I’m on holiday in Japan, where the retro game scene has imploded upon itself, and so my thoughts turn with a distinctly rose-tinted nostalgia to my own gaming history. Things were, as you young whippersnappers must know by now, so much better when I was your age.
If there was any good reason to be alive in the 80s it was the arcades. You can’t really imagine it now, but they used to be everywhere. Not this ticket-spitting redemption bullshit that most surviving arcades offer now, not the ear-splitting sonic miasma that is the Beatmania Guitarfreaks DanceDance fucktardery that relegated the one or two real games to the back corner, but dark places with enormous, heavy wooden cabinets. Each one had but one game, cost a fortune, and earned their operators a couple of hundred dollars a week. They were enticing things, with glowing lights and a spray of phosphors and mono sound and innovative games.
Every mall in North America had one, and for a time many of them had more than one. Casinos in Vegas had them, featured prominently in their bullet-point attraction lists.
When I vacationed with my family, the first thing I’d do at every mall we stopped at was rush to the map and bolt for the arcade to see what amazing new things they had. No arcade could hope to have all the games, so each one had a unique mix, and you were always discovering new things.
I was in Akihabara a few days ago, and I think I saw but two arcades. My home base in Saitama used to have four large arcades and a few small ones run by fans. They’re all gone.
In Australia the only arcade in existence as far as I know is TimeZone, and it’s a brightly lit family affair with music games and huge gun games and ticket belching crapstravaganzas.
And what’s my point?
Simply this: It was better then, and if I want to avoid these sobering, unhappy memories I should probably stop reading 80s gaming mags.