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When arcades created heroes

I was over at 8bithacks.com reading a post about the Street Fighter arcade days and it had me thinking more about the impact of the loss of local arcades. Beyond the loss of honest to god face-to-face socializing, the baron arcade landscape robbed every small town of their local arcade hero.

Not to be confused with Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero,” the arcade hero was just as important. On-line play provides leader boards, which is great and all, but those lists typically span the entire world. Some games offer regional high scores but then it seems a region is my part of the country, or even the entire continent (like North America). This shrinks things down from a global scale but not quite to the point where you feel like you can accomplish anything.

Every arcade allowed someone to become a local champ, a hero to all other gamers in town. Not only did you aspire to become the champ but it was fun to watch the champ. Watching the best kid in the arcade whip nuts on your favorite gameĀ  was just awesome. It proved their dedication instantly and also proved that they were not (necessarily) cheaters. It gave your goal a face and a name, and somehow, because they lived in your town, you knew they could be beaten.

A local arcade also meant you could actually play against said champ. You’d get your ass handed to you immediately but you could at least step up and show that you had some guts, wanting to be better. Your chances of going up against the top player on-line on any given game is pretty slim. The pool is just so seemingly infinite that it makes it hard to get any feeling of true reward against a human opponent.

It’s like you only have one shot at being “good” on-line, and that’s if you are best in the world/region. There are no minor leagues and that’s exactly what the arcades gave you. It’s a lot easier and more fun to make a big splash in a small pond than it is doing a cannonball in the ocean. It also means you’ll have more readily available (good) competition, something that the on-line networks just can’t offer.

The arcades offered you notoriety, even if only at a local level. Today’s multiplayer rarely even makes that possible.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5_qhnWByA4[/youtube]

2 Comments

  1. King Tom King Tom May 5, 2009

    Good point. Never thought about the advantages of the local arcade over a world wide multiplayer experience, but there it is.

    I spent a lot of times in arcades in my younger days- particularly when I’d go on family vacations–it was one of the few things I looked forward to.

    One summer, for whatever reason, I really wanted to beat the Royal Rumble mode (using Mr. Perfect) on the old WrestleFest arcade game. My mother took me to the arcade early one morning, and I spent about a half-hour and a few too many quarters on the machine. I was down to my last opponent when all of a sudden some little kid walked up to the machine and put a quarter in. I was on the verge of being pinned, so I did what I had to do- as soon as I heard the quarter plink (and before he looked up at the screen), I hit the 1P button to use his quarter to refresh my energy, kicked out of the pin at 2.99 and used the PerfectPlex to dispatch whoever my foe was.

    Now, I can seemingly play WrestleFest whenever I want, but it’s not as fun as stealing that poor kid’s quarter.

    I wouldn’t want my kid hanging out in arcades all the time, but there’s something to be said for the experience- especially the one-on-one competition.

  2. Brian Brian May 13, 2009

    Article interview over at Kotaku takes on the online vs. arcade issue and I couldn’t agree more with the guy’s views. Online is for practice, arcades are for fighting. You just can’t beat standing next to your opponent while in battle. There are no easy outs in the arcade.

    At Kotaku: http://g2th.com/?p=82ec6a

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