Old farts like me yearn for the days of the arcade, when you could go into a cramped and dark building with five dollars and play games until your parents were done with whatever shopping excursion they were on. It was a magical time, a time before online play, before walkthroughs, before guilds. This was where you got your gaming social experience, and there is nothing else like it.
But times have changed and the arcade has died, but with it a lot of important things about gaming have died as well. I think we didn’t realize it, but arcades solved a lot of problems that we are encountering in the gaming world today. Just hear me out.
Granted every arcade had their resident troll that would trash talk and act all full of himself, but that was about it. There was always someone better than that guy and they were always willing to put him in his place. Not to mention if he said anything honestly hurtful or dangerous, the arcade owner would have them escorted from the premises. In fact, one time, someone threatened to physically harm someone over a game of Marvel 2 up at the Fun N’ Games arcade in Willowbrook, NJ, and the police were called. Gamers HAD to act civilly to each other because they weren’t online shielded by a veil of anonymity, they were in real life, subject to the rules and laws of normal civilization, and that was a good thing.
These days, creating a new console, new peripheral, or even a new game is kind of a shot in the dark. You have to assume that people will like it and if they don’t, you as a company stand to lose a lot of money. In the arcade days, not so much. Back in the days of the CPS2, you could cheaply produce arcade boards, chipsets, software, and more without having to convert an entire cabinet. That’s why you constantly saw mismatched sidepaneling and buttons. Companies could see how their products did in arcade before they brought them to the console market. If they did well, they would make a killing on the home market, and if they did poorly, they still would have made a small profit from arcade distribution.
Finding places to host eSports tournaments is kind of a hard task. Renting out hotels or convention spaces costs a huge amount of money and can’t be done for local weekly tournaments at all. Most tournament organizers flail around holding their locals at card shops, coffee shops, and friends’ basements. The most successful locals that meet and stream every weeks meet.. guess where… arcades! Unfortunately, there are only a handful of arcades left and thus there are only a handful of successful weekly tournaments, usually situated in population centers like New York or Los Angeles. But if arcades came back, every location could have a local weekly tournament, allowing eSports to blossom.
This is kind of a personal gripe, but I hate the stereotype of the socially awkward gamer that does nothing but plays games in their parents basement. Arcades were a cool place to hang out when they were still all the rage. The general public would come in and mingle with gamers, like it was no big deal. There was no split. It was just a bunch of guys with a pocketful of quarters looking to play some cool games. I still wish that we could have those days back.
Former Contributing Writer