Arcades used to be the “cool” place to hang out, dark with bright flashing lights, sounds of laughter and machine sirens going off, filled with kids and teenagers using their pocket-money to play one more round of Dance Dance Revolution.
I recently visited one of the few game arcades still in existence in a busy family entertainment centre and was shocked to find it deserted, a lot of out-of-order signs hanging on the game machines, and a few children that don’t look too excited to be in there. What has happened to this cool hangout spot? Has arcades lost its appeal??
It seems so, with social and technology advancements, the arcade has gone from the coolest hangout spot to the loser hangout spot. As games becomes more social, we become less social. Games like World of Warcraft and Farmville drive high levels of social interaction between gamers but these interactions are happening in a virtual environment. Children prefer virtual environments for the sake of their privacy, their increased confidence as players are anonymous, they can be whoever they want to be and of course the convenience of not leaving home. The appeal of the virtual environment out-stands that of the physical environment, making game arcades, a not so social place to be.
People prefer comfort and convenience. With today’s increase in the middle income market and high demands, it’s easier for a parent to purchase a game rather than taking the child to the arcade. The child can play the game an unlimited amounts of time, at any time they want and in the comfort of their homes.
And of course, arcade technology is dying out. It is difficult to attract customers when your latest games are over a decade old. With new advancements in technology and gaming, the inventions of Xbox and Wii, HD graphics, 3D animations and virtual environments have left arcade games to be a thing of the past. It will take a really great arcade game to grab and maintain the attention of a player nowadays due to the bar being set so high by other gaming companies and technologies.
Technology and gaming have definitely sky-rocketed and those that cannot keep up with it, eventually fades into the background or die out. Should arcades look at reinventing themselves, may be they could become an experiential playground for children, a learning arena or should they just be a thing of the past?
Arcade dying: Playing video games in public has lost its luster by Erik Chalhoub, 1 July 2011 (GamesBeat).