Calgary’s last arcade

It is a shame a city of almost one million people has only one real arcade.

Southern Fun was established in the heart of Calgary in 1984 alongside many others during the heyday of coin-operated video games, when every strip mall in the city boasted at least one arcade. Now, Southern Fun is alone as the only free-standing survivor from that era.

This particular arcade’s longevity and success is largely due to one man and one company. Speaking with Salim Hudani, Manager of Southern Fun, one senses his passion for his arcade.

For the last 17 and a half years, Hudani has nurtured Southern Music Limited’s playroom of light, sound and pinball machines. At Southern Fun, you won’t find the drugs, violence and gang activity that characterized some arcades in the 1980s. Hudani takes great pride in his professional management of the well-lit and spotless establishment, nestled in a downtown building from the past. Previous generations’ well-played machines sit next to today’s latest games, yet all are clean and welcoming. To Hudani, the friendly and open nature of the arcade is reflected in his clientele.

“I get family, business people, technologists, kids and people from the university,” he says. “Younger people play the Street Fighters, Ms. Pac Man, and the classic games. Business people play a lot of pinball.”

As we talked, Hudani was pervasively responsive to his customers’ needs and his respect for customers is apparently repaid in loyalty. On what he called a slow day, he pointed out three long-time gamers who have played there for a total of 25 years.

To satisfy his customers, Hudani maintains a large selection of games, not all of them new or common. Up front, Alpine Racer lives happily near Jurassic Park, some classic gun shooters and a heavily-suffixed Street Figher game.

“We have quite a few classic games,” he modestly says of the wall of uprights from the 1980s. “We also have a good selection of old and new pinballs.”

In total, about two dozen pinball machines and about a dozen each of uprights and interactive games fill the two-storey arcade, located at 129, 7 Ave. SW.

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