Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Great Era of Old-Style Arcades

If you are my age, you remember arcades very well.

These were places where you could go to in order to have some fun playing tons of video games for hours on end.

Of course, you just had to make sure that you either brought a ton of quarters or, more likely, you brought a number of small bills that you could then convert to quarters.

Yes, and there were always a ton of other kids there. It was a cool place to be, a cool place where kids could hang out.

Part of the fun, even if you did not have any money to play any of the games yourself (which I can admit happened on more than one occasion with me) was simply watching some others play. In particular, it was cool to see someone who was really good at a particular game. Once someone got past numerous levels in any given video game, a small crowd would begin to assemble, and watch, feeling like they were a part of something exciting.

Good times.

Honestly, I was never actually the biggest fan of video games. Don't get me wrong, I liked them well enough. In fact, I was pretty good at some of them, back in the day. Games like Pac Man, which was my favorite, and one of the classics. Q-Bert. Pole Position. A little remembered game called Frogs and Flies. And I loved Punch Out, although never really got good at it. In fact, having played it for free online once or twice, it is one of the few video games where my skills not only did not greatly deteriorate since back in the eighties, but I actually seem to be better at the game now then I was then, when even getting past the first opponent would often prove to be a real struggle.

Admittedly, most of how I improved and got as good as I got (which was never tournament level, or anything) was done because my family got the Atari 5200 system, and then got the 2600 system, eventually. We piled up some of our favorite games, and ended up each getting good at some in particular. My father, as I recall, was particularly good at Q-Bert, better than anyone else in the family. I was really the best at Frogs and Flies, and almost always beat anyone else. My brother was quite good at Pole Position, as I recall.

Still, we did enjoy going to the arcades, and probably took them for granted, admittedly. At the time, I really was too young to understand how easily and how often businesses go under, and was under the impression that, for the most part, once a store exists, the owners would almost always find a way to keep it open. That would change by the time I was a teenager, and I saw numerous businesses go under. If the lesson was not learned clearly by that point, then certainly, the rather shocking site of ghost towns in upstate New York, with whole avenues filled with boarded up shops clearly demonstrated that to me. Yet, the thought of whole industries going under was probably still foreign to me, because the trendy industries that rose up in the eighties were still trendy as that decade yielded to the nineties. When Blockbuster became huge, I assumed it always would be. And the assumption certainly held true for arcades, as well.

Now, of course, we all know better. Blockbuster gave way to online streaming. Arcades gave way to more advanced video games, which came to be released quicker and quicker, and when people had access to these from the comforts of their homes, the decline of the arcade industry was a foregone conclusion.

Still, it is nice sometimes to reminisce about a different era from time to time. In this case, it was an era when kids would gather together in the old arcades to play games all day. The link below will take you to a site that might help you better remember, so I recommend it:


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