What Role Does the Arcade Have in Modern Gaming?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

What Role Does the Arcade Have in Modern Gaming?

It's actually kind of strange to think about, but the arrival of “Star Wars: Battle Pod”--which we talked about last week—kind of got me to thinking. Back in my younger days, I was an arcade enthusiast from a long way back. Of course, back in those days, arcades were a lot more popular then; even the local county fair had a tent lined front to back and ringed all around with arcade cabinets. A bit of nostalgia got me looking again in earnest, and what I found got me to thinking. The arcade is a fundamentally different concept from what it once was, and its role in modern gaming must likewise change.

Not so long ago, it was a simple matter; the arcade was where you went to see the most powerful in modern gaming. A sort of exhibition hall, the best and brightest were available for a quarter a turn, maybe 50 cents or the like. A new arcade game was something of a minor miracle, often greeted with long lines and eager faces looking forward to taking a shot at a newcomer. But then, arcades started to close in large numbers. New games became fewer and fewer. But those that did emerge were...different. Much different. Arcade games became less about the game and more about the experience. There were games where you danced, where you rowed canoes, where you fought monsters with swords and the shooting...oh, so much shooting. We went through enough ammo in those old arcade days to have outfitted every soldier in most every war the United States was ever a part of.

This leads us up to the modern era, and the current crop of machines. Massive, multi-thousand-dollar systems, some of these devices cost the equivalent of a good year's pay in some places. But by like token, they're even more staggering now than ever before. Rifles in the Aliens games aren't just bolted to the console, but are connected like cable-base controllers once were for users to hold and lift as desired.

With the rise of the Oculus Rift system, it's clear that arcades hoping for any chance of survival will need to adapt further. While there are certainly places for niche arcades—focuses on sports games, or genre favorites—as well as the odd slice of nostalgia and the growing concept of the bar / arcade hybrid known as the barcade, perhaps the truest future for the arcade is as a place for experiences. A place to feel like you're flying or feel like you're roaming a maze to shoot acid-blooded monsters, or anything quite like that. Experiences are likely to be the greatest fate of the arcade in this, the 21st century, and only time will tell just what actually comes to be.

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