Sunday, February 17, 2008

Taking A Look Back: Arcades

A Thought: It's strange really, how every now and then I get a feeling inside me that says, "Damn, I remember back in the day when..." and then my mind falls into a time machine imbued daydream, full of nostalgic thoughts of things that were at one point exciting, but nowadays just seem, well to put it bluntly, like a waste of time; a thing of the past. I'm sure the other writers of this blog, and many of our readers feel the same way. So I thought I'd attempt to start a trend, a series of blog entries entitled, Taking A Look Back, in which we take a trip to our fun-filled childhoods, where we'd waste money and do things when we could have been studying or training to become Olympic class athletes. But we didn't care, and we had the time of our lives anyway. To kick it off, I'd like to talk to you about something that to me personally seems so dead and gone, but at one point in my life was a prime activity, going to the Arcade.

I recently read an article in Kotaku about a man with a job in electronics and a passion for video games, who took on a task in which he bought old arcade games and restored them. Now he owns a private arcade with many of his favorite childhood toys, arcade games like Paperboy and Pacman, and can come in and play them anytime he wishes.
In my childhood I spent many of my afternoons in the arcade. I guess you could even call the local arcade your old "stomping ground." In elementary school I'd go with my older brother to Nickel City, and with no more than five bucks split between the both of us, we roamed around and did things like take on the role of pilots in giant robot vehicles that fought each other, took a trip to the world of Jurassic Park and shot down dinosaurs, played that weird Japanese baseball game with 2 buttons, and so on. I remember the excitement that rushed through me every time I went; the flashing lights and crazy sounds, the way a person became an icon by beating opponent after opponent in Street Fighter, the way someone made their mark in our little world by achieving a high score unbeatable by the rest of our suburb, it really was something else. I remember coming to the arcade when they would get a new game in, and it'd be crowded, and stacks of coins would be laid up against the screen which symbolized your place in line, and so much more. Then there'd be the ticket games where we'd trade our money for paper, which we'd in turn use to get candy or other weird toys, and that's pretty much the closest thing to a child's casino.
As we got older certain games received more attention. Games became more advanced like Gauntlet where you could save your character. DDR kept us in shape as we stomped on arrows to loud ass music. People got into crazier fighting games like Marvel Vs. Capcom, and they'd spend countless hours coming up with new character combinations and strategies.

But now being a bit older, and a little bit wiser, arcades seem like an afterthought. When people think of arcades, they think of smelly kids and creepy old guys who play pinball for hours, hoping to fulfill some sort of childhood fantasy. Our obsession for high definition and the power of the console keeps us at home on our couches instead of going out to the arcade, and all of this just makes me think, what happened? How did something so glorious turn into something that is so looked down upon?
Someone sent me an GQ article once in which they talked about the way men spend time with each other. It stated that men bond through sports, video games, and then going out to eat, and that is in fact so true. Going to the arcade used to be such a cool thing to do, but for whatever reason it's not as appealing anymore.

I believe it's something about our weird transitional age that we're in. We aren't kids anymore, so time spent playing video games in an arcade just seems like the off thing to do, especially since the people in the arcade are no longer your suburban rivals, but little kids whose ages range from 5 to 15, and that isn't exactly the crowd we'd want to spend time with (unless your gross). Many of us aren't 21 yet, so options like Dave & Busters, where we could play video games and be with a crowd of our same age group, aren't available to all of us yet. So what do you do when your 20, go to the arcade? No. You get someone to buy you beer, and you chill at your friends apartment (or condo) while you play video games, watch movies, order a shitload of pizza, and just hang.
So who knows, maybe when we're all 21 the idea of going to an arcade won't be so ridiculous anymore. Maybe that feeling of the past can be resurrected and fill us with a sense of happiness that we once experienced. While it won't be the prime activity that it once was, it'll still be something to do. But it's strange to think about the younger generation. What will our kids do during their younger years if arcades are dead? Stay at home and play video games? Something about that concept just isn't as exciting. Maybe some new "cool" thing to do will emerge that can give our kids the same feeling that we had when we were children. Something where they can witness the previously unseen, and be in an environment where their schoolmates would be there too. I know some of my little cousins spend a grip of time at home just playing video games, many of them playing computer games where they dive into the internet and play with other kids online (or old people), or using Xbox Live to play with their friends and stuff, but for whatever reason to me that's not as exciting as waiting in line for your turn to see if you can take down the king of the hill in Street Fighter.

So in the end, the thought of the dying arcade saddens me a bit. I did a Google search of arcades in the downtown Boston area, and the closest one takes a little too much effort to go to, but that's what Billiards is for. So what do you all think of the dying arcade? Do you guys share my thoughts about these places, or were they something else to you entirely? In the meantime I leave you with this...

It's funny how he sings and dances to the theme song.

EDIT 7:03 PM: Lance linked me to this Gamespot video which properly portrays the state of Arcades. It's actually from five years ago, but it's safe to say that nothing has changed.


  1. what a great retrospective.

    jeff gertsman did a great video feature on this before he got canned at gamespot, and i think it's pretty sad how the arcade has died.

    Back when they were popular, arcades meant the latest graphics and innovation in video games. That's just not the case anymore with super-powerful consoles, and games where you even use arcade-like peripherals like rock band and time crisis.

  2. i dont know much about arcade games, i just like the basketball competition one. You kids and your nickel city and ddr

  3. yehh, technology advanced way too fast for arcades to keep up. plus they're expensive to maintain and you have to worry about all the stupid little kids ditching school or breaking machines.

    nothing beats owning in VIRTUAL ON though. r.i.p nickel city.