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Back when I was an early teenager, the best place to play video games was in a video arcade. Now this might sound strange in an era of unprecedented connectivity, but people really did drive to the shops to play video games. Well, plead with mum to drive you to the shops. "PLEASE MUM!"
Without Today's Tech, The Arcade Was Just Better
Yeah, people had the choice to slam a cartridge in at home, but to play at a video game arcade was like donning a virtual reality headset. The arcade games were bigger, louder and more exciting.
More importantly, you could play with or against a wider group of people. This was important because playing at home tragically limited your option to either playing with siblings or annoying neighbors (seriously get your own Nintendo).
Pac-Man or Street Fighter – Everyone Had Their Favorite Game
To play competitively against strangers in an open forum had real merit as a gamer. At the arcade, each player had their ‘game of choice.’ This generally required specializing yourself to a particular game and its unique controls to gain the all-important street cred via the high score list.
When choosing the 'game of choice', a gamer's style need to be paired with the right controller: turn a steering wheel in NASCAR Daytona, pick up a gun in Time Crisis or Lethal Enforcers, or make three baskets in a row on NBA Jam to bring it home by hitting the turbo button for a monster slam dunk.
The ultimate way to prove your cool (yes I used the word cool) gaming skills was to master #StreetFighter or #MortalCombat. Being good at those two games, in particular, was definitely a sure way to achieve elite status in any gaming arcade.
To master them all seemed like an achievement worthy of the Jedi archives. Not many reached Yoda status. For most (myself included), we had our moments, but were never going to have a seat on the Jedi Council.
Daytona is Where We Learnt to Drive
Who remembers jumping into the seat of a #Daytona racing car and racing four actual people? How good was it!
You would definitely gain more respect if you could win driving in manual, knowing how and when to drop gears. Wait until the last minute and then slam down the gear around the corner - using the break was for amateurs, everyone knew that.
These days, playing against four people is an everyday thing to do, back then it was full immersion that provided a competitive environment you just could not get anywhere else.
The Cost of Arcade Gaming in the ‘80s and ‘90s Seemed Cheaper
I remember at my local video game arcade that they had a special deal on Sundays. I think from memory it was about $30AUD ($22 USD) for unlimited play on any machine. That was money well spent let me tell you. Jumping from one game to the next, with no limitations of my money running out, was just awesome.
Even without those all-day affairs, a sock full of coins fished out of the couch was much more manageable than a $60 game for a $300 console.
Unfortunately, these days to complete a solid session on any single arcade game requires a fist full of dollars. Compared to a standard console or PC game, arcade prices can only be considered the adolescent version of Vegas with all those flashing lights.
How the Arcade Transformed Our Homes
The evolution of home gaming systems and controllers have had many incarnations over the years, think; #Commodore, #Atari, #NES, #Xbox #Kinect, #Nintendo #Wii, rumble packs, gaming keyboards and mouse’s, touch pads, motion sensors, and most recently #VR headsets. All of these innovations are a little like the chicken and the egg when it comes to their relationship with where you saw it first. At home or the gaming arcade?
The advantage arcade games always had was their single intrinsic purpose controls. They were designed to provide the most functional and exciting experience for that precise game.
To make gaming away from the arcade more successful, developers had to replicate that sophistication. It was not easy and took time to find a way to adequately retain the gameplay benefit of the controller while allowing sufficient variations of adaptability across a wide range of games.
The Nintendo 64 Was The Beginning of The End for Arcade Gaming
When the Nintendo 64 controller was released in 1996, it started to show how diversified gameplay could be had at home by having three different positions to use the controller. It was a big leap with the analogue control stick, directional pad, trigger and shoulder buttons.
Think of controllers today and how the format has slowly evolved. I think we take these developments for granted. Now we can play an eclectic number of games in multiple ways with people all across the world, all while sitting in our living room (or super awesome gaming cave).
Gaming Arcades Are Now Only Great Memories
The partnership between the arcade and home video game systems has produced so many options to invest our time. The advantages that the video arcades once had are now gone, let’s be honest. While it's a fun novelty every once and a while, no one really lines up to play at the arcade anymore.
Video arcades at their peak generated the idea, and more importantly the expectation that games could be big, that they could be loud, competitive, and varied in how you play them. I only wish they were still worth a full Sunday of my time because now I can finally drive myself.
What was your favorite '90s arcade game?