The Age of Arcades... now gone

Well Guys and Gals, it’s that time of year again in my hemisphere – Winter. With that always comes feelings of nostalgia (for me anyway).

For the last several days I have been reflecting upon the current state of the gaming industry in the US (and most of the world by extension), and I realized something: I really, terribly, honestly miss the days of the quarter/token-sucking arcade machine.

Being a child of the 80’s, I am just old enough to remember what it was like to walk into a REAL arcade and be surrounded by games of all types. Not just the prize machines, shooters, and fighters that you’d find now.

Back then games were innovative because the hardware they ran on demanded innovation make up for the processing power they lacked. Pac-Man seems so simple by our current standards, but it made billions in $0.25 increments back in the 1980’s simply because it had never been seen before, nor anything like it.

Games today, in contrast, seem bland and recycled. The Wii is such a hit because it promises to get you off of your couch. In the arcade days, you never had a couch to begin with!

Xbox Live is popular because you can challenge strangers to a game to prove your button-mashing prowess. But it lacks a certain charm that arcade rooms offered when you beat that stranger there, and in person. You may also remember that good sportsmanship existed in much higher orders in arcades than does on MMO games because you could get the crap beaten of you for trash-talking the way some of these kiddies do now via their headsets.

Basically, what I think I miss most is the human interaction in gaming. That might sound strange in this era of MMOs, but I mean REAL, in-person human interaction.

MAME helps, but I won’t be satisfied until I complete my MAME cabinet and get my buddies over to challenge a game of TMNT or The Simpsons or any other beat-em-up type.

I read several really good articles today about this subject, but one stands out above the rest. It’s written by Will Wheaton (a.k.a. Wesley Crusher from that ‘other’ Star-Trek show with that bald guy who was no Kirk). Here’s the link: http://suicidegirls.com/news/geek/20220/

If you’re lucky enough to have lived during this magic time for gaming, what stands out in your memory about it? What were your favorite games? And if you’re from another country, what were your experiences with arcade machines and do they still thrive today? (The only country that I’m aware of where the game room is still kickin’ is Japan.)

I know this is an international forum, so I’d really love to hear from some of you guys outside the US!

Developers have forgotten the main ingredient of games “FUN”, you could walk into an arcade back then put your money in any machine and get fun in return. Now it’s only about graphics and who can make their game look the best, Game play and fun have gone.
I used to play all of them here in oz, mainly Galaga, Gyruss, space invaders, frogger, Olympics and karate games. I’d put pocket fulls of money into them, but now I wouldn’t put 1 cent in them they suck and most of them if you see any are $2 a game.

PacMan, Arkanoid and Space Invaders you mean? 16 colors, crappy sprites and power hungry machines. I could do more on my ZX Spectrum than any other arcade machine of that era could.

Back then games were innovative because the hardware they ran on demanded innovation make up for the processing power they lacked.
I agree that designers were far more creative. Probably because the programmer was also the designer.

XBut it lacks a certain charm that arcade rooms offered when you beat that stranger there, and in person.
What charm? If you were too good you got beaten up for real. Hordes of the same people occupying the same arcade machines for hours. If you weren’t part of the gang, you were out. No social interaction at all, except for your close personal friends.

You may also remember that good sportsmanship existed in much higher orders in arcades than does on MMO games because you could get the crap beaten of you for trash-talking the way some of these kiddies do now via their headsets.
I agree. I never put on a headset when playing online.

what stands out in your memory about it?
Nostalgia.

What were your favorite games?

Elevator Action II and RoboCop. Later on i really liked the very casual non-violent happy-social interaction you get with Dance Dance Revolution. Too bad most people feel too embarassed to participate.

The only country that I’m aware of where the game room is still kickin’ is Japan.
There are still some arcade halls. There are some in the United States (mainly because people couldn’t be bothered to get rid of them and in parks such as Disney Land, Universal Studios, etc) and in Europe as well.

But it’s not all trouble these days. Xbox Live Arcade has tons of old arcade games. The Wii has the shopping channel with the old (S)NES and TurboGrafx games. The PSP has some re-releases of old games and so forth.

Arcade Games killed by PS2 and other Game corsoles; Drive in Movies Killed by Cable TV and VHS rental stores. VCRs killed by DVDs and Tivos. Competition and choice killed by Walmart and Super Food Stores. Service Stations killed by Convience Stores. Kid interest in the space program killed by Star Wars. How long before Cable Companies start renting boxes that play games on demand?

I miss Lode Runner on my old Apple IIe.

I really agree and I think that’s why the Wii has been doing so well.

I used to play all of them here in oz, mainly Galaga, Gyruss, space invaders, frogger, Olympics and karate games. I’d put pocket fulls of money into them, but now I wouldn’t put 1 cent in them they suck and most of them if you see any are $2 a game.

Yep. Today I went up to a local arcade and I almost cried when I saw the pitiful selection of games they had to offer. My brother and I played Time Crisis 3 for less than half an hour and that ate up about $10.

[QUOTE=Mr. Belvedere;1926443]
What charm? If you were too good you got beaten up for real. Hordes of the same people occupying the same arcade machines for hours. If you weren’t part of the gang, you were out. No social interaction at all, except for your close personal friends.[/quote]
I’ll just have to assume my experiences in arcades differed from yours. I almost always played with both friends and strangers.

But it’s not all trouble these days. Xbox Live Arcade has tons of old arcade games. The Wii has the shopping channel with the old (S)NES and TurboGrafx games. The PSP has some re-releases of old games and so forth.

Unfortunately that’s exactly what I’m talking about: those console-based arcade games will never equal the feel of a real arcade machine in a game room.

[QUOTE=CCRomeo;1926475]Arcade Games killed by PS2 and other Game corsoles; Drive in Movies Killed by Cable TV and VHS rental stores. VCRs killed by DVDs and Tivos. Competition and choice killed by Walmart and Super Food Stores. Service Stations killed by Convience Stores. Kid interest in the space program killed by Star Wars. How long before Cable Companies start renting boxes that play games on demand?[/QUOTE]

There are several socio-economic factors that killed arcades. Lack of innovation was the real reason, no matter how you spin it. Arcade games used to define gaming, but they let consoles take over that role. If they had simply kept coming up with different and new concepts they could have stayed on top.

I miss Lode Runner on my old Apple IIe.

Check out MESS, MAME’s sister project. There are several Apple emulators as well.

As I mentioned above, I visited a local arcade today, one where I worked for a few months actually. Just ten or twelve years ago there were still some really excellent games there: tons of pinball machines, ski-ball, fighters, shooters, beat-em-ups, you name it.

Today there were mostly recycled shooters (two Time Crisis games that looked exactly the same), several homogeneous racers, only ONE fighter, and WAY too many merchandisers. Everything was about tickets in this place. The worst part was that there were no paper tickets or metal tokens. Everything is done by plastic cards with magnetic strips. I can say without doubt that today will be the last time I spend money in that “arcade.”

A part of me died today after seeing that atrocity.