Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Classic Arcade Gaming

   New technology is expensive.  I don't own an Xbox 360, PS3, or a Wii. The most recent console I have is a PSP, which I rarely use.  Sure, I'd love to have the realistic graphics that are seen in the games of these newer consoles, but my current budget doesn't have room to support this kind of spending.  Surrounding my television is a plethora of outdated gaming systems.  I own an original NES, SNES, N64, and a janky Playstation 2 for feeding my lust for Kingdom Hearts games.  I love these old systems for a number of reasons, but my heart truly belongs to another.
   Arcade cabinets are the medium through which games are truly meant to be played.  Standing in front of a large wooden box that houses a computer system that I will probably never fully comprehend and staring at a pane of glass provides a feeling that will forever beat out sitting on a couch ten feet away from a 46" TV.  The player is directly connected to the game that they are playing.  The action is happening inches away from your face.  It's a feeling to which there is no comparison.
   Of course, there are downsides to playing video games at an arcade.  Most arcades now focus either on games that supply the player with tickets, or new fashioned racing games like "The Fast and Furious 15: Drifting Into Oblivion".  But usually, tucked back in the corner where the carpet is completely worn down but still has the faint planetary pattern print, there are some classic games that supply hours of fun and adventure, and typically for only a quarter each play.  The titles of these games always vary, but I've found that most arcades that have come classic cabinets have some form of Pac-Man, be it an original, a Ms., or some hybrid that provides a collection of said games.  Alongside these, Galaga is typically a popular title, and also my personal favorite.  Unfortunately, working cabinets of many original games are very hard to come by, so some companies have released compilation cabinets with 50+ games on it, but hey, this is better than nothing, right?
   I recently visited the local arcade here in Bloomington, IN to see what types of classic games they had. I was pleasantly surprised, while still maintaining a level of sadness and longing.  This arcade (Great X Scape in the College Mall) had a minimal selection of games to begin with: a couple of dancing games, House of the Dead 4, a couple of newer fighting games, and air hockey.  The classic games were kept separate from these games and were actually outside of the establishment in the mall area.  They had a Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga compilation that is very popular in dying arcades and a Neo-Geo 4 game unit.  While this is a short list, it fortunately provided me with some fun.
   This is the sad state of arcades nowadays.  By bringing video games into the home, all desire to leave the couch and spend quarters for hours of gameplay has become "old school" and is therefore a burden.  In order to compete in the dying market, arcades are now forced to supply tacky cookie-cutter games in hopes of drawing in any type of player.  These new games also cost eight times the amount of old games.  Anyone who wants to play the classic games that literally established video games in popular culture has to get lucky in finding a quality arcade, find a port on a newer system, or scrounge up two grand and purchase their own cabinet.  These choices, to put it bluntly, suck.  No port of a game will ever come close to the experience or gameplay that an original cabinet provides, and as stated above, my financial limitations prevent me from purchasing anything so grandiose.
   For many players, arcades hold a special place in their heart.  These players have a favorite game and usually have their personal high score memorized (Galaga, 103,090... I know, pathetic).  It is a goal of mine to one day own a classic gaming cabinet, but I know that when that day comes I may have to settle for a newer compilation, as originals are both expensive to purchase and tricky to maintain.  Classic gaming will only die out when the players have all disappeared or forgotten the true nature of video games.


  1. Indeed, arcade gaming is a lost age. It's a shame really, I always find playing games in arcades to be much more social. Even when you're out of quarters or tokens you can still just walk around and watch people play the games. That's part of the magic.

  2. Arcades just don't allow me the freedom to not where pants that I so enjoy when I game. How am I supposed to perform at my best when my boys are overheating?!/!?!!?!