The Life and Death of the American Arcade

by Christopher Paul on January 16, 2013

Superb long read on the history of the arcade games and places by Laura June at The Verge. She starts:

If you’ve never been inside a “real” arcade, it could be hard to distinguish one from say, oh, a Dave & Buster’s. Authenticity is a hard nut to crack, but there are a few hallmarks of the video game arcade of days gone by: first, they have video games. Lots and lots of video games, and (usually) pinball machines. They’re dark (so that you can see the screens better), and they don’t sell food or booze. You can make an exception for a lonely vending machine, sure, but full meals? No thanks. There’s no sign outside that says you “must be 21 to enter.” These are rarely family-friendly institutions, either. Your mom wouldn’t want to be there, and nobody would want her there, anyway. This is a place for kids to be with other kids, teens to be with other teens, and early-stage adults to serve as the ambassador badasses in residence for the younger generation. It’s noisy, with all the kids yelling and the video games on permanent demo mode, beckoning you to waste just one more quarter. In earlier days (though well into the ’90s), it’s sometimes smoky inside, and the cabinets bear the scars of many a forgotten cig left hanging off the edge while its owner tries one last time for a high score, inevitably ending in his or her death. The defining feature of a “real” arcade, however, is that there aren’t really any left.

I remember visiting Space Port – the local arcade at the mall closest to my house – and playing Street Fighter II for the first time. I didn’t get it and it took a the boyfriend of a friend of mine (who played in tournaments) to teach me the rules. But once I understood the moves, fighting rules, and strategy, I was hooked.

I don’t play many games anymore. I packed away my PS3 over a year ago after it sat unused for the year before that. I still play Street Fighter II, though. It’s installed on my iPhone and a friend gave me his SNES when I want to play the cartridge version. If I had the room to fit a full sized cabinet in my apartment, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

But there’s no denying that arcades are gone forever.

via Daring Fireball

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