Eric Jacobson and Dan Hower

 

Founders of The Arcade Flyer Archive

Interview by Jonathan Imberi

If you use MAME™ (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), chances are pretty good that you have heard of The Arcade Flyer Archive (TAFA). They’re the ones responsible for all of the flyers displayed in conjunction with your favorite game titles. I recently had the opportunity to talk with the people behind TAFA and discovered there’s a lot more to the project than just a few hundred flyers in MAME™.

For those of us who are not aware of The Arcade Flyer Archive, what is it?

Dan: The Arcade Flyer Archive is an online "reading room" for coin-op video game flyers. It is a place to preserve the nostalgia, the visual language, as well as the history of the videogame industry through the promotional flyers that were handed out by manufacturers to operators. TAFA as we know it today has been around for five years now.

Eric: The Arcade Flyer Archive (TAFA) offers a unique view into coin-op history by providing a database of over 4,500 scanned arcade game promotional flyers dating from 1971’s Computer Space to the recent 25th Anniversary of Pac-Man.

How did you get started with this project?

Dan: I got involved with TAFA as a major contributor in 1999. When I discovered TAFA and realized that I owned a lot of flyers that TAFA needed for their database I was motivated to contribute my vast flyer collection. Eventually I befriended Gerard who is one of the original co-founders. I contributed so many flyer scans that he eventually gave me full access to the database. Suddenly I found myself being a content manager and made sure flyer titles, manufacturers and other data were catalogued correctly.

Eric: I discovered arcade emulation back while Neil Bradley’s EMU vector emulator and Dave Spicer’s Sparcade were the only multi game emulators in town. Nicola Salmoria’s MAME™ hit the scene and changed everything by emulating so many games a front end program became popular for browsing available games. Gerard Maathuis created the MAME™ flyer archive and began distributing arcade flyer images to add to the MAME™ experience by making the flyer images available via these front ends for emulated games.

I started contributing flyer scans from my own collection to this effort and was invited by Gerard to join the MAME™ flyer site that eventually became TAFA. I’m the coder for TAFA and a closet flyer contributor to the site. Since Dan Hower became our main flyer contributor I haven’t found much unique content in my collection to post.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Dan: I am a professional user-interface designer and an internationally known artist. Of course I am a big fan of classic video games, both coin-ops and early consoles. Likewise, I am an avid collector of both types of video games as well as video game flyers, but only early ones from 1971 to 1991. I have a background in graphic design and computer graphics. I've lived in Maryland now for eight years and grew up in New York State. One of my newest ventures is designing my own videogame cabinets.

Eric: I’m 37 and live in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle, Washington. Being a child of the 80’s I just love classic coin-op arcade games. I’m currently a Senior Network Administrator for the county hospital where I live. I have been working in the information technology field for over 10 years and hold multiple Microsoft and Cisco certifications mostly gained while teaching certification classes at the local community college. Web programming is a hobby that occasionally gets used for business.

I see the Founding Father is listed as Gerard Maathuis. Who is he and is he still with the project?

Dan: Gerard was one of the original co-founders of TAFA and before that he was owner of the MAME™ Flyer/Poster Archive. He was the master behind the MAME™ Flyerpack effort, which provides flyer thumbnail images for the MAME™ emulator application. About a year ago now, Gerard informed me that he was leaving TAFA to pursue other interests, and he passed on the site to Eric and myself. In January 2005, the transition of leadership took place and Gerard stayed on board for a few months to help out with the MAME™ Flyerpacks but eventually he left all together.

Eric: He has been the major driving force behind recruiting staff and contributing to the site in the past. Recently he has decided to step back from the site for a while.

How much work goes into adding a flyer?

Dan: Scanning one flyer and adding it to the TAFA database as a new entry doesn't take that long, but usually when I make an update, it includes several flyers which means the process is time consuming. I usually scan all the flyers at once, then I need to crop them to specific size and sometimes adjust their contrast. After that, unique number ID's are assigned to the new flyer entries. Using admin tools, I create a new entry in TAFA and associate the new flyer scans with it. Since I have a routine it doesn't seem to take that long anymore, but when I have a hundred flyers to add, the process can take two to three hours.

Eric: Well, finding the flyer(s) and purchasing them is half the fun. Scanning all printed pages of the flyer, uploading and adding the information to the database goes pretty quickly.

Where do you obtain the flyers for use in the archive?

Dan: The flyers come from flyer collectors and videogame manufacturers respectively. We always make sure that each flyer entry has a "source" assigned to it, which is the person or game company in which we obtained it. Currently half the flyers in the database came from flyer collectors and enthusiasts who personally submitted flyers to TAFA. The other half of the Archive is made up of my own personal flyer collection. Over the last eight years I developed a worldwide network of flyer contacts. In the last two years most of the flyers I found were in Japan thanks to a reliable contact who lives there. Another great source for flyers for TAFA are trade magazines such as Replay and Play Meter.

Eric: I had a seed of flyers obtained back in the 80’s when my father had a sideline of maintaining arcade games for local route operators and a bowling alley arcade. My collection has grown greatly since then through auction purchases and participating in bulk buys.

How does one go about submitting a flyer for inclusion?

Dan: We will eventually have clearer instructions on how to contribute flyers but the step-by-step process is as follows:
#1 - Check TAFA to make sure the flyer is needed for inclusion.
#2 - Scan the flyer at 200% scale and save it in JPG format at 100% quality.
#3 - Make sure to scan all sides of the flyer since we do not accept incomplete flyers ("rare", damaged flyers are exceptions).
#4 - Email us a link to your flyer images or attach them in your email.
#5 - Don't forget to include the vital information such as the game name, manufacturer, date of release and your source name, so we can give you credit.

What is you favorite flyer in the archive?

Dan: With over 2,700 flyers in my personal collection and over 4,500 flyers in TAFA that's a really tough question. :) I always liked early Atari flyers generally speaking. They have a signature style made up of key design elements that are signs of the times, such as bright, bold colors, pinstriping and very impressive illustrations. The design layouts are strong and dynamic.

Eric: That’s a tough one, I think it would be Rock-ola’s “Fantasy”, I have fond memories of this game from playing a cocktail version of it during a family vacation. So for sentimental reasons, I find myself drawn to this flyer.

What are the most requested or viewed flyers?

Dan: Users can actually check those stats on TAFA. Right now, Pac-Man by Bally/Midway is the number one viewed flyer at 102,430 views.

Eric: Pac-Man has been on top for as long as I can remember. We have keep statistics and have a top 50 viewed page.

What flyers are the hardest to find?

Dan: For US flyers, I am having the hardest time finding flyers for games released in the mid-eighties such as Gun Smoke and Tokio by Romstar. While we do have those flyers in the Archive, I personally have not acquired them. For Japanese flyers, I am having a hard time finding the original Puck-Man flyer by Namco. Earlier this year, I heard about an auction in Japan where a set of video game flyers was being auctioned and it included an original Namco Puck-Man flyer. The auction ended at over $600!!

Do you limit the archive to only arcade game flyers or do you include pinball flyers as well?

Dan: Even though we have the word "arcade" in our name and not "videogame", TAFA only collects and includes coin-op video game flyers from 1971 to the present.

Eric: Just video arcade games, no pinball unless it incorporated a video arcade screen.

Is this a hobby or a full time job for you?

Dan: Both. :) Just kidding! Sometimes it feels that way though. Right now it's just a hobby but both Eric and myself are working to bring TAFA to the next level.

Eric: Total hobby, motivated by wanting to contribute to the retro coin-op scene in return for the enjoyment I receive from emulators such as MAME™.

Do you accept monetary donations, and how can one go about donating?

Dan: Donations are something that we are seriously considering. TAFA will always be free to the public, but we do have operating costs and bandwidth charges to cover. One major change we made was new hosting, which allows us to provide users a pop-up window free experience which wasn't the case in the last four years. Eventually we will provide instructions and the means to donate when we launch the 5th anniversary redesign of TAFA. We also plan to sell advertising space on the new site in order to help pay our bills and build new features on TAFA.

Thank you again for taking the time to let me interview you!

Dan: It was my pleasure. Thanks for the time!

Eric: Thanks for taking interest in TAFA. The classic coin-op community has brought me endless entertainment over the years and I've been thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this great community through the development of TAFA.

You can find the TAFA web site at http://www.arcadeflyers.net. You could spend hours just reading through some of your favorite game titles. I know I did; and I even discovered that I had a Pac-Man 25th Anniversary Flyer that was not in the Archive, so I proudly donated in the name of Coin-Op TV!!

Well that’s it for now. Remember happiness is a hungry Pac-Man. Wocka! Wocka!

First Published October 2005