll be my modus operandi for the foreseeable future. I’m so sick of 400 lbs. games, so I just plain won’t mess with them. Instead, I’ll purchase kits both old and new and install them in compact, lightweight cabinets, which are just as easy to store as they are to move. It’s a darn near fool-proof plan.
Given my renewed enthusiasm for the business, I may try to land some machines in Murray while I’m still attending school there, though I’m not sure if that’s the sharpest long-term plan. I’d prefer not to drive two to four hours to collect quarters every few months if life takes me far, far away.
Of course, these are all details I can sort out later. For now, the bottom-line is that I’m continuing the arcade thing without letting it come to the detriment of my studies, primary career, or relationships. I’m having my proverbial cake and eating it, too, suckers.
That’s it really. I sold a bunch of aggravating arcade games, I wrote a short film that starts production in September, and I’m about to secure freedom for the rest of my life. Things are looking up for me.
Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions via email. In the meantime, I’ll see y’all around. It would be pretty epic if I joined the “27 Club” I think.