During the last two years, the Netherlands has seen a whole bunch of new arcades pop up all around the country. Most of them take on the form of either arcade museums (like NVGM) or adapted the popular Barcade layout from famous U.S. locations. But there is one arcade in the Netherlands that has kept true to its roots for over 30 years now, still relying on nothing but tokens, skill games, and its amazing location by the seaside to make its profit. I’m talking, of course, about Funland Scheveningen.
Funland Scheveningen opened in 1985 as part of a new location of the dutch gambling chain “Hommerson”, which recently celebrated its 140 year anniversary. They entered the arcade business as early as 1952 with a location called “Monte Carlo”, which was located a little further south on the same beachside as today’s Funland. Back then, arcade games were very different from what we are used to seeing today – since there were no computers, all the games relied purely on mechanical contraptions and were quite difficult to construct. Because of that and the fact that World War II had taken a huge toll on most middle-European economies, the guys at Hommerson had to import their machines from the U.S. and Japan. In 1971, they opened “Sportlanden”, a bowling alley located on the then-newly rebuilt Scheveningen pier. Three years later, Sportlanden got a kid’s area which carried some of the first electronic arcade games to be available in Europe (among them, of course, the legendary Pong). The arcade games must’ve drawn quite a crowd, because the pier soon proved to be too small to house all the arcade machines they were getting, so in 1982, they opened yet another location: Funland.
The 600m² location chosen to house over 50 arcade machines during the 1980s arcade boom is the same location today’s Funland resides in. But during those last 35 years, quite a lot has changed. Let’s take a look at the arcade today and see what it has to offer. If you want to read more about Funland’s history (and you understand dutch), you should check out the 90-page brochure they released for their 120th anniversary in 1998.
Having read about the Funland of the 1980s makes me want to go back in time and see for myself what one of the biggest dutch arcades looked like during the heyday of the industry. As a German, arcades are a very foreign thing to me, as they never really existed even in the 20th century due to harsh laws basically equating skill games with gambling. Over here, nothing has survived of the 80s arcade era, simply because it never existed in the first place. However, things are different in the Netherlands, and so we can still go to places like Funland and experience just a bit of that old, venerable feeling of an arcade with its very own history, coupled with the excitement of modern games.
Funland is located about as perfectly as an arcade by the seaside can be – not only is it easily accessible from the beach, but it’s also part of a larger shopping center, benefiting from its facilities and direct tram connection. Another strong point are its opening times, ranging from 10:00 – 22:00 during weekdays to a ridiculous 10:00 – 01:00 during weekends. I’ve only been to the arcade after sunset once, and – quite frankly – I have no idea how they can justify these opening times. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but when I left there at around 21:00, me and my friend were the only people in the arcade, aside from a couple playing Air Hockey. Again, it’s cool, because it gives that vibe of Japanese arcades, which are also usually open until at least midnight (and honestly, I could see myself going for a few quick rounds of [insert favorite music game here] every day after dinner), but does it make sense in Scheveningen? I honestly don’t know.
So everything about Funland is awesome, but what about the games? Well, let’s mention the most important thing first: If you’re a Pump It Up or Taiko player, this is bascially the location to be in the Netherlands. They have a Prime 2 cabinet, one of the big, insanely flashy ones, and a very dedicated employee who personally takes care that the pads are always in good condition. As for Taiko, they were the first European arcade to import an HD Taiko machine and actually set it up… Except they imported it from Brazil, not Japan. I mean look at it, it’s all in Spanish! Nevermind it’s only got around 30 songs and no network support, it’s modern Taiko but in Spanish!
This is, sad as it may be, probably as close as you can get to the Japanese Taiko arcade experience as you can get within Europe currently, since modern Japanese machines require a connection to Bandai-Namco’s servers. Or you could play the horribly outdated Taiko 14 from 2006 that a few other locations have. Don’t get me wrong, gameplay-wise they’re exactly the same, and Taiko 14 has a songlist about four times as big as that of Wadaiko Master, but… There is just something about coming back from Japan, having played a lot of Taiko there and getting greeted with the same login screen, same menu, same sound effects… just that everything’s in Spanish.
Anyways, what else is there? There’s a Supernova (yawn), but hey, better than no DDR. A few racing games like Sega Ralley, a half-broken OutRun and a Hummer Twin cabinet, and a bunch of fun time wasters like Basket Ball machines and the aforementioned Air Hockey. There’s also some UFO catchers, if you’re a fan of that, as well as various ticket machines, some of which are actually quite new (like the 2017 Flappy Tickets and Ice Man).
The other stuff
Well, what else is there to talk about? Funland is, right down to the heart, a classic amusement arcade. There’s no fancy-looking bar where you can get drinks (you have the surrounding mall and beachside for that), and there is no PC gaming corner or anything to distract you from the machines, either. Just a hall, a counter, a change machine, and the games. Oh, and there’s screens attached to some of the walls showing… I think dutch television shows, I’m not really sure why though.
Finally, I should mention that, while the arcade machines will take 1€ Euro coins, they also have exchange machines for notes which will give you a discount the more you exchange at once (down to 88 cents per play). The redemption machines will give you tickets depending on how well you’ve played, which can then be fed to the “Ticket Eater” machines. They count the tickets and will print you a receipt which you can then exchange for gifts at yet another machine, the “Prize Hub”. Sounds confusing, probably isn’t that bad in actuality. I’m sure they have a map or something up in the arcade! (Thanks to Thumbsy for the info about the arcade and redemption machines!)
Now, for the final and perhaps biggest question: Is Funland actually Fun?
Short answer: If you’re in or around Den Haag, and you have some time off, even if it’s only after 22:00 or something silly, check it out. Do it for the Brazilian Drum Game. Or the giant, loud, flashy dance mat game. Or just to be able to say “I’ve been playing arcade games all night, and I was in Europe while doing it!!”. Funland has some amazing history behind it, and of course it doesn’t hold up to that anymore, but it doesn’t need to. When you look around it, you realize just how much of a gem it is. There might still be hundreds of seaside arcades in places like the UK, but even there, you’d struggle to find one where the staff takes care of the games as much as they do in Funland.
There’s a reason this place has survived 3 economic depressions and is still going strong. Yes, it’s also the fact that they’re probably cross-funded from the giant gambling hall right above them. But when you go there in the summer, and you see random people walk in and actually get stuck on the machines for almost an hour, it creates a feeling that few other arcades on the European mainland can match. The feeling that, just maybe, there is a place for pure, old-fashioned arcades like Funland, even in the year 2018.
…I’ll skip out on the long answer, sorry. 🙂