THIBODAUX, La. - Many men have spent time dreaming about a place where they can escape to whenever they want. A Thibodaux man built his own.
Twenty-three-year-old Coby Cancienne took an add-on to his parents' house and turned it into a combination arcade and man cave. A man arcave, perhaps.
“Every single day I come back here and sit down in my computer chair, and I look around. ... You really can't get bored back here,” he said.
Upon entrance to Cancienne's arcade cave, only the games are impressive. Set against a typical garage setting is a sit down shooter, the newest acquisition, which is lined up alongside other popular titles, including Golden Tee, Cruisin' the World and Joust. Several other games don't yet operate, though Cancienne said he plans to refurbish each machine in the future.
Place is jam-packed
The beeps, boops, whizzes and digital music associated with any two-bit arcade experience increase the deeper you traverse into rooms that become a mesh of arcade extravagance and Cancienne's artistic vision.
The back room is crammed full of popular titles, including Ms. Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat 4 and Super Mario. The room has a unique arcade feel with light coming only from the games, glow-in-the-dark stars and additional lighting Cancienne added.
Though the three rooms themselves are small — even for a former salon/snow ball shop — the space seems to expand with every flashing arcade Cancienne has managed to fit in his limited space.
The connecting room is the smallest of the three and contains only two arcade games, including Castlevania.
In the middle of the room sits a wooden chair that looks like it was meant for royalty. From his throne, Cancienne will peruse the Internet in search of other games to add to his collection. The first on his list Galaga.
“Like a real legit Galaga. I want one of those so bad,” he said.
The pride and joy of his collection is the Sega Dreamcast machine. The machine was originally a Big Buck Hunter. But after acquiring it, Cancienne gutted the inside, turned it into a Sega Dreamcast, added a new monitor and repainted the cabinet.
After remodeling that machine, Cancienne decided to create one of his own. Taking the old Castlevania game, he modeled the shell to that of Ameri-Darts, which has rounded curves at the top and bottom. Slightly sharpening those curves and adding a Gothic design, which includes a gargoyle, fake torch and red LED light that run across the top, the machine is almost complete.
Rooms were beauty parlor
The extra rooms were originally used as part of a beauty parlor by the previous owner. When Cancienne's parents bought the place, his father decided to put the rooms back into use, turning it into a snowball shop.
“I loved having that there. I could just walk in and get as much as I want with as much flavor as I want. It was pretty awesome,” Cancienne said.
But the shop's success eventually cooled off, and it too closed.
The first machine was a Ms. Pac-Man, that belonged to one of his father's former employers who moved to Texas six years ago and didn't have room for the 1980s classic.
A little more than 10 months ago, Cancienne saw the opportunity to grab a few more machines, including a Mortal Kombat 4.
“I brought it back here and didn't even know if it worked. So I plugged it in, and it worked perfectly fine,” he said.
So he went back and got several more.
“I was like, 'You know what? I've always loved video games and arcade machines,' so I kept adding on,” he said.
Games weren't expensive
These technological giants in gaming history haven't come without a price, though for Cancienne a much smaller cost than for their original owners.
When Cancienne saw Golden Tee sitting in someone else's garage, he inquired how much it would cost to purchase it and made an offer of $25. The owner agreed, just wanting to get it out of the way.
After hauling the game to his lair, a title that is still played by patrons at places such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Dave & Buster's, Cancienne checked all of its compartments and in the process discovered its original receipt for $2,100.
Cancienne traveled to Gulfport, Miss., where he picked up four machines for $35 worth of lottery tickets.
As the collection progressed, he needed to expand from just the front room of the add-on.
“I needed more room and thought, 'this is an empty room.' So I cleaned it out, put black lights in it, glow-in-the-dark stars, carpet and tried to make you feel like you're in an arcade,” he said.
Cancienne said when playing the games he can get so lost in the fun that “time doesn't exist.”
He doesn't want to call himself an arcade connoisseur just yet but hopes that he'll get there one day.
When he's not playing his games, he's going to school at Fletcher Technical Community College, working at Barker Mitsubishi in Houma or hanging out with his girlfriend, Rosalyn Stilling.
Stilling joked that sometimes she feels like the “other woman” when she hangs out with Cancienne but acknowledged the arcade is a big part of their relationship.
“It's really great to come down here and spend time together and play games and learn about new things. My favorite is Castlevania because this is one game that we played together forever trying to beat this,” she said.
After he finishes at Fletcher, Cancienne plans to transfer to Nicholls State University and hopes to get a career in an art-related field.
“Possibly even teaching. Just take what I like and twist it and tweak it some way to make a living, but also have an arcade on the side,” he said.