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.

9 comments:

GameBoy said...

Yeah, everything seems cooler in Japan.

I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars where she goes into this place that looked basically like a big living-room theater except everyone was playing games against each other on these big ass TVs while sitting on nice leather sofas. I want to see a place like that. Are they around? Do I just not know about it?

I played DDR for the first time at Ground Kontrol a week ago, and I thought it was pretty cool. Sort of like Guitar Hero with your feet.

w_maddock said...

With you..110% on this

Johnny Wadd said...

I sure do miss the old dark dingy arcades where the machines had ashtrays and games only cost a quarter.

The Game Dame said...

Agreed. I haven't found a single decent arcade in Dallas. It's depressing. I miss those classics (and the ash trays). I'm seeing more next-gen arcades popping up like this one. It's an interesting transition.

Anthony said...

I am only 20, so I think i caught the very tail end of the arcade experience. I do remember getting my first taste of fighting games at the local arcade though. games like SF2 and MK1-3 I fed more than my fair share of quarters into. I do miss the days of playing against a fellow i never met before and having a great match of Mortal Kombat 2. There is only one arcade near me as well here in the outer edges of LA county. It's in the mall and is mostly dedicated to those ticket giving games. Though they do have a handful of competent games, (though it is also filled with DDR and shooters) I sometimes stop in there to have a rousing go at Project Justice, which I am a god at.

Nick said...

The Japanese aren't throwing quarters at their arcade machines- those are 100 yen pieces. They are serious.

Brandon Undead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon Undead said...

I like your blog!
I agree that the modern arcade sucks. I don't even know if I have any locally these days. I really miss lining up my quarters for next crack at MK or Street Fighter. It's funny how the Ms. Pac Man/Galaga seems to endure, I find those everywhere.
You should check out my fledgling blog, Game Eaters. I was just considering an entry similar to this, and I'm going to begin documenting the creation of my MAME arcade. Should be fun!
Keep it up!

Michael said...

I do miss arcades. I'm only 22 but I've been game obsessed for a long time. I can remember the days of old playing the shit out of Gyruss. I long to see a Killer Instinct arcade machine again. I loved the NeoGeo MVS arcade machines.

I never got to play Virtual On in the arcade...

By the way, you're a very interesting woman :)