Arcades, Nostalgia, and the Next Generation

This was not my first trip to an arcade, but is was my first trip to a “true” arcade. My first arcade was Chuck E. Cheese (a family funhouse; large area with climbing tubes and slides, arcade games, tokens and tickets that win prizes, and so much screaming). Basically, it’s a giant arena full of all sorts of games (with the only classic being skee-ball) and children running amok while the lighting is both dim and flashing (in a strange dichotomy of awful) and parents look tired and annoyed. So when it was announced that we’d be going to an arcade, I was immediately on edge.

Quarters was okay. It had the same lighting issue that Chuck E. Cheese suffers, there were far too many tables (severely limited the space; that room was not small but the amount of stuff in it made it distinctly claustrophobic), and I would have preferred it if the bar was a bit further back, but that’s all my opinion. Maybe all arcades are designed to be small and eye-straining; it does fit nicely to the stereotype of the glasses-wearing agoraphobic geek.

What I found curious is the fact that children were present and enjoying themselves at the arcade. Chuck E Cheese is, of course, jam packed of kids. But that’s a “modern” arcade, while Quarters cornered the market on nostalgia. That’s probably why the two men who joined me in a multi-player game were having significantly more fun than I (that or the fact that they were enjoying their legal right to drink); there’s no “good old days” for me at Quarters. Most of these games came out before I was born, I can’t look back on them with fond memories because this is the first time I’m interacting with them and I have the history of my childhood games to hold them to. Not to mention, of course, modern day games. So the glitchy screens, insufficient tutorials, weird graphics, and slippery controls mostly mildly annoyed me instead of provoking memories of a Better Time.

But Quarters had kids in it, kids who were having fun. Maybe it’s because of Wreck It Ralph causing a resurgence in interest to classic games, maybe it’s a survival mechanism because their nostalgic parents/guardians dragged them there, but the fact stands: the ten-and-under year olds were enjoying themselves.

Which, for me, begs the question: are these kids who are growing up with classic games (or even a mix of classic and new) going to have the same nostalgia air that the previous generation of gamers had? Because these games are now an aspect of their childhood in much the same way.

Edited to add: I’ve made a twine detailing my experiences at quarters. I’m not certain how to upload it, but it can be downloaded here (link leads to a dropbox folder).


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