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Byline: Steve Friedman
Oct. 17--Take a quick mental snapshot of prominent Columbia businesses. Does Gunther's Games come to mind?
It's likely hard to fathom the idea of a video arcade being a stalwart business in a community. It might be even harder to imagine that people have been plunking quarters into pinball and video game machines at 1106 E. Broadway for more than three decades.
With its roots in the former Pin Pan Alley of the late 1970s and early '80s, the business was renamed Gunther's in 1985 after a change of ownership.
"There's few business around the downtown area that can say they've been around even that long," said manager John Meissner, who's worked for the business for more than four years. "We've got some staying power."
And that's saying something in a rapidly changing industry that's had to fight to keep from slipping into obscurity.
A shell of its former '80s dominance, the coin-op industry has been eroded by an onslaught of high-quality, high-tech home systems and computer games. Coin-fed classics from the early '80s such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong are practically ancient history to today's young gamers. They've been replaced by flashy interactive games that sometimes make the participants part of the action.
Gunther's has evolved along with the rest of the industry. Once a pure video game paradise for high school and college students, the arcade's owners last year added redemption, or ticket, games to the mix in an attempt to appeal to younger children and families. On a busy Saturday, Meissner's staff can …