Arcades, are they ever coming back?
Arcades. Not the misleading lengths of shops, but the dimly lit change magnets located in odd parts of town, typically by the sea.
I have missed the arcades for years. Any recent trips to seaside towns have eroded my sensory rich gaming memories with sad bordered up fast food stalls and a lingering everyone-used-to-smoke-here musty carpet smell.
I often wonder if there is a way to induce their return that isn’t just replicating hazy nostalgic memories, coupling them with expensive craft beer and a dishing them out as bullet points of why you should visit a new quirky bar on the fringe of prolific gentrification.
Arcades were for everyone when I was a kid, not just for beard stroking enthusiasts who have nailed every combo in street fighter. The barrier to entry at these nostalgia houses is too high. Alternative places like Namco museum in London are so depressing and trite that I cannot consider them as a viable alternative.
Even if Namco museum allows kids and teenagers the opportunity of entry (of which most arcade bars don’t), they seem to exist merely as portals into their parent’s fuzzy idea of what arcades used to be and end-up being another free wifi signal and device charging station next to a McDonalds.
However, I do feel like the arcade is resurfacing. It’s trying to burst through the past and back into mainstream culture — not in the way that you’d slip a coin into a glowing orange rectangle and hit credit, but in the way that you agree to the iTunes terms of service and re-enter that number across the top of your credit card signature strip.
Yes, I am saying that the modern app store is well on its way to ape the arcades of yesteryear. But there is no physical incarnation of this… yet.
There weren’t any games in old-school arcades where you’d swap physical money for digital gems (not that I can think of), so my comparison of the app store to arcades comes in the most straightforward way: gameplay. Arcade games were small time gobblers, their intention to give maximum fun over the shortest period of time with enough satisfaction to persuade you to drop in another seemingly insignificant shard of silver.
This game design methodology is now so common place on the app store that each bite sized chunk of game feels like a small part in a connected coin-op experience. Ads as currency instead of physical coinage — but this could change.
Just like how the home console killed the arcades, the smartphone has come to overshadow the console. I like to think this could give way to a new breed of arcade — one where the physical cabinets glisten with the Crossy Road chicken or the oddly rotund Gang Beast fighters. A place where kids could actually relate to the characters and the graphics aren’t in neanderthal 8-bit.
For a moment, think of the sheer number of mobile games if presented in modern cabinet form you’d sink money into? For me, the list is huge and it got me thinking just over a year ago that we should make something that represents this idea at GLITCHE.RS
KANO, launching May 13th, is that arcade concept baked into an app.
Already a multi-platform, localised smartphone app, KANO plans to move the arcade out of the pocket with a version for the pebble time smartwatch and eventually (fingers crossed) an arcade cabinet version with physical controller.
This is my own way of pushing forward the idea of the modern arcade.
This future arcade could help be an answer to parental worry over extended isolated game sessions and inspire a new horde of kids to play together and sink their pocket money into the next-generation of arcade style games.
The by-product would be a new eco-system — an extension to the digital app store. A physical space for everyone that’s designed to engage players and showcase fresh new games that can also be downloaded to players smartphones for local play and extended revenue.
The future of the arcade? I sincerely hope so.