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Put your quarter up!

The Past.

I remember a day. A time when on a hot day, I could walk to 7-11, grab a Slurpy, and decidedly spend my whole day in a place of wonders.

Photo by Dan Coogan
This was a magical place. The building from the outside looked like nothing special. Just a little building at the corner of a busy intersection. The sign said “City Arcade”. Yeah I’m talking about the 80’s and Arcades. Let me take you there.

So in this place in particular you’d walk into the double doors and you’d first enter the “Decompression Chamber” is what I called it. It was the room before you are granted access to some of the most colorful, and amazing, arcade cabinets ever invented. In here you shed the heat from the sun, you shed your hatred of humanity, you shed your worry. In this decompression chamber you are renewed, and changed. Now lets walk in.

As you walk into the next set of doors all outside light vanishes, there are no fluorescent lights. there are no neon lights. The main room seems to have no ceilings, or floors. It is pure black except for the display monitors bathing your face with a dancing display of colors.  Some of the cabinets themselves were lit up with colorful designs. The collective sounds of many others like you acquiring points, and achieving new levels of skill. Can you hear it? It’s like a symphony of Bleeps, Boops, and Dings.

Looking back I think the idea and atmosphere of the arcades enamored me much more than the actual games. I mean yeah Rampage was great. Galaga, awesome. Pac-Man, very entertaining. Hell I can’t even tell you which of all the games I used to play was actually my favorite. It was all about the experience. During this time I must have been about 7 or 8 years old, so I also wasn’t very aware of everything. But what I was aware of was that--These games, this place, even these people, this was all my world.

One by one these places went out of business. My beloved City Arcade was one of the first to go. In the end, the only places that survived were the kind of places that never understood what made arcades such a great place to be. “Boomers”, “Chuck-e-Cheese’s”, “John’s Incredible Pizza”. Places like this, that are mostly all family friendly, brightly lit up places with usually crappy “ticket-counting” games. Even places like “Oh Wow Nickel Arcade” couldn’t capture the same atmosphere that kept me going to arcades. I think the other arcades I used to go to were more of hobbyists rather than business’. That’s probably why they went down.

The History.

in the 1920’s the first arcades (coin operated) entered the scene as ball tossing games, shooting galleries, and fortune telling devices. Places like Coney-Island and other amusement parks paved the way for arcades.

1930’s enter the first coin operated Pinball Machines. Completely made of wood, but still Pinball machines. These became a standard that was enjoyed by many a bar dweller.

Masters of the Universe.
lets jump to 1971, The first Coin Operated Video Game gets put onto Stanford University’s campus called “The Galaxy Game”. The first commercially sold video game was called “Computer Space”. Then in 1972 the first Commercially successful game is released by Atari. You might have heard of that one, it was called “Pong” which was a Ping Pong simulator lol.

We’ll once again skip ahead to a game that kicked off what is now called “The Golden Age of Arcade Games” in 1978 Taito released “Space Invaders” and the rest is history. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Moon Patrol, Pole Position, Gradius just to name a few, joined an army of well loved, sought after arcade machines for which many people still seek.

The Present.

The Golden Age of Arcade Games continued well into the late 80s. That’s just about when it began to decline. Some say it was due to the home console’s rise in processing power with the ability to play some of those arcade titles at home, also said was that it was due to the reputation of arcades being an usafe environment--Something we to this day still struggle with in our online games!

Oh wow! I'm totally going so fast! ~ Aw F***K!
I suppose I am also to blame because I do recall seeing a nintendo for the first time thinking “OMG, you mean I can play the Super Mario Brothers arcade title at home without having to recycle bottles and cans just to play for a day?”. I mean it makes sense, by no means am I saying I wish to have to throw quarters into a Final Fantasy 7 arcade machine while carrying around my SD card with a save file. I’m just saying, “Those were the days...” I recall them with warmth.

So as of now there remain a few niche arcades around, but they are mostly reserved for a very limited amount of titles. Nostalgics like myself, fighters for those tournament folks who require daily practice (with no lag) against challengers of equal or greater caliber, and people who like to make fools of themselves and jump on 4 buttons while trying to make it look like real dancing.

The Future.

The future of the Arcades looks bleak, but there is one glimmer of light to be found. It’s a big mix of all of those things above with one more element thrown into the mix. Alcohol! Yes it’s actually a grand idea that needs to be embraced imo. In Australia there is this new bar. One of the 4 owners of this bar/arcade is none other than The Escapist's Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (if you’ve never heard of him visit the link please!). The place is called “The Mana Bar”-- a very clever name if you ask me ;). There’ll be no charge to enter or play games, so I’m thinking they’ll be makin’ their money off of all the drinks.

This. Here. Now. Make it happen San Francisco.

The End.

So to finish this off I’m just going to say this. Arcades live on. Maybe they aren’t the same as they used to be. They’ll certainly not ever be the same as they were. But they do live on, and as long as there are people like me out there, they’ll find a way to creep into the main stream. So with this love letter, ehem, article I’ll send the old school arcade scene off to rest (takes old school arcade scene behind the barn).

You’re beloved Editor Amado (Den) Bustos
XOXO - Old School Arcades ; ;

If you made it through this you might actually have some kind of interest in the arcade scene. So here's a few questions to titillate you:

What was your most memorable arcade experience be it negative or positive?

Do you think the Arcade scene truly is dead?

Is there any equivalent now to an "Arcade" experience that'll eventually be remembered fondly by gamers in future?


  1. Man I have so many memories of playing Mortal Kombat in my sweet Roller Blades, cuz they were both so cool back in the day.

  2. LOL! Yes roller blades. The first time I played Mortal Kombat was when I went to Venice beach with my friend's family. I hadn't ever even heard of it before that. It was hard prying me off of the machine after that.

    Y'know there was this arcade I used to play that I always said I'd beat it later in life, but I forgot the title :(. It was about these punk rollerbladers, and you would kick and punch other roller bladers and skateboarders off of their feet. It was great... I wish I could remember the name :(.

  3. Here is the text above translated horribly.. lol

    Constructs maple tree said…

    Everywhere with all one's heart, is the happy event; Takes a step steadfastly, is the level road.

  4. Having arcade machines is such a nice way to incorporate fun and profit into your business. With many to choose from, there is one that will be able to fit into your business to add fun and money for you.

  5. Hi Alex! Thanks for commenting. Good point about arcade machines being a nice way to incorporate fun and profit into your business. I completely agree. I however know of another solution for "Fun and Profit" for any business, in fact any street corner; You're mom :D.


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