Back when I was an early teenager, the place to play video games was in a video arcade. Now this might sound strange in an era of unprecedented connectivity across the world, but people really did drive to the shops to play video games. Well, plead with mum to drive you to the shops. "PLEASE MUM!!!!!"
Yeah people had the choice to slam a cartridge in at home, but to play at a video game arcade was like donning a virtual reality headset. The arcade games were different, bigger, louder and more exciting. Plus you could play competitively with real people, outside of the limited options of siblings or annoying neighbours (seriously get your own Nintendo).
Who remembers jumping into the seat of a Daytona racing car and racing four actual people? How good was it! You would definitely gain more respect if you could win driving in manual. When to drop gears was the trick. Now playing against four people today is pretty easy and basic, but back then it was full immersion in a competitive environment you just could not get anywhere else.
I remember at my local video game arcade that they had a special deal on Sundays. I think from memory it was 30 dollars for unlimited play on all machines. That was money well spent let me tell you. Jumping from one type of game to the next, with no limitations of my money running out, was just awesome.
The gaming arcade was the place to test your ability on the various controls and gain some important street cred. Think of all the styles of controllers available to play; turn a steering wheel in NASCAR Daytona, pick up a gun in Time Crisis or Lethal Enforcers, or make three baskets in a row on NBA Jam and hit the turbo button for a monster slam dunk. To master them all seemed like an achievement worthy of the Jedi archives.
The ultimate way to prove your cool (yes I used the word cool) gaming skills in my view, was to master Street Fighter or Mortal Combat. Being good at those two games in particular was definitely a sure way to be achieve elite gamer status in any gaming arcade.
When the Nintendo 64 controller was eventually released, it started to show how diversified game play could be had at home by having three different positions to use the controller. It was a big leap with the analogue control stick, directional pad, trigger and shoulder buttons. Think of controllers today and how the format has slowly evolved. I think we take these developments for granted. Now we can play an eclectic number of games in multiple ways with people all across the world, all while sitting in our living room (or super awesome man cave).
The evolution of home gaming systems and controllers have had many incarnations over the years, think; Xbox Kinect, Nintendo Wii, rumble packs, gaming keyboards and mouse’s, touch pads, motion sensors, virtual reality headsets. All of these innovations are a little like the chicken and the egg when it comes to their relationship with where you saw it first.
In my opinion the partnership between the arcade and home video game systems has produced us the consumer, with so many options to invest our time. The advantages that the video arcades once had are now gone, let’s be honest. No one lines up to play at the arcade anymore. Video arcades at their peak generated the idea, and more importantly the expectation that games could be big, that they could be loud, competitive, and varied in how you play them. I only wish they were still worth a full Sunday of my time, because now I can finally drive myself.