Did you know that a cabinet is an arcade gaming system, and a console is a home gaming system?
Ok, that might be wrong, but I didn’t grow up playing arcade games. In fact, my experience with many “classic games” have been through the use of emulators or through bundles like the Atari Anthology for the original Xbox. I loved to play games like Galaga or Dig-Dug and watch the little sprites navigate the old screens. It was fun, but I found more enjoyment in games like Halo 1 or Morrowind.
VG Boundaries 1 went to an arcade earlier today as an extension of the Videogames and Narratives class. We shuffled into the dimly lit room, got little wristbands and a fistful of quarters. The room was buzzing with sounds; each cabinet made the appropriate buzzes and dings, and songs such as Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal or Genesis’ Invisible Touch played over the speakers around the room. I’m also 100% certain Journey was playing at some point.
The first game I went to was Tetris. It was one of the few cabinets that wasn’t occupied, and I figured I might as well start with something I know. I played a few rounds, lost a few tokens, and ultimately got onto the high score list. I’d say that was my highlight of the outing. No matter who you are, it’s a damn good feeling to see your initials on a screen for others to see. I moved around from cabinet to cabinet, playing games such as Dig-Dug, X-Men, Millipedes, and Gauntlet. I was having fun, at least for a time.
I slowly lost interest the more I played and the more quarters I lost. In fact, once I had run out of quarters I didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to get more. Part of me wants to try and force a connection between this and micro-purchases in modern games, but that’s not quite why I didn’t feel an urge to keep playing. I think part of it was certainly me growing up when games were already in the living rooms. I didn’t need to go to the arcade when I could just go into my basement. I also think that many arcade games, though fun, simply don’t hold up to more modern games. How could they? I enjoyed playing Gauntlet, but a game like that is utterly dwarfed by a game like Skyrim. I even noticed people sitting at tables playing games on their phones rather than on the cabinets less than ten feet away.
Maybe part of me knew I’d have to analyze my experience at the arcade later in a post like this, leading to me not letting go and enjoying the moment? I talked with other members of VG Boundaries 1, and several of them shared similar concerns, ranging from a lack of nostalgia for the games to a dislike for the dim lighting of the arcade itself.
I don’t want to end on too grim a note, so I’d turn things to the comments. Did you play arcade games growing up, and if so, what do you think was your favorite? Do you think that arcades can exist alongside mobile gaming or home gaming? Let us know!