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Death of the Arcade: Part 1 - Rise and Fall

(UPDATED: June 3, 2011)

There used to be a time where the best gaming experiences can be had by a visit to the arcade room. There was a time where home consoles could bring the arcade experience home, but never to the level that actual arcades can generate. Seemingly forgotten and left for dead these days, arcades were the best places for which to enjoy gaming experiences and even playing against others. Advances in technology for home consoles would give home consoles the edge over their arcade counterparts. Many people felt like they would rather spend time at home playing games instead of having to shell out a quarter or two just to play. The true gaming purists would have no problem paying to play because it's all about the gaming experience.





--- In Happier Times... ---
Arcade rooms in the United States were great for playing some of the latest arcade titles as well as simply going out and challenging neighborhood gamers. Arcade games had much better technology and quality experiences than most home consoles. Consoles basically gave you some hope that you could actually enjoy the arcade at home. But as many people would tell you, there's nothing like heading to the arcade room and get to playing.

Part of the reason why arcades were better than home games was because of technology and simply the fact that you can play most games the way they were meant to be played. Think about it... what's more fun- playing a simple shooting action game, or playing an action game at an arcade? Piloting a race car with a gamepad, or actually sit down in a racing cabinet that includes its own steering wheel and seat? You could probably build your own racing cockpit these days, but how many people could make a legit unit back then? Even some of the laserdisc games (like Time Traveler and GP World among others) couldn't have possibly been executed for home consoles the way they have in arcades. One of my all-time favorite arcade racing games is Sega Super GT. With technology today, even with all of its advances, making a home version of this arcade classic wouldn't be as fun to play at home as it is at an arcade room.


Konami's Arcade Influence.

Think about some of the music-driven games. Immediately what comes to mind (unless you're a Guitar Hero fan) are Dance Dance Revolution and its rival, Pump it Up. You have a stage to operate on and really feel like you're at the club dancing your booty off. In fact, Konami has made a variety of unique arcade games. The aforementioned Guitar Hero has its own sweet system. Most of you know that I'm not really a rock music person, so I'm not likely to be any kind of master with this game.

Konami even made an arcade game called "Fighting Mania," where you punch six different pads with light-up pads. This game made you the controller. The moment I love most is when all the pads come at you at one time when you're about to finish off an enemy. It was SO fun!

There's one more game series of honorable mention. The Japanese name of the game (which I played) is called The Keisatsukan. Other versions of this game are either called "Police 911" (for the US) and "Shinjuku 24/7." This is a shooting game where you're sent to take down the Japanese mafia from terrorizing Tokyo. What made this game different, however, was that you are the controller. Juking in certain directions allowed you to move out of the way of incoming gun fire. Steady and consistent progress gave you many bonuses ranging from time to extra lives. However, you can also lose valuable time and bonuses if...
* ...you kill a bystander.
* ...you kill another officer.
* ...you get shot.

This game lasts for a total of about five minutes and thirty seconds. That's for a good reason because you'll be feeling it in your legs the more you try to move around. You also must stay within the playing stage, and you mustn't wear a cap. This just helps to make sure your head is visible and detectable.

Some games and game experiences can be best enjoyed at arcades.



--- Why I've Loved Arcades ---
Back when I was regularly in college, my brother suggested that I go to the library at college or get with study groups. The primary reason is because I'm around people doing the same thing I'm doing (or SHOULD be doing). So rather than be at home watching doing homework or watching TV, I could focus better on a task at hand by being around people doing the same thing I am.

It is for this reason, then, that I love arcades the most. I'm around people who want to have fun like I want to. I can interact with people, challenge people to a game, and even socialize. I mean, can you REALLY go wrong here? You're away from home. So why not get to enjoy what you can only enjoy out on the road? You are in a place where you can enjoy having with others as well as giving yourself some entertainment.

Even better is the fact that you can enjoy certain arcade units that are amazing when linked together. This was true among most Sega racing arcade games like Daytona USA, Virtua Racing, and Sega Super GT (or Sega SCUD Race) where four twin cabinets can be linked together for as many as 8-player racing. I actually raced Sega Super GT against about two or three others where two twin cabinets were linked. I won the race (but boy, was it it close!). I'm just not really an online gamer. It just isn't as fun racing in the comfort of your own home going up against believable opposition. It's a better option if you're playing against others around the world, but I think there's some character in meeting people in person as you play against them. You just feel more connected to the game when at an arcade as opposed to doing online gaming on a home console or on PC. Some gaming experiences can only be made possible in the arcades. One such game was "Lucky and Wild" in 1992. This Namco game had one driver drive the car while the other person shoots a machine gun. It was very unique, and I've seen a Lucky and Wild arcade unit before.

One such story I was impressed with on YouTube was the story of one person who was able to get an arcade theater unit for "Galaxian 3" (or Galaxian³: Project Dragoon"). "Galaxian 3" was a laserdisc game that could allow up to six players to compete at once. If there are six players at once, the players all compete for the highest score while blasting all of the aliens and ships. It is essentially competitive co-op play. I actually played this game before back in 1997 at a place called FunPlex here in the Houston area. I remember it so well because this was a field trip for me back in 1997 with my 8th Grade class. This game lasts about five or so minutes, and it's only one stage. There were both a good ending and a bad ending. There would be a sequel to this arcade theater called "Galaxian 3: Attack of the Zolgear" that has multiple routes and an interesting multi-route perspective. Another thing about Galaxian 3- VERY expensive. According to Wikipedia, having one of these units in your game room costs about $150K USD! I also heard that a few of these COULD be linked up to provide as many as 28 players (for the original Galaxian 3 only)!

Maybe the most unique arcade game I've ever played was a game called Ballistics. It is a futuristic racing game where you sit in a reclined position while looking up at the monitor. It's been a while since I experienced this game. All I can say is that it's very weird. There's even a track in this game here in Houston. Unfortunately, I think it's called "Houston Sewers." More H-Town hating. Can't a Houston boy get some love for his hometown for once?



--- The Death Blow of Most Arcades ---
I can remember when just depositing one quarter gave you a gaming experience unlike most home games. Then later, most games that initially required one quarter soon required two quarters. Some games are money grabbers. For example, games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz (both by Midway) would let you play a full game, but for a lot of credits. I remember that when I seen "NFL Blitz 1999" at Lamar University [back in my Lamar University days], a full game can be bought for eight credits. Another Midway game that required a good amount of money to play for longer was "Gauntlet Legends." You had to deposit quarters to buy health to prevent your character from ultimately dying (playing for longer periods, of course).

Factor 1: Trying to Remain Financially Stable.
The first of two deciding factors for most arcades was just the fact of trying to keep businesses going. Arcade rooms are business. I think some arcade places were mostly trying to stay active. At least with arcades at malls, there are the dynamics of keeping a basic arcade room profitable. And for some people, they don't realize that you can actually BUY some of the arcade units. So in addition of entertaining the masses, there are also those looking to get their own piece of gaming goodness. I've been to arcade stores where I noticed price tags placed on arcade cabinets. I sometimes wonder if the arcade that I enjoy today could be sold tomorrow. :(

Factor 2: Home Consoles Overtaking, Lapping, and Running Circles Around Arcades.
Think about all of the factors that have made arcades so fun- socializing, playing against other gamers, using unique devices, and more. Home consoles caught up with and surpassed arcade games. You don't have to go to arcades to enjoy the best possible gaming experiences, and you didn't have to according to most people. You also don't need a good amount of space in your room or lots of voltage to get arcades up and running.


And I think to most other people, just the fact that nobody wants to play arcade games anymore has led to the downfall of these arcade rooms.



--- Dead, But Not Forgotten ---
With many arcade stores going out of business or not able to sustain themselves long enough, some dedicated people look for arcade units online. Some seek actual cabinets of actual games. Some people actually look for these all-in-one units that play many games at once. And for those who don't have space in their house or money, there are always multiple games in one for a game disc. Maybe you don't see full-on arcade rooms, but you do see some places with a little arcade room and a few arcade units available.

Arcades are only as dead as people say they are. Many of which, disregarding those who love the arcade experience. There are still many ways to make arcades fun and enjoyable. There are lots of places where arcades can become and remain enjoyable. Perhaps you've been to some Dave & Buster's restaurants (I've never been to one). Maybe you go to family fun centers. Maybe you find a few arcade stores still running at malls. They aren't COMPLETELY dead, but many people see them as dead, mostly moving on to home consoles and the various online services they have to offer.

Here in the Houston area, there is a place called Totally Amused Classic Arcade based in Humble, Texas, USA. This place allows classic gaming fans the chance to relive the good days of arcade gaming. With so many arcades featured, it's no wonder that at least one man's determination to keep arcades alive and well. To read more about this arcade place, check out this old article to learn more about this place. But as I'm reading... I heard that this place is no longer around.

If you want an example of someone who is truly dedicated and loves arcades and the arcade experience, check this video out:



There are other videos of people with their own home arcades, but this person's arcade room is truly spectacular. It shows that the experience of the arcade can be so enticing that only the totally creative (and perhaps even rich) are able to have these arcade rooms in their own room. Most of us are even fortunate if we even have one arcade unit (regardless of what game or cabinet it is). I even wished I (if I had my own house or something) a twin cabinet of Sega Super GT. I may even want arcade units of arcade games I am completely uneducated of, like "Le Mans 24," a Sega arcade game in 1998. And no... I am NOT talking about the racing game classic known as "Le Mans 24 Hours" that was on Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2.



--- Where Can Most Arcades Be Found Now? ---
I mentioned earlier that some spaces have arcade units to them. I've seen arcade units at places ranging from certain stores to movie theaters. I guess I'm just sad that there aren't as many arcade places to really enjoy this experience anymore. The arcade experience died out to where more people play PSP games and various home console games more than even the most classic arcade games.





I say for all intents and purposes that it's a great shame most arcade places are no longer around. I don't want to sound like an old man, but there are too many young punks who have no appreciation for classic gaming. Arcades have played a great role in this. There are still lots of arcade places and arcade games I'd love to play that I don't think will EVER be emulated (as in re-capturing the experience) for home use. Any time I see an arcade place or just a few arcade units, I want to play any game I deem interesting. It's just not the same picking up a game pad for most modern games. Most of these modern games (including collections of classic game titles) are specifically tailored to certain game consoles. You know some of them even have to have certain widescreen and HD formats to accompany post-modern times. But still, it's just not the same when you're in the comfort of your own home playing these games. So go find an arcade place and enjoy gaming the way most arcade games were meant to be played.

That concludes Part One of this blog entry. Part Two will consist of my boldest blogging stunt yet- I want to try to help showcase some actual arcade units in my blog that I've found online. I also want to try to give you some inspiration to build your own home arcade... or maybe even your own arcade business. You'll see what I come up with when it's complete!

To be continued... See Part 2 here: Death of the Arcade: Part 2 - Life After Arcades.

Thank you for reading!

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About the Author: John B. Marine

My name is John Marine. Nice to meet you! I am a blogger born and raised in Houston, Texas, USA. Besides blogging, I make digital art, sometimes make music, and I sometimes even do a little programming. The mantra for my online work is "anything and everything." In other words, my topics and my commentary regards almost anything and everything that crosses my mind while still remaining relevant to the topic(s) at hand. Equally as important to me as publishing content for the Internet is in providing a positive space for discussion. Even with the most difficult topics, I try to avoid spewing negativity and hate online- there is already enough negativity in this world to begin with, so why contribute to more negativity? If you enjoyed this blog post or any of my other online work, please feel free to Follow my material so you keep up with the latest material of mine and so that you help support my work any way you can. Having said this, thank you for reading! Get social with me by visiting the different social profiles of mine online.

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