Saturday, 23 November 2013

Computer Games History Part 2 - Arcades and their struggle to cling on for dear life

Arcades aren't really what first comes to mind now for our generation of gamers when anything computer related is mentioned. Games nowadays are references to the newest release on the 3DS, or the supposed title coming out next year for the PS4. Perhaps if I spoke to my dad he might tell me about the 'Golden Age' of arcade games which found its way in the late 70s into the 80s with releases such as Pac-Man, but I myself can only admit to entering an arcade a few brief times in my life now that age is over, and instead find myself at home in my room playing what seem to be superior games.

Pac-man (Image courtesy of

The decline of the arcade has a number of factors contributing to it, and often the main factor is attributed to the rise of home consoles. However to begin, I think it'd be nice to highlight the most popular advances in the gaming world regarding arcades, as without them we probably wouldn't have then had the future development into games we have today. A huge title to pave the way for other games was Atari's 'Space Invaders' released in 1978, which even today is still seen as an icon in the gaming world. You can type in 'Space Invaders' onto any internet browser now and have multiple links to allow you to play it right from the very comfort of your office chair. So it's safe to say the game is most certainly not forgotten, but I can't help feeling like it will rarely ever be played now how it was intended to be played. The whole point of an arcade was to be social, to play against someone who was stood shoulder to shoulder with you, and have other friends crowded round trying to watch. If you just play it sat down in your room, you're kind of missing the point right? Or are games something which should have the option of being something you play alone or in a group? And if that's the case, then that could contribute to the decline in arcades, because they just lacked the privacy people might have wanted every once in a while whilst playing a game. I know for certain I wouldn't want to play Skyrim in a room full of people because it's engaging in the way you play it alone, and one time I did try to play it with friends in the room and they constantly asked me why people kept repeating the same line of dialogue to me and my experience was pretty much ruined.

Space Invaders (Image courtesy of

Nintendo's release of Donkey Kong in arcades came along not long before the decline started to be noticed. Arcades had become a huge part of popular culture, and people loved the fact that they could play new releases on high-tech machines just by having a pocket full of change. However, with Nintendo and the like bringing out consoles such as the NES in the mid 80s, people flocked back to their homes and decided to invest time in playing without the need of inserting coins continuously, which meant the consoles were more cost-effective in the long-term. Cost is always going to be a big thing in our society, so long as there's money, there will be people trying to spend as little of it as possible. So it's no wonder that people decided playing at home would be much better for their pockets once better consoles were produced.

On the run up to the 90s, arcades fought back for a while by introducing side-scrolling fighting games. Along with this, game gimmicks such as light guns which had people shooting zombies from 'House Of The Dead' using something very much new and exciting to a usual joystick. But with time, it was obvious home gaming would catch onto these and start incorporating their own, and we still see such peripherals today in consoles such as the Wii. So no matter what arcade games did, home gaming would always catch up, and so the decline started to take full form.

Light Gun (Image courtesy of

Wii Zapper (Image courtesy of

I find it interesting to think that cinema has had the same sort of issues regarding decline because of availability at home. Between the 60s and 80s, cinemas were struggling to keep people coming to watch films, as it became a done thing to rent a film and make a night out of it at home once the VHS became widely available. It was only through new advances, like with arcades, that cinema found its way back up again and now 3D films are drawing in more and more customers. Going to the cinema now feels like a special occasion. If there's a film you really want to see, you go to the cinema for the experience of it to see it on the biggest screen available with the best sound quality you can have. Home cinema is something people buy into, but nothing will ever match up to the cinema experience and so people will still keep going. This is why arcades suffered their fate when cinemas didn't, because an arcade cannot offer anything better than what a person can get at home anymore, which is rather sad but does not make their importance in game history any less memorable.

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