Arcadia and Me
Retro gaming is a big deal for a lot of people and somewhat surprisingly, it’s a big deal for a lot in of current generation gamers who never grew up with those games. I personally never grew up with the 80’s era of gaming and even then my exposure to games was fairly minimal, even though I was always a gamer lass at heart. I’ve mentioned before that any games I had as a child were from PC magazine CD’s and they were always demos and apart from that I had a Gameboy and a few of those 1001 handheld thingymabobs.
As a child arcades always had an appeal to me, first and foremost because well it was where the games were. In my mind arcades were the mecca’s of gaming where variety and neon lights were all I needed to be entertained. When I saw one or two lone arcade machines I got excited because I had this idea of what they represented and that it was cool to play games in this manner, because I never (at that stage) owned a console and so playing on this tall bulky machines seemed to be the ‘right’ way to play.
But arcades where I lived were few and far between. There was a main arcade on the main street of my town, but I was never allowed to go in there and with good reason. The arcade was a hang out was lets say trouble youths. A lot of shady stuff happened in the alleyway beside it, rumours were drugs were the main allure of the dingy venue. By that association alone and the fact that these people would hang out in the arcade, it was a no go. Now that arcade is gone and I barely remember what it looked like now, the more I remissness the more I wonder if it ever did exist. Oh DeepRhymeAlert!
My main interaction with arcade machines came from this amazing little chip shop (that’s fries to you yanks) in my hometown. It had Pacman, Bomberman and something else I can’t remember. It would open quite early as it was a café as well and I have fond memories of walking up there or cycling and playing some arcade games…or playing a game of pool by myself. Yes I did a lot of playing with myself….hang on.
So arcades have been something I always liked the idea of and have a certain appeal, though I never got to experience them as I wanted. But nowadays I don’t know if you can have that chance anymore or want to.
What happened to arcades and are they really a dead lost cause?
There’s a Mario Kart arcade game in my home town and it costs one euro to play it. Now usually if you win a level, you get to continue on without having to put in more money (at least that’s how I remember playing racing games in arcades). But no in this game no matter how well you do or if you come first, that’s it. It’s a quid a go and that’s your lot.
In general it costs a lot now to play arcade machines, even though non gaming ones where you try and grab a teddy bear. Unless it’s one of those “guaranteed a small bag of sweets” for 20p gizmos.
Everything costs a lot more these days and given how little extra money people are making if they’re making any at all, it reduces the likelihood of you going to an arcade or at least spending all your day in one, with a cup full of change and needing no more to enjoy a plethora of games, on repeat if needs be.
That being said people still go to arcades for a fun time. I had my birthday in Namco Station in London this year and everyone played a few different games and it was all about £1-2 each but for one night and when you share the cost with friends that’s ok, that’s manageable.
Anti social and thrill of top score
Aside from showing just how callous and petty some people who happen to be big into gaming can be, King of Kong/Fistful of Quarters documentary created a surge of flashbacks and nostalgia along with intrigue for newer generations. But that’s only seemingly with a certain age demographic that was featured heavily in the game.
The film showed us that who we call nerds don’t seem to care, that they find other likeminded people and submerge themselves into that group dynamic and gaming world, almost as if it’s their life. Billy Mitchell could never let go of his title with grace because he thought only he deserved it, he had followers so enraptured with the idea of Billy and the promise of fame that comes with getting the top score in a video game that they followed his every command and some even gave up their jobs to spend all their time at the arcades.
Clearly this isn’t true of everyone that is interested in playing arcades machines, but it does show the sort of mentality that runs through people who grew up with and truly devote themselves to this method of gaming.
Plus credit, where credits due, there are a lot of people who are extremely good at the coordination, memorisation and other tricks to play these games, that aren’t just retro, but extremely difficult and perhaps that’s another off-putting merit of arcade gaming. A lot of us that are use to PC and console gaming simply might not be able to get very far in those old games; we might be rubbish at them.
But what a douche!
Novelty of arcade
Sometimes the representation of something from our past is the only real draw nowadays, which is why we might try and grab hold of it again, even if it has no use. Back when arcades were alive with intense sweaty palm level complete fever, the games themselves meant something.
Wreck-It Ralph was a film that focused on arcade characters and really honed in the nostalgia factor for a lot of people that went to see the film and aside from that it was quite enjoyable, but in its fictional world it gave life to the arcade games and showed that they were more than just pixels on a screen.
Owning your own arcade machine can set you back quite a bit of money, unless you’re very lucky and sometimes people have them not to play often but merely to stand as an over-sized ornamental tribute to their past or to a past they don’t have but wish they did. Arcade machines are cool, they draw the eye, even if you’re in a pub and randomly see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle one. Your gaze will be on it periodically as you knock back your 6th cocktail.
We grew up
The type of arcade games I love were the enclosed booths, because it made you feel like you were sneaking into a different world and it was just you and the screen. I remember a Jurassic Park booth like game fondly and how being inside this decorated box amplified the noise and the jumps as a T-Rex would roar at you on the screen as you held a gun on your hand and tried to blast it away and had to remember to hit a reload button and I kept forgetting if it was on the gun or on the screen panel.
Just look at how cool this is!
People who grew up with arcades being a social event and where they spent all their time and money were use to primarily standing and trying to get the high score and then beating their own high score in a lot of games. Back then these sort of booth like games weren’t as widespread and were probably seen to be more enjoyable for kids, where as Donkey Kong was serious business.
But as we get older, we gain more responsibilities, whether we want them or not and we don’t have as much time to venture to arcades, that is if we can even find them anymore. If you’re stuck somewhere rural where getting into a bigger town or city, to hang out play games is a costly or long traveled haul, then good luck.
We don’t need arcades anymore
Popular arcade games like the Simpsons and X-Men, plus fighters are just a few arcade games that you can get on consoles, especially via Xbox Live and if you know how, on PC. Retail games are out now that include a bunch of retro games such as Galaga and Golden Axe, that’s cheap to buy and you don’t waste more money on slipping it into slots to continue your game.
Many people are uninterested in utilising the Kinect because they prefer to just sit down with a controller in their hand, perhaps I’m one of them, so when gaming has now become a home rooted conveniences why would you bother going to an arcade and why would you bother going frequently?
Maybe that says more about us, than it does the appeal of arcades, we can be a lazy bunch of sods when we want to be. If you’re fortunate enough to hold a job, it’s understandable that making the effort to go to arcades just doesn’t seem worthwhile when you’ve little free time and are tired.
The primary arcade in central London was found at Trocadero in Piccadily Circus and was closed down for a while because of a strange case of catch-22. The arcade was a fan favourite amongst people who lived in the city, people would hang out there and birthday parties would be hosted, but because of the price of the arcade and the rent of the building as a whole, it became a bit too expensive for families and friends to afford and so was closed down for a while. It reopened but still has not reached close to the custom it had before.
Arcade machines now seem to act more as decoration, as a reminder of times gone by and it’s quite easy for a place of public gathering for entertainment to host a couple of these multi coloured boxes of computerized musical adventures and not be played even once.
It’s a sad truth, but perhaps it’s not the finale, perhaps arcades will someday get revitalised to the same level as when they first came on the scene, but alas it’s hard to believe that as the next generation of consoles are determined to give us no reason to require any other devices to live out our technological dependent lives.