Video games have gotten so good that they can be blamed for the death of the arcade. Once perfect locations to hangout, arcades are now hidden away in the corner at the movie theater mainly used to kill time before the featured presentation. Now elusive, we only have these great memories to keep the arcade’s existence alive.
Arcades had two primary types of games: video and interactive.
The video games in the arcade usually involved joysticks and random button pushing. Classics include The Simpsons, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mortal Kombat. Each of these games was must-play, even if the only reward was losing a few too many quarters and not having enough money for a snack.
The interactive games relied less on virtual reality and more on a little bit of physical skill. Games like skeeball, pinball, and a crane game would all fall into this category. Others like virtual racing games where you control the steering wheel would be partly both. These types of games have developed a lot over the years. Beginning with a simple steering wheel to developing to the inclusion of pedals with a car seat, these games now demand some physical skill beyond the fingers to succeed.
In some arcades you can find decent valuable prizes. In most arcades though you had some classic duds.
The most popular prize at the arcade was always the spider ring. These were cheaply made plastic rings with, instead of a diamond, a spider. This was usually the lowest on the totem pole of prizes, typically taking a very small number of tickets to win. Still, you had to have as many as possible.
Other popular prizes included stuffed animals, sometimes won through crane games. However, the most sought after prize for many kids was the candy. These sugary treats were also cheap and easy to win. Many arcades included an “every play wins” candy crane game filled with expired candy older than our parents. While the game did live up to its name of handing out candy to every player, you were usually stuck with a half-melted Mary Jane.
An arcade’s atmosphere is probably what I miss most about these extinct places of fun. The noises, the colors, and everything else brought a familiar comfort and fear of breaking out into a seizure.
Walking into an arcade is the same feeling a gambling addict has whenever they enter a casino. The senses are all tingled and it takes a few laps around to know where everything is because the fun is so overwhelming.
Fellow arcade patrons often varied. Everything from young kids trying to win those coveted spider rings to adults unknowingly playing skeeball for hours in hopes of earning enough tickets to pick up a blender which could have been purchased for far less than what was spent on the games and in a quicker amount of time made up the clientele. Prizes outlined the walls with glass protectors to stop thieves from walking away with them. The flashing lights were probably the best constant feature in an arcade, symbolizing that victory was possible for anyone.