Two months ago it was made public that Fun Factory, after a decade-long absence in Lihu‘e, will soon be back in Kukui Grove Center.
As a child, whenever our family made our way from Kalaheo to Kukui Grove, my parents would drop my brother and me off at Fun Factory. We were left to our own devices with a couple of dollars in hand, while Mom and Dad ran errands and went shopping.
As a teenager, I was one of the many children Tipper Gore was worried about. I was obsessed with playing fighting games containing strong depictions of violence, such as the appropriately named Mortal Kombat series and Killer Instinct.
Ten years later, my taste for entertainment now refined, I attempted to revisit my childhood at the only Fun Factory currently on Kauai, at the Waipouli Town Center.
I visited on a Sunday evening and was surprised that the amusement center remained open until 10 p.m., having about 20 children and adults young-at-heart roaming for the majority of the night.
I’m glad to see the novelty of games with excessive blood and gore has decreased. The most popular type of games being played tonight were redemption games, where players test their skill and luck to win tickets redeemable for an assortment of prizes.
Hunting wild game in the virtual outdoors was Bruce Eutsler from Kapa‘a. Aiming at deer on the video screen and pumping away at a miniature plastic shotgun, he said that Big Buck Hunter Pro is his favorite game.
Eutsler also understands the thrill that comes with playing redemption games, saying it’s “the only way to [legally] gamble on Hawaii”.
Friends and instructors of Kapa‘a Middle School Stu Fuller and Becca Taylor were experiencing that gamblers’ high from Clown Rolldown, a skill game that was the closest thing to Skeeball that I could find. Holding a fistful of tickets, Taylor pumps her arm in the air to signal victory.
This was their first time inside Fun Factory’s doors. They exchanged tickets for a pair of “stunner shades” (a popular item for the middle school students), a glass flower vase and a package of Reese’s Pieces; costing 50, 95 and 360 redemption tickets respectively.
After rounds of constant flashing lights and fireballs, Kika August, from Anahola, maximized his two tokens and beat the Japanese import fighting game Capcom vs. Tatsunoko in a single attempt.
Immediately after that, he played the arcade version of the game show Deal or No Deal. As a substitute for a briefcase of cash, August was awarded Fun Factory tickets. Just as one can do in the television show, he decided to make a deal with the mysterious man upstairs, agreeing to receive 101 tickets instead of pressing his luck for 200.
With the chance of a ticket payout in the hundreds, it cost eight tokens (two dollars equivalent) to play Deal or No Deal. Raise the stakes and insert 16 tokens to win up to 500 tickets.
Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined people, let alone adults, spending four dollars a pop to play an arcade game. With the progression of home video game consoles such as Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii, Waipouli’s Fun Factory has adapted accordingly to the new demands for arcade game centers, supplying more carnival-like games and less glamorized violence seven days a week.