This weekend I attended my buddy Scott’s bachelor party. It was a great time, but I found one thing disconcerting… “the arcade.” Now, I come from an age where arcades were everywhere: hotels, airports, Wal Marts, Pizza Huts, malls, and even grocery stores. In the 1980s and 1990s you couldn’t flick a booger without hitting an arcade cabinet. Orlando was home to a few of biggest arcades I had ever seen, including, but not limited to, Mystery Fun House and Rocky’s Replay. Sadly, both are now gone, and Rocky’s is a pathetic shell of its former self. Let us travel through time, to an age where arcades were forbidden lands of mystery.
Age 10 – The Goldmine – The mall I went to as a wee lad had a dank arcade designed to look like an abandoned Goldmine. I remember it being foggy (with smoke) and very cold (probably not unlike an actual gold mine). Goldmine was home to one of Lee county’s oldest urban legends; The Goldmine switchblade stabbing. You see, according to what we heard, someone went mad while playing games inside the Goldmine and went on a stabbing spree. This mystery stabber even managed to kill some poor sucker by stabbing them in the throat… Needless to say our parents hated us going in there, but we went anyway.
Age 15- Tilt – Goldmine eventually closed down and in its place we were given “Tilt”. Tilt was brightly illuminated and spread out. Unlike Goldmine, Tilt didn’t allow smoking, so there was no indoor smog. Everything felt crisp and fresh. It was here that I skipped school and played arcade classics such as Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Combat. Quarters were placed onto machines, and random enemies were often sent packing. It was pure nerd adrenaline.
Age 20 – Rocky’s Replay – Arcades were slowly starting to vanish, but Rocky’s Replay stood strong and proud. A standalone arcade in a decent part of town Rocky’s was home to hundreds of arcade cabinets new and old. They had a great pin-ball section, and even had some crazy cabinets imported from Japan. It was a fantastic time, and the parking lot was often filled with people from all walks of life. Then something happened.
Now – Rocky’s a smoking Barcade – I hate to pick on Rocky’s because they actually had little control over what happened to them. After getting in a tiff with the city they were forced to move and change their M.O. Gone are the hundreds of arcade cabinets, the import games, and dare I say … the fun. In its stead we are sadly given “Rocky’s A Smoking Barcade” (queue price is right failure music). Now, It’s not the bar atmosphere that was a let down, it’s the fact they currently have 16 cabinets. Going from hundreds of games to 16 is a travesty. As for the games themselves, they were in disrepair, glare from the outside reflected off pathetically faded screens…you get the drift.
What can be done? Sadly, not much. Times have changed. People are no longer eager to plop tokens into a machine to play some crappy game, when they can spend less money to OWN a game on their portable cellular device. Arcades started to die when the technology at home started to eclipse the technology within those cabinets. X-box live, MMOs, and cell-games have become the new social arcade experience. I for one would still like to angrily place a quarter on some stranger’s machine and let them know that they have a new challenger.
Stride gum recently started a campaign to “SAVE THE ARCADE“, drop by their site and see what you can do to help.
It is sad to see the neat arcarde environment going, i wonder if arcade only hits will also slowly dwindle, pinball machines? the old racing simulators? Perhaps amusement parks will hold onto the last bits so you can see them there. Keep up the good work Ash!
I have hope for the arcade. The idea works in Japan…even if they are crazy and do nothing but play Bubble Bobble and crazy rhythm games.
I think arcades just need to adjust with the times. In 1985 you couldn’t dream of having the power of an arcade game in a home console. Now with a PC and a giant LCD you can do anything an arcade can do. They just can’t compete. For an arcade to really work on a level beyond nostalgia I think it needs to offer something new. We need virtual reality, we need complete immersion, holograms, touch screens…we need a Holodeck.
Rocky’s used to excel in their pinball selection. They were also one of the last places in the country to have and maintain an F-Zero AX machine, which allowed players to transfer cars and save data between the cabinet and the GameCube F-Zero at home. I felt like the things that were hits at (the old) Rocky’s were the pinball machines, dance games, air hockey, and shooters.
Surprisingly, I even feel like Disney Quest is beginning to suffer as well. With the Kinect and 3D TV at home, some of their unique attractions are starting to show their age. They still have great classic and modern game selections, but last time I visited DQ there were too many “out of order” cabinets as far as Disney experiences are concerned.
Cohen is right, what arcades need to offer is immersion in the forms of simulation hardware — HMDs, holograms, and the like.
Rockys made me sad.
@Ash – you left out the Japanse street racing game cabinets that were next to each other yet not connected. 1st place for everyone!
I’m glad Scott still had a decent time. I was sort of shocked at what Rocky’s had become. I also love leaving an arcade and smelling like I was just at a Motorhead concert.
Yeah dude, two words: Ice Ball. Plus arcade shooters are still tremendously better than console games. How hard is it to sync a light-gun up to a console… seriously?
I miss Goldmine very much, there was a location in my hometown mall – Coastland Center, Naples Florida. I grew up in that arcade, I don’t remember any smoking in that one though. One of the better themed Arcades i’ve ever been too, dark, cold, and had “rocks” and Lanterns on the walls.
I also remember a couple iterations of a place called “Arcade City” it kept moving around town.