Wednesday, November 5, 2008

News 11/5/08: The Life and Death of Arcades

It is the news time of the week again. We put our hands into the "week-old Halloween candy bucket" of news and pulled out an interesting article discussing the lack of arcades in the world but their apparent prominence in Japan. Do you have any fond arcade moments? Do you miss the arcade? Your comments are highly encouraged.

Scott: This week, let's talk about the state of arcades.

Scott: So they say that because arcades are in more public areas, people play them more.

Jorge: I could see that, but would putting an arcade next to the BART (Subway) station bring in that many more people?

Scott: Would you play on your way to work? I notice that I usually can't resist a game or two of Ms. Pacman when I'm at the laundromat.

Jorge: I have my DS. So even if there was one next to BART, I'd just sit there and play that. I think it has something to do with money. Arcades are kind of expensive.

Scott: Good point. The money-making aspect of video games is at its most blatant at the arcades.

Scott: But maybe it's more about getting an experience you can't get outside of an arcade cabinet, like Time Crisis?

Jorge: That's true, and Time Crisis is a great game, but it's still too expensive. They charge a dollar for a game like Time Crisis now, and they ratcheted up the difficulty intentionally. They don't want you to play for a very long time on fifty cents, so why even bother?

Jorge: Whenever I played arcade systems I never got past the first or second level because I would run out of me. I had to go the movie theater with the intent to blow thirty dollars on Jurassic Park arcade cabinet.

Scott: Yeah, you might as well just buy a game at that point.It just seems like the social aspect of arcades is being co-opted by the Internet.

Jorge: I don't think online gaming has replaced the social aspects of arcades completely. I admit, I probably romanticize arcades. I imagine them to be nerd havens where you can chat it up with other gamers and find people with a similar interest, or maybe bump into a friend and go grab a sandwich before some Guilty Gear.

Scott: But unfortunately, I don't think that has been either of our experiences.

Jorge: That never really happened to me. The only time I interacted with someone was on a competitive level. Someone would come own me at Tekken and essentially take my fifty cents.

Scott: Which was always the problem: there was no way of stratifying skill levels. I always felt inadequate in comparison to those that just lived in the arcade.

Jorge: In that case, internet gaming in the home has arcades beat. You can just boot people who are too good or, as many games do, filter games so you play with people at a comparable skill level.

Scott: It also seems like the kinds of games we like playing now don't translate well to the arcade format.

Scott: The kinds of games I'm playing these days (like Okami or LittleBigPlanet) just don't work in an arcade setting. They are largely solitary and they are time intensive games.

Jorge: But there are the games that do work, hence Xbox Live ARCADE. You could easily put World of Goo in a cabinet and have it fit right in with other arcade titles. Plus, it's not like Japan doesn't have online gaming. I think the reason it is still popular there has more to do with the niche market that comes out with weird titles strictly for the arcade.

Jorge: Also, again I'm sure I'm romanticizing arcades, but I think there is something there, some social aspect, that we just don't get from online console play, at least not yet.

Scott: I think there is a good political-science influenced argument there:in order for gamers to grow in their tastes and habits, they should be exposed to games and fellow gamers that they normally wouldn't seek out by their own choosing.

Jorge: I agree, expand your gamer cultural awareness.

Jorge: Interestingly enough, there are still arenas for that in the form of gaming stores with LAN setups. I have an account to one near the university that has a great computer and table-top setup and I've had some good times there with people I would never have met in another environment. It's not an arcade in the classical sense, but it fulfills the same purpose.In all honesty, I don't go there often at all, but it comforts me to know such a place exists. I've got a gaming sanctuary to run to if my power goes out, or if I'm in need of like minded company.

Scott: I think it's telling that we don't really think of these places as arcades though.

Jorge: Less money per hour and a less tacky atmosphere: I don't consider them as arcades either.

Scott: Even though arcades may be past their prime, we still have them to thank for certain innovations. Rhythm games are a great example: without arcades we probably wouldn't have Rock Band, seeing as how it arose in a climate created by games like DDR.

Jorge: Who knows what kooky, perverted games are evolving in packed and sweaty Japanese arcades right now, just waiting for a console market.

Scott: It seems like we want arcades to exist but we don't really want to go to them.

Jorge: It's like retired superheroes: I don't want to forget they exist, because one day we may need them.


  1. Well, now that I'm living in Korea, I am surrounded by arcades. However, I expected them to be the crazy, neo-modern arcades I see in "Lost in Translation," yet they are the complete opposite. Every single arcade has Tetris, and Bubble Puzzle (my favorite), Aerofighter, Tekken, and a ton of old games. It is actually kind of hard to find new games unless I go to downtown. Even then, they have the same simple games at 20 cents a pop. It seems true that the only true innovation comes from the rhythm based games. An extremely popular one here is a dj game, where you have to hit buttons and spin a turntable at the same time along with the song (it looks insane). I did see an arcade version of mario kart which I have yet to try, but still, I am kinda glad that anytime I want I can go across the street from my house and spend my loose change trying to match colored bubbles.

  2. Hi Will! Good to hear from you! I guess the classic arcade games die hard, eh? Thanks for the comment!