Every so often, I get wistful and find myself missing a very large part of my childhood and early adulthood: Video Arcades. In the days before you could have multiple consoles in every house, video arcades were the primary way to play games, and I took advantage of that every chance I got.
When I was a child, in the nearby semi-city there were two major malls. At one point, both of them had arcades, but towards the end, only one of them did. But what would happen is that when we’d go there to shop, my mother would take us to do the shopping that she needed us with her for, and then let us go off to play games at the arcade for a while. So, in some sense, it was a way to keep us occupied while she did the boring sorts of shopping that, at that age, we probably wouldn’t sit still for, and also a way to let us go out and have some fun on that trip ourselves. And it was great. I played Kung-Fu Master, some kind of karate game (with a judge that gave points and judged who won in a rather stilted voice), Battlezone, Track & Field, the first and second WWF games, and a number of others. There was also an arcade in the town where I went to school, and I played a number of the same kind of games there.
I also used to stay with my grandparents in the summers, and there they had an arcade as well. That’s where I played the Star Wars arcade game, the Star Trek arcade game and other games.
When I went away to university, the university had two arcades, one in the Student’s Centre and one in the Residence Commons. As I lived on or very near campus my entire time at the university, I played a lot in that arcade, from another wrestling game, to the Wayne Gretzky hockey game, to the X-Men and Avengers arcade games, to Street Fighter (I forget which version) to the Star Trek pinball game to Mortal Kombat to the Street Fighter game based on the movie to Dark Stalkers and … well, a host of others. One that stands out and that I really miss is that Star Wars pinball game.
Even while working, I went to arcades when I could, but even then they were getting hard to find. My group went on a couple of informal and unofficial trips to a nearby amusement park, and I always set aside some time to go off by myself and play some arcade games. That was really the last gasp of my arcade gaming career.
I miss arcade games. In some sense, I’m happy to be able to game far more and probably far better at home, on my own, without having to wait for others to get off the machines, or worry about crowds, or annoying people. But, still, there was something about playing on the machines themselves that I somehow miss.