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Thread: dedicated arcades of the 70s/80s/early 90s?

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    Banana (Level 7) gbpxl's Avatar
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    Default dedicated arcades of the 70s/80s/early 90s?

    I am too young to have remembered a time of buildings/building spaces that were solely designed for video game/pinball arcades and nothing else. I do remember a place at the mall circa 1994-1996 but having been only around 5 or 6 at the time I wouldve been too small to be able to reach any of the controls. All I remember was that it was really dark and there were a lot of flashing lights, teenagers going in and out and I really wanted to go in there haha.

    The only other times I really saw arcade machines during this time were at a local family fun park and also a game room in the basement of a resort. I guess there was another resort that had a Mortal Kombat 2.

    But yeah as far as going into a dedicated arcade with games like Shinobi, Donkey Kong, Ridge Racer, Arkanoid, Toki, Street Fighter 2... that is an era that I definitely missed out on sadly. Ive tried to do some research on arcades in Minnesota but havent come up with much. Most comments I read on Youtube talk about arcade machines in their local pizza joint in the 80s but nothing in the way of real arcades.

    Does anyone here remember going to these back then, or can tell me where they were, or still have photos of these places? Seems to be a bygone era and not much in the way of videos/photographs unfortunately.
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    I'm not sure I understand the question. Do you mean totally separate, detached retail spaces built to be nothing but an arcade? I'm not sure I've ever been to an arcade like that. But the mall local to me as a kid had a small arcade near the food court (it still did as of several years ago, the last time I was at that mall, so it might still be there for all I know). I remember a bigger arcade at a mall in that area. Can't remember if it was an earlier arcade in the same mall or at a farther mall. There was a strip mall in the area that had an arcade too. The local Chuck E. Cheese had a full traditional arcade on the second floor when I was a kid, while the rides and such were on the first floor. I've been to Chinatown Fair in NYC and GameWorks in Seattle (which had an awesome retro section when I went in the 90s). My college had an arcade room. I think that about covers the more traditional/dedicated arcades I've been too, but I've also been to barcades, Dave & Busters, conventions with arcade rooms, and plenty of places where they had a small number of machines (pizzerias, movie theaters, skating rinks, etc.)

    Even in the height of Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat/etc. arcade gaming, it wasn't necessarily all about big arcades. My husband often talks the active arcade gaming scene of NYC back in the 90s, when he and his peers would go from business to business to play, as word of mouth spread on which businesses had which games. All variety of businesses would have a machine or two. In NYC, big retail spaces are rare and crazy expensive, so dedicated arcades weren't really viable. Of course, these days, none of these business have any machines anymore.
    Last edited by Aussie2B; 12-15-2019 at 09:54 AM.

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    I get the feeling with most machines charging 25 cents per play, it wasnt financially viable for a business to have arcade machines as its sole revenue
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    I have read about full, dedicated arcades, and I've heard that there were a good number of businesses back then that may not have been full arcades, but did have a large chunk dedicated to arcade games. For instance, in my town there was a restaurant with an arcade room that had like 15 machines and a whole ticket system. They were open all the way until 2015.

    I imagine that most arcades back in the late 1970s through mid 1990s time period you're talking about would have been something like a restaurant, shop, etc with an arcade attached. Wiki says in 1982 there were 24,000 full arcades and 400,000 "arcade street locations", whatever that means. I think the dedicated arcades were really only viable in large numbers for a few years in the early-mid 1980s. The arcade industry was something like $3 billion in 1980, $8 billion in 1982, $4 billion in 1986, $6 billion in 1988, and back to $2 billion by 1991. A lot of dedicated arcades probably opened during that 1980-1982 period and had one of two things happen to them: they went out of business in 1983-1985 amid the video game crash, or they stuck it out, caught that second peak, and survived until the early 1990s.

    It wasn't the video game crash that killed off arcades. It was a bump in the road, but did a lot worse to home consoles than it did to arcades. Home console technology caught up to the arcades, and began to offer experiences not possible in the arcade. This really started to happen with the longer-form, narrative driven games that became popular in the NES era. That little gray box offered experiences that the arcade couldn't - like many-hours-long games with a fleshed out storyline. So did the Master System, it had a bit more of an arcade bent though. Atari bet on arcade-like gaming with the 7800 and took the L.
    Last edited by WelcomeToTheNextLevel; 12-16-2019 at 03:35 AM.
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    I used to go to full blown arcades when I was a young kid all of the time. When I first started going, I was too small to be able to reach the controls, so my mother would hold me up to play. I must have gotten too heavy because she eventually bought a stool for me to stand on, but eventually most arcades started supplying metal stools for kids to stand on that couldn't reach. I probably do have pictures of some of the birthday parties at the arcades we used to have, but it's likely all of us just eating pizza and cake and not so much the games. I was born in 1982, so the early arcade years are kind of hazy, but remember specifically playing Pac-Man, Tron, Arkanoid, Ikari Warriors, Dig Dug, Tapper, and a slew of other games. The Tron one was super exciting to me as a kid because I loved the movie. I remember the big blue joystick and the theme music blasting from it being mind blowing at the time. The arcade I frequented as a kid was mostly a big birthday place that also had kid games and go-karts. That was late 80's early 90's though. Honestly I bet my mother would be the better person to truely explain what true early arcades were like. I mostly just remember the actual games I played and not so much the experience of being in the arcade between 1983-1987. The rooms were usually slightly dark with all sorts of bleeps, bloops going on and the marquees all lit up.

    That being said, the closest way to emulate being in a true 80's arcade is likely at Funspot in Laconia, NH. They have arcade machines from all decades, but the third floor truly portrays what it was like.

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