No matter where video games go from here, there’s one thing that’s for certain: Gamers won’t be starved for options. From smartphones to consoles to tablets to computers, getting plugged into a video game is effortless. It’s everywhere and in great supply.
But that’s certainly a far cry from my childhood, when games were these amazing rare mythical creations that existed either on very expensive PCs or on limited consoles with cartridges that cost enough that you never had that many. Or, as my mind thinks back today, as arcade cabinets sprinkled throughout the world.
Sure, there were arcades themselves, huge rooms filled with games, and those were always the best treat of them all. Being given a cupful of quarters and set loose into a room to ping-pong between different games was a heady way to blow an hour.
However, arcade cabinets didn’t just exist there. My childhood memories recall plenty of places where you’d spy a cabinet and then beg your parents for a quick quarter and a game, such as at supermarkets or in the waiting areas of restaurants. I loved going to the market with my dad on Saturday because they had a Pole Position and a Dig Dug there, and I got whatever change was left from the groceries. Good stuff.
I also remember those weird cocktail table arcade cabinets that you’d find in, say, Pizza Hut. You’d play looking down, and sometimes there’d be a two- or four-player option that would flip the screen for multiple participants.
Of course, another thing that I recall is how intentionally hard these games were. They certainly weren’t the same version that you’d get on home console. Titles like Super Mario Bros. or Castlevania would come for your throat, and unless you were amazingly talented, you’d be looking at a 45-second session at most for your quarter.
The last time I saw an arcade game outside of a specialty place was in a Red Robin, and my kids still begged me to take a break from eating to go play a game. I always let them because, why not? Those cabinets are a dying breed.