For most players, it is obvious that gameplay is king. Game sales are currently dominated by sports, multiplayer FPS, and rhythm games. Everyone knows at least one person whose game shelf is dominated by multiple “years” of sports titles or series’ of online frag-fests. For me, however, storytelling trumps everything.
This weekend I attended my buddy Scott’s bachelor party. It was a great time, but I found one thing disconcerting… “the arcade.” Now, I come from an age where arcades were everywhere: hotels, airports, Wal Marts, Pizza Huts, malls, and even grocery stores. In the 1980s and 1990s you couldn’t flick a booger without hitting an arcade cabinet. Orlando was home to a few of biggest arcades I had ever seen, including, but not limited to, Mystery Fun House and Rocky’s Replay. Sadly, both are now gone, and Rocky’s is a pathetic shell of its former self. Let us travel through time, to an age where arcades were forbidden lands of mystery.
Age 10 – The Goldmine – The mall I went to as a wee lad had a dank arcade designed to look like an abandoned Goldmine. I remember it being foggy (with smoke) and very cold (probably not unlike an actual gold mine). Goldmine was home to one of Lee county’s oldest urban legends; The Goldmine switchblade stabbing. You see, according to what we heard, someone went mad while playing games inside the Goldmine and went on a stabbing spree. This mystery stabber even managed to kill some poor sucker by stabbing them in the throat… Needless to say our parents hated us going in there, but we went anyway.
Age 15- Tilt – Goldmine eventually closed down and in its place we were given “Tilt”. Tilt was brightly illuminated and spread out. Unlike Goldmine, Tilt didn’t allow smoking, so there was no indoor smog. Everything felt crisp and fresh. It was here that I skipped school and played arcade classics such as Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Combat. Quarters were placed onto machines, and random enemies were often sent packing. It was pure nerd adrenaline.
Age 20 – Rocky’s Replay – Arcades were slowly starting to vanish, but Rocky’s Replay stood strong and proud. A standalone arcade in a decent part of town Rocky’s was home to hundreds of arcade cabinets new and old. They had a great pin-ball section, and even had some crazy cabinets imported from Japan. It was a fantastic time, and the parking lot was often filled with people from all walks of life. Then something happened.
Now – Rocky’s a smoking Barcade – I hate to pick on Rocky’s because they actually had little control over what happened to them. After getting in a tiff with the city they were forced to move and change their M.O. Gone are the hundreds of arcade cabinets, the import games, and dare I say … the fun. In its stead we are sadly given “Rocky’s A Smoking Barcade” (queue price is right failure music). Now, It’s not the bar atmosphere that was a let down, it’s the fact they currently have 16 cabinets. Going from hundreds of games to 16 is a travesty. As for the games themselves, they were in disrepair, glare from the outside reflected off pathetically faded screens…you get the drift.
What can be done? Sadly, not much. Times have changed. People are no longer eager to plop tokens into a machine to play some crappy game, when they can spend less money to OWN a game on their portable cellular device. Arcades started to die when the technology at home started to eclipse the technology within those cabinets. X-box live, MMOs, and cell-games have become the new social arcade experience. I for one would still like to angrily place a quarter on some stranger’s machine and let them know that they have a new challenger.
Stride gum recently started a campaign to “SAVE THE ARCADE“, drop by their site and see what you can do to help.