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Games Entertainment

Talking With Nolan Bushnell 90

Milktoast writes " has posted their interview with gaming legend Nolan Bushnell. The arcade guru who founded Atari, invented Pong, and started Chuck E. Cheese talks about the decline of the arcade, education, robotics, and gaming as a narrative. "
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Talking With Nolan Bushnell

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  • fast comment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by halftrack ( 454203 )
    Make the games small, easy, but mentaly challenging. That's whats going to make tomorrows Einstein
  • by Balinares ( 316703 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @07:50AM (#2272698)
    First of all I don't accept the premise that consumer games have hurt the arcades. The arcades have hurt themselves. The games in the arcades have not kept pace in a lot of the things, and they have gotten too complex for a lot of casual players and casual interaction.

    No, they've not just become too complex. They've become sh*t. Last time I've been to the arcades, all there was fit into three categories: 1) 3D fighting games, 2) 3D racing games, 3) 3D shooting games. All very nice-looking, but designed so that a game lasts a very short time, for the local equivalent of more than $1.
    If they had kept the trend where games were actually GOOD, with a rich and enjoyable gameplay, and where you could spend hours playing without spending too much money (anyone else remember Toki, Hammerin' Harry, Legend Of Hero Tonma? I loved them!), there would be no freaking decline of the arcade. 'Nuff said. :)
    • by coreman ( 8656 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @08:04AM (#2272726) Homepage
      I think the dawn of the decline was back in the laserdisk game days when games became series of decision points with binary outcomes. I can still remember standing next to players that were ranting "right left up left left" without anything like "shoot him and then go over there and get that one before he comes down this side". Certainly there were formulas for advancing levels in the shoot 'em ups but in the decision tree games there were limited numbers of paths that made the game a fixed sequence of meaningless moves far sooner. The video game escaped the randomness of the pinball game in order to limit playtime and generate revenue.
    • For me, you can't beat a good 'ol pinball machine.

      Requires fast reflexes, quick thinking, and the better you are the better you longer you play for (with no upper boundary). What more could you ask for?
    • 1) 3D fighting games, 2) 3D racing games, 3) 3D shooting games.

      You seem to have left out 2D fighting games. And games like Dance Dance Revolution. And sports games. And Gauntlet Legends.

      Why would someone go to an arcade to play Toki or Hammerin' Harry when they could play them in the comfort and privacy of their home?
    • by Erasmus Darwin ( 183180 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @09:27AM (#2272902)
      "1) 3D fighting games, 2) 3D racing games, 3) 3D shooting games"

      What it really boils down to is a single category of "games which have a physical arcade advantage over home game systems". Fighting games -- two joysticks and a steady stream of opponents. Racing games -- steering wheel, pedals, and (sometimes) movement of the entire game. Shooting games -- dual guns with better performance than home systems (continuous tracking versus tracking when someone shoots).

      Now that home systems can generally compete with the big boys as far as graphics go, it's really just about the peripherals.


        Their Force RS, RS Shifter, and Performance Pedals make a home PC racing peripheral setup that rivals anything in the arcades.

        Total cost for all three pieces is ~$300. You can buy the pieces separately, so you can spread the cost out over time.

        Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed at 1280x1024 on a 21" monitor with that setup easily bests any driving game I've seen in the arcade in the past 2 years.
    • by GTRacer ( 234395 ) <gtracer308@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Monday September 10, 2001 @12:53PM (#2274050) Homepage Journal
      (I don't have time to read the 300+ messages here, so forgive me if there's a redundancy)

      The decline for me came when arcades shifted from mostly-unlimited skills-based games to time or resource-limited luck-fests.

      I can name a dozen games from "back in the day" that I could play for 30 minutes to a couple of hours on one play. I didn't care if it cost 25 cents or a buck. The point was I could play as long as my skill (and maybe a little luck) held out.

      My best example? The original Atari Star Wars sit-down vector unit. I could easily play until I gave up because I had memorized the patterns and as long as I executed my moves and avoided things, I played until my bum fell asleep. My best game was a 5.5 hour marathon which saw me rolling over 99 levels and scoring over 32 mil. I finally walked away because the clots in my legs were breaking free and headed to my brain.

      Nowadays, with the exception of pinball, I can't readily name any games where you can play based on skill. It's either timed, lapped, or rounded in such a way that you finish in about 5-10 minutes, regardless. And no free plays, either!

      I still like arcades, but at least on my PS2, DreamCast and N64, I can keep at it until I decide it's time to quit.

      - DC + Internet + pr0n = Odd...

    • Last time I've been to the arcades, all there was fit into three categories: 1) 3D fighting games, 2) 3D racing games, 3) 3D shooting games.

      Take another look! In addition to the categories you cite, the latest imports include: (1) dancing games like Dance Dance Revolution (jump around on a big grid of buttons) and Para Para Paradise (wave your arms in the air). (2) Distance motion-capture games like Mocap Boxing and that Police Trainer game where you duck to avoid being shot. (3) Music games like Guitar Freak and Drum Freak where you play simplified instrumentals to impress your friends. (4) simulations of sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and beach volleyball.

      Most of these games rely on expensive, sophisticated controllers and produce a much better arcade experience than is practical to reproduce at home.

      If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the Sunnyvale Golfland Arcade as a preview of good things to come. They are on top of this trend to the point of importing the Korean version of games when the US versions are slow to arrive.

      • (1) dancing games like Dance Dance Revolution (jump around on a big grid of buttons) and Para Para Paradise (wave your arms in the air).

        Oh, I actually played DDR on a Playstation + floor button grid + big screen system at a party. It was a lot of fun, mostly because 1) I played for long without paying much, 2) I was kinda drunk. :)

        (2) Distance motion-capture games like Mocap Boxing and that Police Trainer game where you duck to avoid being shot. (3) Music games like Guitar Freak and Drum Freak where you play simplified instrumentals to impress your friends.

        Never seen those over here so far (I live in the Old World, mind you :)). I'll be sure to check them out when they import them.

        (4) simulations of sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and beach volleyball.

        Oh, I counted the first three as 3D racing games. I've never seen the fourth kind.

        Anyway, thanks for the interesting answer. :) Those are still expensive and time-limited games, though, or so I'll assume anyway, so my general point (that other Slashdotters have expressed better, too) still sticks, I think. But thanks for the precisions -- I'll be sure to watch for the kinds of games you mention. :)
  • by Jetson ( 176002 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @07:51AM (#2272700) Homepage
    The article complains that today's games are too complicated to allow casual players to have any fun. That much is true. One of the big things that got me away from the arcade was the rising prices. When arcades were at their peak in the early 80's it was common for my classmates and I to buy a roll of quarters ($10) and make it last at least a day or two. Then as the technology improved the prices started rising. It wasn't enough for them to charge $.50 or $.75 per game, but they also started with the "renewable" game where you had to keep feeding quarters if you wanted to keep playing. Next thing you know, that $10 roll doesn't last 'till dinner. Teenagers have always been the demographic that played games, and at the time we just couldn't afford to start bringing $20 bills every day. I think the trend toward home game systems has a lot more to do with economics than people realize. Sure, the technology is great and the convenience of playing at 3am in your skivvies is enticing, but the big issue for a lot of parents is the fact that they don't have to give the kid a $20 and send him/her out to play.
  • Pong was not invented. It was discovered.
    • Actually, he didn't "invent" pong, that was invented by Willy Higinbotham in 1958, though it is debatable if it can be considered a "video game". Otherwise, credit goes to Ralph Baer at Magnavox for creating the Odyssey 1 pong game.

      Nolan's claim to fame (and importance here) is that he took the concept and put it in a quarter gobbling box that went into pubs and generated revenue.

      And that's all I've got to say about that...

    • I have to let out a loud Sigh every time I see someone trot out Nolan Bushnell and worship him as the "father of the coin-op industry".

      I wish the interviewer would ask him about all the failed companies he's been involved with since Atari/Chuck E Cheese. Axlon, Sente, Aristo, Playnet, and the soon-to-be-doomed uWink (aka HoodWink, thanks Steve!). Every single time the scamsters COUGH COUGH I mean visionaries running the company bring Nolan on board as a Director or something, and parade him around the trade shows as the Guy Who's Going To Save The Industry. The company usually folds a year or so later, or gets delisted off the stock market.

      Maybe someday someone will bring up names like Higinbotham, Nutting, Jarvis, DeMar, Halley, and Logg as the real fathers of the arcade business.

  • On a website? I thought one of the advantages of the Net over tedious tv programs is that theres no time limit?
  • by flewp ( 458359 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @07:58AM (#2272718)
    I agree with Nolan Bushnell on his idea that gaming can help education on the K-12 level. I remember learning a hell of a lot more from a game when I was younger, because I needed to learn to win. I also had a better attention span for a game than a teacher pointing to a blackboard and saying "2 + 2 equals 4..." - at least in the games I could see immediate results.
    • by GregWebb ( 26123 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @09:10AM (#2272850)
      Part of the problem would seem to be the current culture. Oh, this is talking about the UK, I don't know what it's like in the US though I believe it can be pretty similar.

      The point being that young male culture currently regards academic success as a failure at life. Socially, the rewards are given for engaging with academic pursuits as little as possible and barely tolerating it as an intrusion on your life. There was a lovely tagling I saw recently, along the lines that it was sad to live in a society where knowing how to program your VCR lowered your social status.

      While educational success isn't a social win but a social loss, this performance is pretty much what's expected. Yes, games are always going to have the benefit of immediate reward, but when (youth) society is teaching the kids that they'll be happier if they _don't_ succeed at school, it's little surprise that games (a clearly recognised source of social status) are, in some ways, a more potentially valuable educational tool.

      There was an interesting article about this some time ago, which concluded that part of the problem was that most primary age teachers were female - so there weren't many educational role models for the young boys. Guys, maybe you should look again at teaching, even if just part-time in the voluntary sector.

    • You can't force a student to be engaged in a subject. If you tried, students might eventually associate coercion with learning. That would be disasterous.

  • by Denito ( 196701 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @08:02AM (#2272723) Homepage

    From the Article:
    First of all I don't accept the premise that consumer games have hurt the arcades. The arcades have hurt themselves.

    This guy may be a guru, and he's done a lot of cool things, but I think he's really overlooking a lot of factors by saying that arcades did themselves in. I used to visit a stereotypical 'shag-rug' arcade all the time, and the decline started just about Sega Genisis came about. I remember talking to the arcade owner, and his 'market research' said pretty much the same thing..

    Obviously, its a combination of factors-- but what killed the mall style arcade with the top 100 games was that the games weren't that much better than home systems!

    And to say that things got too complex.. well that depends on what kind of gamer you're going for! I used to love playing classic driving games (Remember Hard Drivin [], anyone?), but now all the arcade driving games are totally, well 'arcade like'..

    • but now all the arcade driving games are totally, well 'arcade like'..

      I agree, and I'd like to see a Gran Turismo Arcade game, with a damage model and vibration.
      On second thought, that might be a bad thing, I'd go broke.
    • I think that as consoles/computers got better, the arcades got chased "upstream". Most new arcade games have special controllers, huge screens, many have force feedback. New games are all about being life-like, And now, as graphics are approaching the "reality asymptote", there seems to be no point at producing something like Space invaders anymore. It's just like what happened when The Movies got in-home competition from TV: Technicolor, Panavision, and higher prices.

      In our world, movies and arcades are now entertainment EVENTS: an activity you plan, and are willing to spend serious cash for. I can't think of any hole-in-the-wall-in-the-mall arcade around me anymore--they are all huge, or are in conjunction with Mini-golf, inside bars, or inside restaurants. The games have been designed with these economics in mind.

    • Wow Hard Drivin was my all time favorite driving game. Does anyone know how much these old arcade games go for? Where would you buy these machines? And most importantly how do I convince my wife that this is a good investment?
      • Go to eBay. Chances are you will be seriously screwed on price. Go on Usenet. Go to: TNT Amusements []. You will also pay a premium, but you get a nice warranty and a trade in deal.

        BTW, arcade games are just like potato chips: you can't have just one. I've got three (one is a 16 foot Skeeball) and am dying for another... dozen.

    • I used to love playing classic driving games (Remember Hard Drivin, anyone?), but now all the arcade driving games are totally, well 'arcade like'..

      I think you mean "classic driving game", then. Hard-(and it's sequel Race-)Drivin' were the only simulator-like driving games I can recall. And apart from a few Japanese flight sim games, that was about it for realism in the arcades.

      They were never terribly popular. They were very different from anything else in the arcades, and few people wanted to invest the time it took to get good at the game. I did, and got middlin' good at it. (6-700,000 point range on Hard Drivin') I'm still astonished at how far ahead of it's time that game was.

    • Obviously, its a combination of factors-- but what killed the mall style arcade with the top 100 games was that the games weren't that much better than home systems!

      And that comes around to games falling into a handful of overdone genres. At arcades what do you get: driving games, gun games, fighting games. At home what do you get: gun games, driving games, fighting games, plus a few other styles. To get people to play in arcades there needs to be a fresher experience for the player. Arcades countered home systems by going fo gun and driving games with lots of expensive hardware attached, but that just made it harder for arcade owners to turn a profit.

      In arcades of yore, the hook was that was a smorgasbord of games. When arcades are filled with small variations on themes that were creatively dead in 1995, then there's not much appeal.
  • by dgroskind ( 198819 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @08:16AM (#2272738)

    He says: I believe that a school teacher today is so outgunned in this world of competition for ideas. Think about a school teacher with a piece of chalk and a blackboard competing with the minds of children inundated with commercials that have million dollar production values... The immature mind I don't believe can distinguish from good ideas that are poorly produced and bad ideas that are well produced. And so I feel like we need to get media systems into the educational process and to fail to do so is to fail.

    Wrong for two reasons:

    1. His solution perpetrates the very evil that it seeks to combat. Students need to be able to distinguish bad ideas from good ideas. Meerly packaging good ideas in the same manner as bad ideas further blurs the distinction. You would almost be better off presenting good ideas in an a delibertely understated manner to distinguish them from fatuous nonsense.

    2. Education can never hope to compete in glitz with advertising. Educational materials will always look shoddy compared to advertising.

    One should keep a clear distinction between games and education. Games are supposed to be fun, pure and simple. They can only incorporate education to the extent that education is fun.

    Education, however, is often frustrating and ultimately hard. Where interactive multimedia can make it easier, it has a role. But at some point, it's just your brain and an idea with no intervening media whatsoever. That point is where education begins and the sooner you get to that point, the better.

    • The immature mind I don't believe can distinguish from good ideas that are poorly produced and bad ideas that are well produced.

      I think he is giving the typical "mature" mind some unwarranted credit as well...

      Think about how frequently a broken payware program gets bought because the free version doesn't have a song and dance, or how bad laws sneak through with convincing sounding (but wrong) stories.

      I do want to see what he is planning on doing with AI though...

    • Merely packaging good ideas in the same manner as bad ideas further blurs the distinction.

      Are you really suggesting that the poor packaging of good ideas is a good thing because it helps people differentiate? "Hey! this is really boring, so it must be educational..." Are you quite mad?

      Educational materials will always look shoddy compared to advertising.

      Ah, the unjustified assertion - Slashdot staple no. 17.
    • Stay away from the dirty topics that might be *gasp* interesting. Reality is BORING and DIFFICULT and it should stay that way!

      Preach on brother Calvin!
  • by vandemar ( 82106 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @08:22AM (#2272744)
    There is an article at [] about the reasons for the decline of the arcade. It makes some excellent points on why the home console is not responsible for it.
    • Don't forget the previous article on Slashdot titled "Arcade Games Officially Over The Hill []". It contains several interesting comments too. For example, this one [] mentions that the introduction of the option to pay to continue killed the arcades.

    • I would agree with the points in that article (arcades weren't professionally managed or promoted), but I think it goes a little deeper than that. In the early 80s, every upstanding suburban mall had an arcade (see Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where it's a central motif.) These were gradually shutdown because they attracted the 'wrong element' (kids who caused trouble and shoplifted) and arcades were pretty much pushed into the dark corners of the inner city to be managed by the trolls. This put them out of reach from the average suburban kid with a good allowance.

      What really finished off the arcades though, was the fact that everyone put their eggs in the fighting game basket. Those things sucked quarters like mad but developed a tournament mentatilty where only the people who memorized the button combos could survive, discouraging the casual player. No longer could you just drop a quarter and see if you could survive on your instincts and hand-eye coordination - some kid would put the super-kill move on you and that would be it for your 75 cents.

      When the fighting game fad ended, the arcade owners were stuck with a bunch of huge, expensive machines that had no players. Maybe "Super Excellent Street Warrior IV Deluxe Edition" will get them back! -- Right... At that point nearly all the creativity had been sucked dry from the industry and it pretty much folded. The innercity arcade hole I stop buy occasionally seems to survive on it's pool tables and some well worn classics like Ms Pac Man and Centipede.
  • I thought Al Gore invented Pong?

  • by mac123 ( 25118 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @09:11AM (#2272855)
    I vividly remember my one and **only** visit to Chuck E. Cheese.

    I was forced to a relatived kid's birthday party.

    I walked in the door to find a couple of hundred kids eating horrible pizza and swinging from the rafters.

    I muttered to my wife "this must be what hell looks like"

    The only redeeming factor was that they sold beer there to take the edge off (albeit at about $4 for a small cup)

    The heart of the establishment appears to be a backroom birthday party factory....a bunch of 20 foot long folding tables where they can efficiently and quickly clean up one party and start the next one in about 5 minutes.

    But the beer was ok.

    If this was this man's most recent contribution to society, I fear for our survival.
    • You want the song "Chuck E Cheese Hell" by Tim Wilson.

      Its pretty much country but its funny enough that it should keep you entertained if you have ever been to Chuck E Cheese. It has some really great lines.

    • by bill.sheehan ( 93856 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @10:02AM (#2273009) Homepage
      My wife and I consider Chuck E. Cheese to be the world's most effective form of birth control. Whenever I start cooing at other people's mitotic miracles, or whenever my wife's biological clock chimes, we head for the nearest Chuck E. Cheese establishment.

      So far, it's working!

      My inner child can beat up your inner child.

    • You are not supposed to have fun in this place.
      It is for your kids and if they do enjoy this place then who are you to argue ?
    • Hi. I went on a job interview one time with C.E.C. Entertainment (Chuck E.'s parent company) for a software engineering job at their headquarters outside of Dallas. Learned some interesting (and hopefully non-classified) things about them:
      • Most of their business runs off of one IBM mini-computer that they rent, along with the software package that's been running their business for the last few years. They host this machine in-house, in Dallas.
      • Systems-wise, almost nothing has changed since the early days. Seems to still work OK, according to the other systems guys there, but new features are hard to add.
      • They have a full-on "Pizza Lab" where they try out new recipes.
      • They also have an animatronics development studio complete with costume shop and stage where they make new routines for the creepy robots.
      • The headquarters building looks much like the inside of a Chuck E. Cheese store. It has a non-working fountain.
      • People who work there don't seem to be having as much fun as you would think, but they like their jobs more than most
      • They have ice-cream.

  • Exclusion of women (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tmark ( 230091 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @09:28AM (#2272904)
    Bushnell argues at least twice that the downfall of the arcade has to do with newer, more violent games excluding women. I think he's wrong. At the zenith of the arcade, women were an overwhelming minority at arcades, and most of them who were there did not actually play much but were just there to watch their boyfriend play Missile Command or Asteroids for hours. I see far more women in arcades now then I ever did 15-20 years ago. Sure, men still outnumber women greatly, but you certainly can't blame the decline of the arcade on this constant.
    • i'll agree he's wrong, but i think he might have a point: when you exclude females, you're missing out on ~50% of the population. i think what he was getting at was: "if you bring women in, you'll have more players."

      anyway, that's just my thoughts on it.
  • To Complex (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squaretorus ( 459130 ) on Monday September 10, 2001 @09:41AM (#2272941) Homepage Journal
    "The games in the arcades have not kept pace in a lot of the things, and they have gotten too complex for a lot of casual players and casual interaction. "

    Yep - I'd agree with that. Go into any arcade attached to a family fun park and you'll find that everyone over 16 is playing either driving games or that one with the flying bike going through hoops.

    Immediacy is what its about for a massive portion of the public. I, as someone unable to get to the arcades too often, and damn reluctant to put £2 into a game for about a minute of fun because I get my arse kicked immediately because I dont know the controls yet.

    Gimme a gan, and something funny to shoot at. Or a car and a track to race round with brake assist on, or a bunch of little jars and a ping pong ball and a cutie to pass the balls back to me when I miss - "aww gee! another on the floor!"
  • What they don't realize is that game playing increases the intelligence the person's intelligence unlike a lot of other forms of entertainment.

    I couldn't agree with you more, you agree more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2001 @10:59AM (#2273402)
    My father runs a privatly owned arcade and we've felt the decline of the arcade for a good five years now. I hold this mostly to the fact that game companies have been buying out privatly owned arcades and puting in SEGA city's and other such big company arcades and charging exorbant amounts for games. The sole purpose of the arcade now is for a gaming company to take numbers down and see how a game is going after a month they put it out on the home system and start watching the money roll in. If it tanks in the arcade they don't release it. If its good in the arcade its out next week and all the kids buy it and there's nolonger a need to go to the arcade for it. Who cares anymore if that guy playing there is the unbeatable champ. i'll save my money and go home to play on my PS or DC or whatever system. I remember when the NeoGeo came out the home system was basicly the same guts as the arcade and even the arcade used nearly the same cartrige for the games. Not that NeoGeo has gone anywhere in either market. Ultimately its dificult to keep new games in an arcade when the cost of a single machine is as much as a car in somecases and then you need to support it while it pays for itself for three to eight months during which the game is either good and gets released for the home system after a month so you don't get it paid for, or its trash and dosen't pay for itself ever. Either way the only ones who win are the game companies who can filter out the garbage and release the good stuff (not that there isn't a huge amount of crap that gets through anyway). Expect to see arcades who have money to grow and an enviroment to grow in to move toward VR type games and more sitdown car and gun games. The experince is the only part the arcade has left. There are some interesting new directons games have headed in with full motion fight sims and other user interfaces like the fairly new "police 911" which senses the location of the player on a pad with some other sensors around them and lets you dodge behind things for protection and reloading (altho ten minutes on that game and my fat playstation butt is pretty sore).

    I propose that game complanies start taking better advantage of this oportunity and give games to arcades at cost in return for full market information such as player info and revenu reports to help in filtering and perhaps more feed back to create better games. If they're going to use it as a test market why dont we get the benefits of other test markets and beta testers.

    but thats just my opinion, i could be wrong.
  • When I was at Cal Poly in the mid 90's, a group of computer science students developed a game that resembled a "Star Trek" bridge. Four or five computers were linked together to form the bridge of a ship, with individual players running engineering, weapons, etc. Computer labs could play against each other in team competition.

    After witnessing the game in action, I really thought that would be the future of arcades. You could go to an arcade with your buds and crew a starship fighting teams from other arcades around the world. It would be something people could do together, when almost all other arcade games are individual.

    Does anyone who was associated with the project know what happened to it?

  • Walked into an arcade lately? The latest rage are these twister-style dancing games, where you have to use your feet to step around a footpad in sync with music and arrows on the screen.

    They're easy, intuitive and popular, especially among the asian girls (being japanese made, it's not too surprising). And a good player is sure to draw a captive audience, standing around watching.

    They're hell expensive and a game doesn't last very long (just like most other games) but they're the most refreshing idea to hit the arcades in a long while. Not that I play them of course :)

    • They're easy, intuitive and popular, especially among the asian girls (being japanese made, it's not too surprising). And a good player is sure to draw a captive audience, standing around watching.

      I've seen these games... but what location are you in?? All we get are big white guys that clap their hands on wrong beat.

      I might of stayed and stared too if there were loads of cute asian girls playing the game. We don't get that here.

      Maybe I can get the guys at Gameworks to PAY some cute asian girls to play the game... they are sure to get a lot of attention and make some money. An arcade full of cute asian girls... now that is the future I would like to see!
      • Here in Southern California there are still quite a few medium sized arcades, most with a Dance Dance Revolution console or two (many with other Konami music-based *mania games as well), and there's plenty of asian chicks playing them.

        You must be in a bad location.

  • I, too, harbor a good deal of nostalgia and sometimes lament the much-touted 'fall of the arcade'. But when I come to my senses, I realize that said 'fall' is not a fact of history, but a misunderstanding made by many people.

    What arcades have historically tried to sell is an experience. The videogame was (and still is) central to that experience, until the popularization of the first generation of consoles (The Atari 2600, Colecovision, etc. -- the early home computers were already a niche market), the idea of playing videogames at a non-commercial venue was simply impractical.

    So the videogame was largely the experience.

    With the popularization and explosion in power of home consoles and PCs (architecture-neutral term), people can play any old game at home. In fact, with the popularization of multiplayer games, particularly Internet-centric multiplayers games, the 'home' experience is often superior to that of the arcade.

    What most people miss, however, is that in a few select regions (notably California and New York City), the social aspect of gaming is coming back. Many have mentioned Dance Dance Revolution, even if only in passing. I think that DDR is a revolution in more ways than just name; while the DDR "game experience" can conceivably be replicated at home (though, of course, with inferior input), the social experience of DDR can not be so easily replicated.

    Communities have developed around DDR that are inherently friendly and inherently communicative. Even for one-time or very occasional players, the very act of getting up on the pad and moving your body to the music strikes a very primal chord with most people. At an "everday" arcade when a player steps up to a previously unoccupied DDR machine, a crowd forms around him and marvels, and cheers on! This social experience isn't just a benefit to the player, spectating is often extremely entertaining, especially while watching experts or freestylers.

    The arcade isn't dead, it has just had to evolve.
    • Even for one-time or very occasional players, the very act of getting up on the pad and moving your body to the music strikes a very primal chord with most people.

      Of all gaming phenomena, this is the one that strikes me as most bizarre. Pay $5-$10 bucks in any number of locations on any given night in a reasonably large city and you can have the real thing. If DDR is the future of arcades and a harbinger of social interaction, what does that mean for the tried and true dance halls and clubs that are far more real than any arcade game ever could be?

  • Have you ever heard of a "Game House"? They're really popular over in Asia, and are just starting to come here. Basically a high end PC running windows with counterstrike, quake, starcraft and diablo on them. Usually 30 or so per location, all networked together and recieving a internet connection from a T1 line. There is one that opened up in silicon valley, berryessa area called rivalution 1172 N capitol ave if you want to check it out. They charge 5 dollars an hour, and are making money hand over fist. I've spent a total of 72hours watching traffic in the place to confirm that on average they have 20 users per hour.

    So the future of the arcade is going to be these game houses. Their popularity is simply because of the multiplayer capabilities of these games, the rising costs associated with system maintenence, the slowing economy, and the lack of home based lans with 10 or more pc's. Also for the most part, games are played by kids who don't have the money to shell out for a brand new video card (GF3 for 600 anyone?)

    The arcade is dying because we got old boys like nolan in there who aren't willing to change with the times. Let's face it, the whole industry resembles nothing from the atari days. Today's arcade goers are smarter than we were, most kids today know that an arcade machine is probably not too much different than that PC or console they have at home. Back then arcade operators banked on that "magic box" appeal. Today's kids know what makes the magic.

    Todays kids want so much more from gaming. They want a social atmosphere, where things like teamwork and comradere are what defines the game. Todays kids want to feel like they are a part of a larger community, which is something the arcades of past never offered.

    So it's time you arcade operators evolved, I just told you what the kids want. Sell off your machines, break out early from your leases, maybe keep the street fighter and tekken machines, lease a bunch of PC's so you're not stuck with 80k @year to get new computers, and your off and running.

    BTW i've been looking into station management software, does anyone know of any?

  • What I would like to see are 'team games, where you could bring a bunch of friends and play as members of the same team. I think soccer would be especially good for this...
  • Arcade games aren't declining-- stupid arcade games are declining. Half the games made these days are stupid fighting/shooting games that all play nearly the same, and it's just a matter of learning a slightly different set of joystick motions. Arcades were popular because they offered a different experience than what could be had at home. That's no longer the case with these stupid shooters vs. network quake.

    If the arcades are going to survive, they need to continue to offer a unique experience, and that's exactly what the smart ones have done. Go into any arcade well stocked with Bemani games (esp. Dance Dance Revolution), and you'll see that patrons are in no short supply. In fact, boys and *girls* gather around to play these games!
  • The fact is a lot of these new games don't reward you for a good performance. There are plenty of examples out there, especially a lot of these new 3D racing games. You get the fastest time and then it ASK'S you for more quarters to continue???

    Old arcades were fun because if you were good or did pretty well the game would continue. A good example of this is a game I bought a few years ago, Ironman Ivan Stewart's Off-Road. Off-Road is really easy to learn, there are 3 controls:

    • Steering Wheel
    • Gas Pedal
    • Nitro Button
    The best part about Off-Road is that if you win the race, you play for free plus you get to modify your truck to go faster. In the old days, a good Off-Road player could stay on for at least 20 minutes with one quarter. Name a game made in the last couple of years where you can do that?

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb