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You Can't Go Home Again

Today, I'm helping out a friend and decide, I haven't been to my old arcade stomping grounds in a long time, I'll go there and have some laughs.

Shouldn't have bothered.

Remember, I'm a long time video game fan.  This particular haunt was the shit when I was younger.  The floor design was huge, rising and falling and sectioning off in different ways.  Each section had sort of its own game theme.  Great stuff.

Part of what happened to video games is they stopped being games.  Operators complained that each minute players played was a minute money was not going into the machine.  Continues or jumping in for fighting games became standard, and making the difficulty so that a game would either need to be fed in about three minutes or completely over in five became the standard.  As the quality of playtime suffered, people started leaving the arcade for home units and computers where you could actually have an experience.

It's reflected in the changes the place has gone through.  A third of that great old floor is now occupied by a laser tag arena.  There are approximately 17 game machines there.  The rest are redemption games that teach kids the joys of gambling at an early age.  Or you spin a giant wheel for redemption tickets.  A giant crane game.  A Stacker game that cost just south of three bucks a play and was over with, on average, in less than thirty seconds.  The video game machines there  had clearly seen better days.  A Fast And The Furious -- Tokyo Drift machine, one monitor was out, and the other clearly had shorted out capacitors (you learn to recognize these things when you spend as much time around them as I do).  The great Neo Geo machine with four games to choose from at 25 cents a play?  Gone.  T-Mek?  Gone.  Ms. Pac Man is in a forgotten corner, next to the only two pinball machines in the place.  They used to have three DDR machines and one Pump It Up.  Now, just PIU and Into The Groove.

I know times change and so do tastes, but this feels too much like a carnival, not a game hall.  Like, "You aren't here to play games and have fun, you are here to pump your money into our pockets as fast as possible.  Spend enough and you'll get some tickets for worthless crap you can get on eBay for far less than you paid us."

I used to dream of someday opening my own arcade.  Now, I feel like a dinosaur, the only one who remembers when people would share maps for the third key in Pac Man or argue about with was better, SFII or MK.  Or even watch others play, living vicariously through them.  We afficianados just aren't wanted anymore.

The times they are a changin'.  More's the pity.

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