Features// From Coin-ops to Couch - what killed the arcade?

Posted 30 Apr 2010 14:05 by
If you compare this to British seaside resorts, which are deserted the moment the sun goes in, it?s clear that being in an area with consistent footfall has been vital regardless of country.

?These arcade game companies are Japan,? Ashcraft told me. ?Namco, Capcom and SEGA all own arcades in Japan. So, it's very much a domestic business. They own these arcades near train stations or in urban areas. They have the location and customers. Thus, they need to develop arcade games for those arcades and those players

?What Japanese arcades have done and continue to do is to create experiences players cannot get elsewhere. Fighting games are a good example of that with their joysticks and button layouts. Of course, you can buy a fighting stick, but then there is the issue of lag when playing online. Arcades don't have those issues.?

It isn?t just fighting games that have enjoyed a charmed life in Japan, even first and third-person shooters have found a place in the arcade with titles like Half-Life 2 and Metal Gear Arcade (in 3D!).

As well as bringing conventional genres back to the arcades Japan is also responsible for some of the oddest innovations in gaming. How about Dog Vs. Dog Typing Madness or Dog Walker, which lets you walk a virtual dog.

If dogs aren?t you thing you could try Boong-ga Boong-ga, a game developed in Korea for Japan. This lets you violate the rectum of eight different characters (ex-girlfriend, child molester, prostitute and other colourful characters). It then dishes out a card evaluating your sexual behaviour. I?m not suggesting Boong-ga Boong-ga is the reason arcades have survived in Japan just that this pushing of boundaries just wouldn?t happen in the West.

It?s innovation, that Ashcraft places at the heart of the Asian experience. ?I think that the reason that there are so many arcade game makers in Japan is why the domestic market continues. Generally speaking, in Japan, video game developers have traditionally had an arcade game background, not computer one, there just isn't the support network or infrastructure in the West?, he tells me.

However, it isn?t always about pushing boundaries, as Ashcraft explained. ?Some arcades focus on retro games, others focus on dedicated cabinets or mah-jong games while some have it all.?

Whatever reason you subscribe to for the downfall of the arcade it?s clear that innovation and investment have been its saviour in the East while in the West we continue to reminisce over the arcades of old.

I?m not suggesting that coin-op nostalgia is misplaced, just that we should step back and realise how far gaming has come. Atari and the other pioneers helped get gaming started but as with any media there must be progression and innovation.

In the Occident (and Orient) games have grown and moved in to the home. By doing so they have opened gaming up to the mainstream. Gaming has been placed on par with, and often beyond, film and TV; advancements that wouldn?t have been possible if it had remained in the dark arcades of previous decades.

Services like Microsoft?s Game Room may bring these old ROMs back to life but arcades were, and in the case of the East still are, more than just game venues. They were places to discover new titles, compete with friends and socialise.

By repackaging these classic titles publishers are doing two things: on one hand they are giving us another taste of classic games but on the other hand they are reminding us that arcade game was much more than the code in the cabinet they were an experience and one that is lost on this side of the globe.
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