The Death of the Video Arcade

Video Arcades’ Last Gasp from the Chicago Tribune is a well written article on the end of the video game arcade. Home consoles have been providing less incentive to go out for your video game fix, and it is expensive to own and operate an arcade. The only people who seem interested in going to them are older people hoping to reminisce.

“See, it’s not that the industry is gone,” said Mike Rudowicz, president of the American Amusement Machine Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors. “It’s that we’re a cottage industry now. We have around 3,000 family entertainment centers, but those are mostly not arcades. A vestibule in a movie theater—that’s an arcade now.”

Growing up, I didn’t get to spend too much time in an arcade. My first experiences with games like Pac-man, DefenderI, Donkey Kong, and Berzerk were playing them on my Atari 2600, all of which I still own. I didn’t even know that the Berzerk cabinet talked until a few years ago, and I got a chance to play the original when the Game On! exhibit passed through Chicago. Now the Buckner and Garcia song makes a lot more sense.

Kiddie Land had an arcade, and that was where I first played Star Wars, Popeye, and Pole Position. I went to the arcade so infrequently that each time I tried to play a racing game, I always had someone remind me that I needed to step on the peddle at the bottom of the machine. I also used to try to help people who were playing. My uncle once got upset because I helped him eat a power pellet when he was trying to wait for the ghosts to get closer, and a friend of mine was upset at the bowling alley when I helped him throw all of his limited and precious grenades. I learned quickly that you do NOT help people play their games.

I do remember going to the Fun Zone near my house with a friend after high school was over, and it was a great way to pass the time. I was a bit sad that all of the classic games were stuffed off into a corner, such as Pac-man and Donkey Kong, most of them off or silent. I wasn’t too big of a fan of the fighting games or the racing games, and so my choices were fairly limited. Then the Fun Zone got turned into a bookstore for the nearby community college. Dave and Buster’s and Gameworks each have their own collection of classic arcade games, but they’re clearly not the main attraction anymore. To compete with home consoles, arcades tried to provide unique experiences by becoming bigger and more elaborate, but there hasn’t been as much interest, partly because the atmosphere changes.

I’m planning on getting a group together to go to Nickel City in Northbrook. According to the article, the classic games cost nothing to play, and I hope they have Ms. Pac-man there.

[tags] arcade games, video games, business [/tags]

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