Monday, January 21, 2013

Arcades are cool I guess

at 10:42 AM
There is a pretty interesting article over at The Verge about the evolution and eventual death, then rebirth, and then death 2 of video game arcades:  here is the link.

I thought the link between pinball and video game cabinets was dubious, especially considering the article acknowledges a few times that there was a multitude of coin operated games out there before Computer Space was released in '71.  Not that there wasn't a connection in the cultures of the two games, but they're obviously two distinct platforms.  Maybe an argument can be made for the contrary, however.

I think the article points to an interesting dichotomy in the existence between public versus private gaming spheres.  There's not a good reason I can think of for arcades not succeeding as a semi-permanent business model.  Public consumption of other media works just fine: e.g. movie theaters, art galleries, concerts.  That's all theoretically of course; the article quotes a number of people as claiming that the "economics aren't there anymore."  It comes off a little too close to insinuating that the decline of public video gaming was some sort of economic/historical inevitability for my liking: this sort of determinism is bad writing and leaves a lot of questions about the actual factors which led to the arcade's decline. 

(Maybe Ezio can come in and write something about the culture wars that emerged around both the pinball and the video game arcade.  There's an obvious comparison to the 1954 Comics Code and all that jazz that I'm sure he knows very slightly better than me.)

In any case, the article is definitely worth a skim for those with an interest in gaming history.  


  1. IIRC (haven't look at the article yet), the early video game / arcade scene was all about stealing each other's ideas and trying to win at marketing. Nolan "Chuck E. Cheese" Bushnell in particular I think is remembered as a major ass who was happy to ripoff anything he could get his hands on (Pong anyone? Spacewar?). I mean I guess it's a matter of where you draw the line between "shrewd businessman" and "guy who profits from others' creativity", but I think I can guess where Ralph Baer stands on the matter.

  2. Christian groups and "scientists" believed that comics were subversive and spread this idea to parents. Pinball was also banned because people were told it was a gambling machine, by politicians who wanted to seem like they protecting the innocent children. There is some connection, you are right. I think they are different, though, because if parents read comics, they could probably find something to gripe about, but if they played pinball, they would know it was not a gambling machine. Pinball is probably more like the argument against billiards than it is comics, as demonstrated here:

    There is always the whole "they rot your brain!" argument, but to be fair that is mostly just a vocal minority. Most parents would be glad to not actually have to watch their kids for an hour while they were playing pinball.

    1. Man the part where he raps about how it is evil to sit on a horse to race is really... something else. And the outraged look on the women's faces when he says their boys will be "fritterin' - fritterin' away!" How was the world ever like that?

      When it got to "is he starting to memorize jokes" I almost died. Also fuck you because now that song is going to be stuck in my head all night.