First off let me say arcades were amazing. Now I’m going to stop you there. Yes there are still arcade like and arcade adjacent places still around. Those are not what we are talking about. The current ones usually have free play mode with a time allotment for a base cost. Around $15 for a few hours or maybe like $5 for 1. Those are fun sure. Who doesn’t like unlimited gameplays? Well me for one. It lowers the risk and way diminishes the reward. Now it’s just a race to beat it the fastest so you play loose and sloppy. Arcades were made to do one thing.
Eat all your quarters, be they allowance or laundry money, it will take everything you have. By killing you in fair-ish ways. Without this you end up with a game less challenging than Mario 2. You will have infinite lives, infinite time, and no need to dodge. A great way to practice your skills but a terrible way to prove ’em. Feel free to grab any arcade port on your system of choice or a few MAME roms and try it out.
It only took my a few months of unlimited arcade games in high school to just get tired of that whole scene. Until I started the “Five Dollar Challenge” I play any game with the goal to maximize my arcade run on 5 bux. A simple yet effective self imposed limit. Not valuing the completion of any one game, but rather the time and score I can get across multiple games on a set budget. Like it used to be. A pocket full of quarters and a splitting headache. The symptoms of terminal PacMan Fever. The only cure? More PacMan.
Because there are no sick days in a game tournament. It’s not like a ranked match or pro tournament. Arcades are like the back alley fight club. You don’t get stomped by some anonymous 13 year old from deepest mystic forest of far off lands. You usually get the shock of seeing the paltry score you slapped you initials to just dripping down the leader board. Of you are extra unlucky you can witness in person someone wiping your accomplishments away from this world. To mesmerized with the score count spinning up you forget to watch how they are pulling it off. Atleast those were the arcades I frequented. Takashi’s Golf Mountain, Time Out on the Court, Sega Game works, and best of all the local game store/arcade Game Junkie. These places each had their own vibe and flair that I honestly miss.
No matter what your local arcade is like. It’s your arcade. Get out there and be a part of it. It’s nothing without it’s fans and the community it can build. Sure you might think you do enough with your twice or thrice a year trip, but honestly do you even know these people? You can play games at home ya know. Arcades are about competition and companionship. Meet the regulars and become one yourself. If they don’t have a running score challenge, making one yourself. People like to complain about gaming culture today and they do nothing about it. Like all those damn Michael Bay movies, somebody is going to go see them, that’s why they are getting made. So if your local gaming scene is awful, it’s because you all let it get that way. Arcades are about taking a risk. Lord knows there isn’t money to be made there anymore. Replacement parts and repair will eat up any profit on the machines themselves. So they might sell food or drinks. Perhaps collectables and retro games ya know? Treat yourself, but more importantly treat your community by supporting a local business. I’m not talking mom and pop grocery stores. I never understood the appeal there. Paying more money for the same food so some dingus can have his own store? That’s not offering anything but higher prices. Arcades offer a lot of utilized correctly. So why do I sound so dismissive? The last few good ones we have around here probably won’t make it through the mall collapse and that whole Covid-19 fun times we are having. So it will have to wait until some other person with decent credit and a business loan sets out to once again bring gaming to a personal level. Now more than ever we need to show that we love some upright arcade action because even Sega is closing it’s Arcades in Japan. Soon all that will be left is some plywood MAME cabinets your friend built 5 years ago and a lone Donkey Kong 3 cabinet sitting in the local coin up laundromat.
I don’t expect things to turn around, but I surely wish they would. Just why would they when you all have Temple Run and Cookie Clicker on your phone. That’s the new casual game hobby. Popping out your phone and sharing apps. Competitive Friends List tourneys to earn free “power gems” a $1.99 value! I’d rather pop 4 whole quarters into Time Crisis than watch one more 13 second in app commercial for Clash of Clans, or that Final Fantasy Clash of Clans, or what is it now Raid Shadow Legends? Sure I play some phone games, freemium ones at that, but I will uninstall anything with a dang ad in a second. So if you ever wanted to be an arcade hot shot, you only have yourself to blame if the chance slips away. I know somewhere out there my Metal Slug 3 high score goes undefeated. That’s enough for me.