35mm · Film photography · Photography

Seaside arcades

I tend to find seaside arcades a bit of a letdown nowadays. They mostly seem to contain kiddie rides, prize grab games, slot machines, and coin cascades. These things all have their charm, and when my kids were younger, would be a genuine source of amusement (and a drain on my wallet), but something has been missing for a long time now… Videogames.

It may be a coincidence of my age, but the arcades are largely synonymous with, well, arcade games. Even when I was quite small I remember early games like Pong, Boot Hill, Sea Wolf and Night Driver among others. Then I was around for the real emergence of games: Space Invaders, Asteroids, and a little later, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Defender and a whole slew of others. It was heaven.

The arcades would ring with the electonic sounds of the games, flashing attract sequences, and simple 8-bit tunes bleeping, blooping, and crashing as they drew players into this world of light and sound. A single £1 note would, when changed into coins, provide ten games on the machines. Sometimes this would be gone in a fragment of time if you chose difficult games that you were ill-prepared for, but if you knew your stuff you could play for a long time on such meagre funds.

As the years progressed games advanced in graphical and sonic fidelity. Gameplay became more complex. Multi-player experiences appeared (Gauntlet anyone?), and the cabinets gained features. But as the arcades advanced, so did home gaming systems. For a while they trailed their arcade big-brothers, but in the 90s the advent of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation finally drew level. Now you could truly have that arcade experience at home (well, except you missed tha cacophony of sound, the atmosphere, the groups of fellow games and all the other joys of being in an arcade).

Sadly, this meant the gradual decline of the video arcade. New machines became ever more specialised with light guns, custom cabinets that the player could sit in to fully experience the action, and all manner of other bells and whistles that were difficult, if not impossible, to recreate in the home. And the pricper play increased. Where once that £1 would have given you ten credits, not you got a single game for the same price, often with no guarantee that it would last any longer. Slowly, the arcade floorspace that had once been given over to rows of individual game cabinets was reclaimed by other attractions.

The heritage of the video arcade still remains, and there are nods to the Space Invaders and Pac-Man games of old, with large attractions that, upon gaining a score, spew tickets that can be exchanged fro prizes and novelties. It’s not the same as getting your name on the top of the score table though.

Please insert a coin
To defeat the invaders
You puny Earthling

Taylor Made Fun

Canon Sure Shot Supreme & Fujichrome Sensia 100 (expired 2003).

Taken on 27 May 2021

One thought on “Seaside arcades

  1. I, too, miss the arcades of yesterday. However, consider yourself at least mildly fortunate as where I’m at there are no longer arcades of *any* kind. None. It’s truly sad. Not just due to the disappearance of family-owned-and-run arcades, but indeed the disappearance of almost *all* real-world, family-owned, non-corporate-controlled experiences/pastimes/physical hangouts (e.g. skating rinks, bowling alleys, even movie theaters and movie rental stores, etcetera), younger people today don’t even know what real relationships/friendships are, I’m afraid. They never develop them because they never interact in the real world, at least not in any way that matters. As such, they don’t have any genuine understanding of or appreciation for the natural world, either. Their lives are total fantasies, all based around meaningless digital garbage, with no foundation on anything real in this world (i.e. tangible, physical, *actually* existing) or true relationships with others. Even a lot of older people have adopted this lifestyle, despite knowing better. It’s highly disturbing, to say the least. People need to get back to what’s real, before humanity loses itself altogether.

    That expired Sensia has held up great, by the way! 😉


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