Sunday, January 21, 2007
The rise and fall of the classic arcade
According to recent reports, the average gamer is about 30 years of age. Rewind your inner clock and that means your first system was either the Atari or the NES. By the time arcade gaming was getting truly huge, most of us were about 8 years old and probably just a tad too young to be feeding all our quarters away into Galaga. However, if you born in 1970, you would have been about 13 when arcades were hitting their peak popularity in the early to mid eighties, making you the perfect age to become obsessed with your own personal high score.
Yesterday I found myself standing in an arcade, looking around me at what I felt to be a pretty poor showing. Although not large, the majority of the floor seemed dedicated to Dance Dance Revolution style games and first person shooters. I have no problem with either of these genres (although the DDR kids mystify me in a way I should save for another post altogether), but the only vintage machine I saw was a beat up Pac - Man/ Galaga stand up. No House of the Dead, no Street Fighter, no Rampage. All it once it occurred to me - the modern arcade sucks. It's an afterthought thrown together by movie theaters and theme parks. Thankfully there are a few modern establishments (such as the illustrious Ground Kontrol) that still take the legacy of the arcade quite seriously, but for the most part, we're on our own. This seems tragic to me, as there are very few prestructured enviroments in which people can gather and focus on the enjoyment of gaming.
On the other hand, the "Game centers" of Japan are still healthy and thriving. Seeing a place like the Joypolis exists kinda makes me squirm with envy, although it's obvious the Japanese consumer is still more than happy to pour quarters into a game while the American consumer would rather just buy a console. Looks like if we want our ultimate arcade, we'll have to create it ourselves. Well, at least the arcades are surviving in some format somewhere. In the meantime, we'll all have to cluster about our Wiis and hope no one impales anyone else with a flying Wiimote.