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Classic Games (Games) Games

'Old School' Arcade Still Popular In NYC 177

Posted by timothy
from the keeping-it-authentic dept.
pickens writes "In 2005, there were 44 licensed video game arcades in New York, according to the Department of Consumer Affairs; today, 23 survive. With the expansion of interactive online gaming, video game action has largely shifted to the home. 'Arcades are an anachronism now,' says Danny Frank, a spokesman for the Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York. 'They exist only in shopping malls.' But Chinatown Fair has become a center for all the outcasts in the city to bond over their shared love for a good 20-punch combo and 'old school' games that more popular arcades don't stock anymore — the classic Street Fighter II from 1991 and King of Fighters 1996, for example, as well as Ms Pac-Man and Time Crisis. 'Now, you can play a million people from all around the world,' says one player. 'For me, it's not the same as playing face-to-face. The young'uns may not care, but I do.'"
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'Old School' Arcade Still Popular In NYC

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  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld&gmail,com> on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:00PM (#33157760) Homepage
    Also Barcade in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn has an astounding number of working, old-school arcade games (Joust, Gauntlet, Dig Dug, that generation), so it's worth visiting if you're into that stuff and can put up with the PBR-drinking, ironic-t-shirt and black-rimmed-glasses crowd.
  • Bar Arcades (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mconeone (765767) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:02PM (#33157768)
    What about Dave & Buster's/Gameworks? Although straight-up arcades are rare, these places are somewhat common.
  • Joystix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:13PM (#33157830)

    Joystix [joystixamusements.com] in Houston is pretty damn popular as well. Every first and last Friday of the month, the bar next door sells $15 wristbands that get you in to the showroom, where everything working is on free play aaaaallllll niiiiight (well, until last call...). They've got an arcade machine that pre-dates pong (they don't turn that one on...) all the way to up games that are almost kinect-like (seriously, they had a rail-shooter that, instead of stepping on a pedal, it watched which way you dodged out of the way and did that). It's freakin' awesome. And because it's a repair/resell shop, the stock is constantly rotating, so there's always something new. It's an arcade gamer's paradise. Except when some stupid singles group sets up an outing.

    Sorry if that sounds like an advertisement... I'm there every chance I get, and I think I've dragged every one of my friends along at some point. I needed somewhere new to proselytize.

  • by MunchMunch (670504) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:14PM (#33157840) Homepage
    I've lived in New York City for years, a few years back, and I determinedly Googled trying to find arcades. I found about two. Now I've moved back, and would really like to find these 23 arcades, wherever they are.

    How do you find the arcades? Do Slashdotters know of any other good NYC arcades?
  • by dannyastro (790359) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:24PM (#33157904)
    If you want really "old school", check out the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, CA (near Oakland) - http://pacificpinball.org/ [pacificpinball.org]. They have pinball machines from the 1930's to 2000's, with a big collection of "woodrail" and "wedgehead" games. No video games. Only pinball (and an odd electromechanical rifle game here and there).
  • Re:Bar Arcades (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:49PM (#33158016)

    The one in Times Square is decent. Course any business there has to try much harder.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:49PM (#33158018) Homepage Journal

    . . . in NINETEEN SEVENTY SEVEN.

    It was a Junior high school field trip to Chinatown. Other than seeing a bum sleeping on the street, and picking up a copy of ANALOG with a Joe Haldeman story, I don't remember anything else BUT this arcade.

    A tough kid offered to sell us switchblades.

    We played the "chicken" games.

    If there were video games, I don't remember them specifically. But they'd certainly be old school stuff that make the "classics" mentioned above seem science fictional.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday August 05, 2010 @11:51PM (#33158026) Journal
    A museum of video games would try and buy up every game ever made. Then people could pay admission to visit for the day and play every video game the museum collected. The goal of the museum is to own every video game ever made.
  • Re:Bar Arcades (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moryath (553296) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:02AM (#33158084)

    They must be the only one. I know a number of people who work, or have worked, in D&B's across the country. None of the ones at 10 different locations had anything resembling maintenance at any time. They were instructed basically to lie to the customers and just say "yes, we know, the repair guy is coming tomorrow" when it was reported, even though they KNEW it would never fucking get repaired.

    The only things that ever got repair were the pseudogambling machines - the skeeball, coin-drop, and other ones that passed out the tickets that you redeem for crappy-ass "prizes" at the ticket booth.

  • by Travco (1872216) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:02AM (#33158088)
    Having been a Video game service person in the early 80's I can tell you why your dream can't come true. Many of the early games depended on short run parts that were unreliable and are now Gone. Most of them could be emulated with no trouble but then you could have the museum in your own home (MAME)
  • by coughfeeman (608160) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:03AM (#33158096)
    I remember this place in the 80's. My parents would take us out to Chinatown every week from the 'burbs to get some "real" groceries, and my brother and I would beg for a quarter so we can play a game. That was the one and only place I've ever seen the the machine where you can play Tic-Tac-Toe with a live chicken.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:07AM (#33158112)

    I grew up in arcades and absolutely loved them. They were a huge, huge part of my life and the next biggest social hub outside of school to meet people -- well, other geeky boys like yourself, other than the legendary Arcade Gamer Girl who existed but was rarely seen.

    Sadly arcades are dead. Why? The technology. Arcades had games based on the absolute forefront of technology and every vendor was trying to beat each other with better sound, flashier graphics, and more interesting gameplay. Once games went to 3D the technology abruptly plateaued and nobody could do 'better' anymore, just 'the same'. Plus this technology brought arcade quality games home around the time of the PSX/Saturn, both of which had a huge number of arcade ports (and the PSX hardware went on to power many an arcade game).

    Will the ever come back? No. There's no money to be made. Today's 3D games cost such an insane amount of money to develop that nobody wants to take risks. That's why they go with safe bets like Tiger Woods Golf or some dancing game and truly unique, original titles like Bayonetta are few and far in between.

    OK, so what does an arcade fan do in light of this? Collect games! Arcade games are absolutely dirt cheap, most of them are easily interchangeable in one cabinet (1 cab, many PCBs), and there's nothing like owning your favorite games.

  • Aah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:25AM (#33158176) Homepage Journal
    There was a good solid decade between 1978 and 1988 when you could go into any mall and you'd hear the arcade from a mile away. I'd make a bee-line for 'em and blow any quarters I had on me. They always turned the games up way too loud, and the most distinctive sound was the falling bug from centipede. Going to the arcade was a very sensory experience.

    Occasionally you'd get lucky and they'd have a new machine in that you'd never seen before. All arcades seemed to have that new-electronics smell. Occasionally you'd find a broken control, but a lot of the guys who worked in those places could actually fix the machines, and they always seemed to have spare parts on hand.

    They were on their decline with the 90s. I remember being horrified upon discovering an upscale mall in Florida that didn't have an arcade. Eventually this became the norm. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. I'm glad to have been growing up in that time.

    If I ever get back to New York, I'll have to go looking for one of these places, if only for the chance of hearing those bugs falling one more time.

  • by gameguy1957 (937850) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:15AM (#33158382)

    Believe it or not, there are several companies out there that have started to reproduce a lot of the hard to find items. With things like artwork there will only be a short run every few years for some of the more rare titles, but the more popular games have reproduction parts available from many vendors.

    There's a company that has actually reproduced the yoke for the Star Wars games and they are also looking into having the vector tubes reproduced for the old X-Y games. So the rare stuff is getting easier to find in some cases. It'll be expensive, but at least it's available.

    I picked up a Dragon's Lair cabinet a couple of weeks ago that has been converted to some generic 1990's era game. The area where the marquee mounted had been cut to allow a generic marquee to be installed. I can buy the replacement wood panels, marquee brackets, marquee plexi, and the repro marquee itself to restore the cabinet back to its original shape. So a few months of work and a few hundred dollars in parts will get this classic back into working shape.

  • Such a shame (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:07AM (#33158558)

    The arcade industry here in Japan is still thriving - I myself go to one in the middle of Shinjuku most days after school to play Border Break or goof off on other games. It's one thing I'm really going to miss once I head back to the States in a week and a half(among other things). Living in a suburb in central Jersey doesn't help in that regard too much after having lived in Tokyo.

    I suppose it's easier for arcades to survive in cities, where people commuting to and from work/school can stop by there and play a few rounds of Street Fighter or something, but the difference in gamers' tastes and preferences between America and Japan is like night and day. A lot of gamers my age and older(mid-to-upper 20s) seem to prefer older games almost as a result of the rise of stay-at-home Internet-connected game systems, whereas here in Japan people of all ages are always psyched about the next Gundam vs Gundam or Street Fighter or whatever the new big deal is. Maybe if we had up-to-date brand-new arcade games in the US, people would be more into it, but the difficulties in localizing arcade games from a country halfway around the world seem rather obvious.

    I'm just rambling, so don't mind this anonymous coward who can't remember if he has a /. account or not.

  • by jlb.think (1719718) on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:13AM (#33158580)

    But you can't have it legally on your home built MAME machine (at least with EVERY game you could think of). The various MAME cabinets that you see in arcades get most of the popular ones though, and you can buy those machines.

    Buying old broken machines allows you to do a full restoration, exempting hardware, that flawlessly plays classic games. When you buy the machine with the ROMs, or a machine from an owner you bequeaths you all rights including his right to all information on the ROMs all lost parts, et cetera, then get the right to run the game. You can buy a crapped out box and gain the legal rights to a full restoration in a commercial or private environment. Someone could probably make a hand-some amount of money selling replica machines with the rights they gain. One could even secure the old ROMs inside a new case as proof of its legality. Emulation has made it so some of the very fun cult classics could make their way back into bars, or even in gamer cafe's. One game on a machine, period. Mastering a really hard game makes one want to play more. Anyone who has ever played Defender:Stargate understands the urge to pump in more quarters to get a shot at them Yllabians.

  • by mbstone (457308) on Friday August 06, 2010 @04:09AM (#33158894)

    I arrived in '75 for my freshman year at NYU, and I was one of a group of students who hung around the pinball machines at the dorm. Steve was a fellow student, known as a wheeler-dealer and an elite scalper who could get you front row at Madison Square Garden for anything, the Who, the Stones, sections A and R, front orchestra. We would serve as his ticket-buying crew, often lining up all night behind the metal barricades of the MSG box office. Anyway, Steve somehow wrested the dorm pinball concession away from the existing operator. I got the job of pinball repairman. The pinball machines of '75 were strictly electromechanical Gottliebs and Willamses which, of course, used lots of relays, solenoids and stepping motors. In '76 the first solid state (TTL) machine came out, Spirit of '76. No more relays and stepping motors, only the solenoids and contact sensors (e.g. rollovers and bumpers) remained. What an interesting challenge to go from troubleshooting electromechanical logic to TTL! We had a Pong, but the first real arcade vidgame was Atari Starship One followed by some submarine-hunt game with a periscope. Next came Breakout, Clean Sweep, and Lunar Lander, followed closely by Asteroids, Pac-Man and Galaxians. These last were huge moneymakers; Steve decided to expand. He set himself up as vidgame and pin purveyor to various candy stores and bodegas. One of these was out in Flushing, Queens, it was called Space Age Amusements. One day I get a service call that all of the machines have gone haywire. I observe that it is a hot summer day. I remember the National Semiconductor TTL Handbook and that the operating temperature range for commercial grade TTL ICs is 0-100 degrees F. I tell Steve I have to go and get some boxer fans from one of the (former) electronics surplus stores on Canal Street. He thinks I'm nuts, but after I put the fans in the back of the machines they suddenly started working again (and the game OEMs started building fans into their products). Now Steve thinks I'm a genius. He calls me "the fan man." The mob owned the machine distributors, probably still do, and occasionally we would go out to Jersey or Pennsylvania to buy the equipment. One time I'm driving this van Steve borrowed from this mob guy. I stop for some cannoli on 11th street and park the van on the street. Unfortunately the wiseguy never paid his NYC parking tickets and the van got towed. Steve and I had to go and explain to the mob guy what happened to his van. That was an experience I won't soon forget.

  • Keep it Real, NYC. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by keatonguy (1001680) <`keaton.prower' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday August 06, 2010 @04:45AM (#33159004)

    We've got places like this back west in good ol' Portland, Oregon. There's a Barcade downtown that's all ages by day that rocks it just like this, and a pizza place nearby with some classics including an original Pac-Mac cabinet. The Wunderland is pretty solid too, especially since everything there costs 25 cents or less, but it's mostly ticket games these days.

    I'm still holding out hope for an arcade 'revival' of sorts. The idea of video games as a communal pastime has a lot of merit, all it'll take is a bright spark of an idea, the lure of something you can't do with a home console to incite the gamers from their living rooms, dungeons, and desktops and back into the epileptic glow of the arcade.

  • by halowolf (692775) on Friday August 06, 2010 @05:17AM (#33159072)
    Back home they always tried to shutdown the dedicated arcades for 'Attracting an undesirable element'. ie more than 5 kids in one place at a time. Admittedly one of them was a dank dark hole of a joint and I wasn't sad to see that one go, but the other was a lovely bright affair with great games and not a single bad element in site, well not counting the kids, and there was never any trouble there.

    The only place we could rely on was the bowling alley and its rather good selection of games both arcade and pinball. Good luck trying to shut that place down, it was far too popular.
  • Re:Old School? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by discord5 (798235) on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:27AM (#33159352)

    Games from 1991-1996 are considered "old school" now? A person born in those years would be described as very young.

    1991 would mean that it's 19 years old, which for video games is pretty old. I do remember enjoying Street Fighter 2 a lot when I was 19 years younger, which seems like ages ago. What's perhaps more surprising about it is that aside from the sequels, this game has actually been ported, published, republished, ported again, overhauled, balanced, given new art, rebalanced, etc etc etc and people are still playing the latest incarnation from 2008 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.

    There's also a very active competition atmosphere surrounding Street Fighter, one that probably rivals the whole starcraft thing. The last event I noticed was EVO2010 [evo2k.com], which was live streamed over the internet as well. It's pretty impressive to see some of these players go at it.

    In a way, I'm a bit saddened that arcades are disappearing. We don't have a lot of cities with arcade halls here, but carnivals used to bring arcades with them. I would lose a lot of small coins to those machines, but over time the coins weren't so small any more as the prices went up. A few years after I stopped going to arcades at carnivals traditional arcade games disappeared for more lucrative things with prizes (robot arm grabbing stuffed animals, coin machine where prizes would drop down together with coins). I never really understood what's so fun about inserting coin after coin until some coins fall out and possibly a cheap watch or keychain. These days you're lucky if more than one arcade shows up at a carnival, and you're really lucky if they carry a few good arcade games. The cities where there are arcade halls have very few actual arcade machines, and are more focused on the really big stuff that takes up a lot of room: DDR machines, rythm games (think like guitar hero), and things like that.

    I guess the consoles have mostly obsoleted the arcade with multiplayer over the internet, even though it's quite not the same experience. From what I gather, arcades are still very popular in some Asian countries.

  • by Toy G (533867) <`toyg' `at' `libero.it'> on Friday August 06, 2010 @06:38AM (#33159388) Homepage Journal

    Dunno about NYC, but European coin-op distributors have always been controlled by mafia cartel, and they still are (although videogames have been replaced by videopoker, slots and partygames). They make for excellent money-laundering devices: low profile, wildly different volumes of income depending on location, very distributed, loose accounting. Many large arcades also doubled up as drug markets in the early 90s (dark, full of youngsters...), before the authorities started to crack down on the practice. Nowadays, you can still find very small arcades on small streets far from the city centre, but you wouldn't dream of actually enter the place unless you're somehow affiliated with the mob.

  • Re:Popular! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:24AM (#33160630) Homepage

    The place itself is still popular, not the medium. The medium only retains enough popularity to keep a relative small number of places in business, but among those who still enjoy it, this place is popular. It's one of the advantages of living in city like New York. In an area with 20 million people, all of whom can get to anywhere in the city fairly trivially on the subway, there's bound to be enough of a market to keep at least a few of any type of business afloat. Thus whenever you have whim to go to an arcade, or find a place to get a "fish pedicure", or entertain virtually any other whim, hobby, or perversion that might strike you: chances are there's a place to do it, and chances are you can get there on the subway.

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:44AM (#33162892) Journal

    When I hear arcade, my mind scrolls waaaay back to my youth, and the arcade down the street from my grandma's house. It had pinball, trampolines, a shooting gallery, mini-bowling, and bumper cars, for a start. I remember when they brought in the brand new video game! (Space Invaders, of course.) My older brother spent endless hours at it, but I was still content with my relatively new Triple Action pinball game [ipdb.org].

    That arcade is now a parking lot for oversized trailers. Sigh.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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