Arcades. Rows of supernaturally glowing obelisks of electric adventure. Once they stood like a proud video game Stonehenge that had been copy + pasted all over the world, eating up gamers’ coins, filling their face with neon lights. Now they are relics of a era where if people wanted to play against their friends properly, they went to a sticky carpeted hall and sat in a fake plastic car or got on a fake plastic bike or shot at TVs with giant baby blue/pink fake plastic guns.
Nudging aside the Nostalgia for a minute, let’s be clear, Arcades were a revolution. Pitiably though, revolutions end. They took over our spare time as a legitimate place to enjoy a virtual past time, they once were the symbol of Gaming’s arrival. However, once home consoles had caught up to the arcade experience, arcades drifted away from relevance. Decks cleared. Job done. But although consoles became the main way to game, arcades still left a sizeable vacuum behind.
A new coat of paint is one way to re-introduce arcade classics to the market, however some are just straight up ports. The available SNK library on PS3 and Xbox 360 includes everything from Fatal Fury and King of Fighters to Metal Slug. Arcade enthusiasts would do well to also check out the Capcom Arcade Cabinet, which let’s players build theor own collection from classics such as Son Son and 1943: The Battle of Midway and Black Tiger to name a few. This is a more expansive way to retro game than previous Capcom collections such as the aptly named Capcom Classics Collection, which also featured console ports as well as Arcade efforts. Retro heaven.
Gamers do not have to hunt for anything super special on console virtual stores either. The growing lists of coin-op vintage video games boasts rarities such as Street Fighter III, Darkstalkers: Resurrection and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Get an arcade stick and flush some coins down the toilet between plays and it gives the authentic experience, kind of. Arcade classics also follow us wherever we go within emulative apps such as TurboGrafx, Capcom, Midway and Namco Arcades among the many. Anyone can play Space Harrier on their phone. That is an arcade in your pocket.
Arcades bought friends and strangers together to play with and against each other. Today, everything from Mario Kart to Halo to Minecraft serves that purpose and co-operative play is more far-reaching than ever. Rather ironically, the more social and involving aspect of arcades had been soundly bettered domestically. The main impetus for Arcades was to generate buzz for the latest releases and take cash. The modern parallel for that coin sucking vortex would be DLC. The main point of this service is to prop up the relevance of existing releases and provide an extra dose of gameplay for that money. A small gameplay hit for an equivalent charge – like an arcade cabinet game would provide. Now eSHop, PSN and XBLA are the global digital arcade halls.
The Arcade gameplay experience can be recreated just as easily as booting up a game of Donkey Kong on Wii U or a Crazy Taxi download from PSN or the grey area MAME emulators on PC will achieve. But it is the experience of trying something new and seeking it out that also made arcades so great. I suppose we can draw a sketchy parallel here to current downloadable indie hits. Games like Hotline Miami, Braid, Castle Crashers, Fez, Super Meat Boy, Sound Shapes and others down the years have performed well via word of mouth and buzz for the most part. A similar buzz was generated by arcade games way back when. Many Arcade games which may have been prominent fixtures in arcades could easily be missing from shelves, consoles or in any adverts. Although these downloadable indie type games are only niche to an extent, they do fit a cult status that arcade games like Point Blank, Virtua Cop, Manx TT and so many others once had. It was yet another aspect that made arcades so cool.
Arcades may be dead but in some ways, we can still see their reflection. Gaming events and meet-ups (like Evo) and numerous gaming expos still keep the human interaction and community spirit element going for those that miss that side of the experience. In the end it’s all about game. Whether in re-vamped, re-issued or re-made iterations we also have modern cult classics to get excited over. After all, many of today’s long standing franchises came out of original arcade efforts a long while back. It is today’s new left-field games which serve a similar purpose today. In a sense, today’s sleeper hits are in their own way, the arcade classics of tomorrow.